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Public Communication: Purpose

Public communication is understood here as being oriented towards shaping, inflecting and reaching decisions that affect the common good.

Maximillian T. HänskaAhy, Public Communication as Ideal and Practice

What are public communications used for?

Public communications are used for several purposes:

To enable the public to engage with research

A lot of research is publicly funded at yet the main way of communicating the results of research is via journal articles. Some of these are behind further paywalls and even those that are publicly accessible on a physical level, may not accessible in terms of readability. By communicating directly to them, the public can engage with research that they have actually paid for!

To effect change

Many public communications are campaigns aiming to change attitudes and influence action my making recommendations.

To explain, inform and educate

There are some things that the public need to know about. These can be relatively small issues that you are nevertheless passionate about, or large issues that can affect their health and wellbeing.

To express a position

Your own reading and research may mean you have strong opinions about a topic and a new, unique or interesting position which you would like to share.

What format should you use? 

You may not get any choice over the form of public communication that you are creating - the assignment may specifically say you are creating a blog or a wiki etc. However, sometimes you are given a choice and some are more appropriate for particular purposes.

If you’re wanting to share your research as well as educate the public on its topic, a magazine article or blog would be a good choice. Blogs are also good to use when reflecting on your work by taking note of your processes.  

For collaborating with your course mates and peers, a wiki is the obvious choice, as it gives you the space to create multiple pages for each of you or for separate topics.  

If you are wanting to voice your opinion, an opinion piece or letter to the editor may work best.  


Go to the Formats section of this guide to get more information on specific forms of public communications. 


Do you still need evidence? 

Yes. Even though public communications aren’t academic essays you will still need to back up your opinions and research with evidence from external sources. This will make your work more credible whilst giving readers the chance to learn more from the references you’ve used.

For some pieces, like public-facing posters, you may give your references in a separate supporting document.

For more guidance check out our Referencing Guide.