How To Write a Commentary on a Research Paper
Academics and scientists are frequently reminded that an online presence is essential to share research and be a member of today’s scholarly communities. University web pages, social and professional media platforms, and personal blogs and web sites are all used to report and discuss research. It is clear on larger venues such as university sites and academic platforms that readers are making good use of this access to cutting-edge scholarship, and even small blogs dedicated to research processes and findings enjoy audiences of varying sizes. If the research you post online is being read, you are probably both thrilled and grateful, but you may be seeking more than silent readers who may or may not cite you in their future publications. Perhaps you would like to generate commentary and debate on the topic or problem you are investigating, but have discovered that it can be notoriously difficult to break the silence barrier and learn what your readers are thinking. If so, you may want to consider the following suggestions.
• Ask open questions about the topics and problems associated with your research. If you always provide answers, the most outspoken of your readers may comment to agree or disagree, but most readers will not. If, however, you ask direct questions and leave them unanswered, you may find that more of your readers will offer answers or at least their thoughts about the questions. Your questions will be most effective if you ask or repeat them close to the end of the relevant article or blog post.
• Question your own research. This can be a little tricky because you do not want to undermine sound work, but every researcher has doubts, makes decisions, deals with complications and the like, so these can provide fodder for discussion if you present them as matters open for debate. Let us say, for instance, that two different methodologies were possible and you chose the one that seemed most promising, but still wonder what sort of results the other would have produced. Explain your choices, your decision and your curiosity to your readers, inviting them to share their opinions and experiences. You may be surprised by the commentary such a strategy can inspire.
• Reply to comments your readers make and especially to any answers they may offer to the questions you have asked. Working to inspire comments and answers from your readers only to leave a silence when they do offer feedback may make them wonder whether you read their answers at all and certainly whether you appreciated them. It is also a matter of courtesy to reply even if the comments and answers you receive are simplistic, erroneous or completely off topic. Diplomacy may be needed to provide a kind and thoughtful response in every instance, but you wanted the input, so you should grace the responses of your readers with the attention they deserve.
• Expand or elaborate on any content that seems to have been particularly successful in generating reader interest. Perhaps a certain article earned twice as many likes as most of your articles do and also received some comments and questions. As you are reading the feedback and responding to your audience, try to think of other articles that you may be able to develop from the content in that successful article, especially from concepts or procedures that your readers found particularly interesting or troubling. You might even mention that you plan to write more on the topic, but if you do, be sure that you produce what you have promised.