Making sure your article gets seen

One researcher’s (multimedia) approach

Picture of Russell WarneRussell T. Warne, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Department of Behavioral Science, Utah Valley University

Times have changed for researchers. Gone are the days when you could publish your article and then just wait for your work to be discovered and recognized by your peers. With the explosion in the number of journals and articles being published every year, it is no longer inevitable that your readers will find your work. Instead, scientific authors must now promote their articles after publication in order to be noticed.

This year I published an article about the Advanced Placement (AP) program, an educational program in the United States that permits high-school students to earn college credit by taking an advanced class and passing a standardized test.

Two months after it was first published in The Journal of Educational Research, the article has had more views than any other article published in the journal for the last eighteen months, the highest Altmetric score of any article ever published in the journal, and the article is within striking distance of being one of the journal’s twenty most-read articles ever.

How did it happen?

First, open access. My university paid the article publishing charge, which makes the article easy to find. Other researchers don’t have to navigate their libraries’ websites to view the article, nor do they have to rely on a subscription to the journal or interlibrary loan to access the article. Additionally, open access made the article available to the public – a group that vastly outnumbers the number of researchers who would be interested in my article.

AP infographic

Infographic: click to enlarge and share.

Second, social media. I made a video abstract explaining my study in layman’s terms. I also created an infographic (shown here) that explained the study and could be easily shared on Twitter. I created tweets that summarized my research in ways that would intrigue the general public. Additionally, I took advantage of Psychology Today’s educational psychology blog, which is managed by Division 15 of the American Psychological Association (which I belong to), and wrote a blog post about my study. I also shamelessly promoted my study on Facebook and Google+ in ways that would encourage my professional contacts and other friends to read the study. When using all of these social media tools, I included a link to the full text of my article in order to make it easy for people to find the study.

Finally, the press. I worked with my university’s public relations office to produce two press releases about my study. I also collaborated with Taylor and Francis to produce a press release. These press releases didn’t get as much attention from journalists as I hoped, but they still made a major contribution: an important education blog wrote about the study, and three local newspapers published articles about my study. Additionally, several websites published copies of these press releases verbatim.

Two months after I launched my publicity effort, I’ve learnt a few lessons. First, no one cares about my article as much as I do. Therefore, the publicity process will take as long as I am interested in publicizing the article. No one else will tweet as enthusiastically as I do about my work. And, no one will be a better face for my article than me. My university PR office was not knocking on my door begging to write about my study, nor did Psychology Today contact me. I had to reach out to these people and convince them to partner with me.

AP tweetSecond, I thought that I would publicize my article for a few weeks and then be done. But, I soon learned that posting a link to my article once on Twitter or Facebook wasn’t enough. In the past two months I wrote or contributed to forty tweets, seventeen Facebook posts, three press releases, two blog posts (including this one), and a YouTube video about my article.

I also requested a banner from Taylor and Francis Author Services advertising my article, which I placed in the signature of every outgoing email with a link to the full text.

Finally, publicizing an article is work, but it’s worth it. I have received more emails about my article in the past two months than I have about all my other work in the previous year. Another university has invited me to visit because of my work, and my students are more excited about research because they see the attention it is getting. Not every article I write will be as interesting to the public, but I will definitely be working to do what I can to rustle up some interest in my work in the future. See you in the Twittersphere and Blogosphere!


Dr. Russell T. Warne is an assistant professor of psychology in the Department of Behavioral Science at Utah Valley University. As a quantitative psychologist, he has published over thirty articles in journals in education, psychology, methodology, medicine, nutrition, sociology, and the arts.