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Research stories: Dr Gary James on promoting research in the media

“I have been particularly delighted with the feedback I have received from outside of academia, demonstrating that our work can and should be promoted to all.”

How can the media benefit your research and how should you go about engaging with them? In this latest research story, Dr Gary James tells us about his work on the history of sport, and how publicizing it through the media helped to extend the reach of his research.

gary-james-mediaMy research is on the history of sport with my primary focus being on the footballing communities of Manchester. I have been publishing on Manchester’s clubs and personalities since the 1980s, but much of that was aimed at a wider audience rather than specifically an academic community, which perhaps explains why I search for a wider readership for my academic work.

 “…coverage on BBC radio stations, tabloid newspapers and within history magazines.”

To date my research on Manchester football and its communities has brought attention from a multitude of media organizations, with coverage on BBC radio stations, tabloid newspapers and within history magazines. This interest has come for a variety of reasons with some of it being because of trust that has developed between myself and the media organizations – basically they know they can trust my work but I also know that they will use the material responsibly.

“…my research has presented new information that, ultimately, added to our knowledge and understanding…”

The other main reason is that my research has presented new information that, ultimately, added to our knowledge and understanding of the sporting communities of Manchester.  Sport has often been ignored when talking about the history of Manchester, but this research into the conurbation’s footballing communities has really captured the imagination, especially as Manchester is regarded worldwide as a footballing city.

“…these helped media organizations see the significance of the work.”

I ensured I provided a press release on background information, when appropriate, on each of the papers published over the last few years.  These helped media organizations see the significance of the work. In addition I have promoted the papers via social media and this has encouraged some members of the public who would not ordinarily have interest in an academic article to look. I have been particularly delighted with the feedback I have received from outside of academia, demonstrating that our work can and should be promoted to all.

“All of these activities help to spread the research to communities that may feel excluded from a university lecture theatre…”

 Alongside the media coverage I have staged talks at a variety of locations, including local historical societies, libraries, football supporter groups, the Women’s Institute, homeless centers and football museums. This has included talking about football history at a promotional event at Manchester City FC before 20,000 supporters. All of these activities help to spread the research to communities that may feel excluded from a university lecture theatre.

“…when their latest academic article is published I would say, see this as the beginning not the end of the process.”

If I was asked by another author what approach to take when their latest academic article is published I would say, see this as the beginning not the end of the process.  Publication is, of course, satisfying and makes any author feel as if their years of research have been worth it, but for me this means little without people reading my work. For me research is about dissemination and developing our knowledge and so we need as wide an audience as possible to read our work.

“Promoting your publications is a time consuming process but I feel dissemination is what we work for…”

Promoting your publications is a time consuming process but I feel dissemination is what we work for and so it is absolutely vital to get your work known. Self-promotion is of course something we should all be uncomfortable with, but promoting your research is different.


gary-jamesGary James is a lecturer with International Sport and Leisure History at Manchester Metropolitan University. He has written extensively on football, with his current research focusing on female participation and interest in the sport. Since the 1990s, he has gathered oral testimony from female directors, administrative staff, ‘tea-ladies’, supporters, players, players’ wives, managers’ wives, media personnel, broadcasters, athletes and others with an interest in the game as players or spectators, and this forms part of a monograph he is producing on female participation and involvement.

His papers on the origins of football debate are:
Historical Frameworks and Sporting Research
Manchester’s Footballing Pioneers, 1863–1904: A Collective Biography
FA Cup success, football infrastructure and the establishment of Manchester’s footballing identity
The Emergence of an Association Football Culture in Manchester 1840–1884