One core trait of making it through higher education to obtain your degree in scientific research of any kind is that you have to be pretty intelligent. However, this level of intelligence doesn’t come with a guarantee that you are a great writer and can easily knock out well-designed, interesting academic papers that get the readers’ attention quickly. With poorly written papers comes poorly impactful research, no matter how much work you put into it.
Text that is intended to be informative and well-written can come across as difficult to read, causing the audience to put it aside in favor of another submission that grabs their interest and is clearer. If you struggle with putting together a paper that is informative but still concise and smooth to read, you might want to consider where you are using attention points to help enrich the understanding of the reader throughout your paper.
Why You Need to Engage the Reader
When it comes to describing a scientific research paper, the word ‘passion’ is rarely used as an adjective in conjunction with it. But that passion is exactly what needs to be involved in the text in order for it to be engaging to the reader. There needs to be a level of ‘you have to read this information’ apparent in the beginning to grab the readers’ attention, and this is often described as the ‘hook’ in any paper.
When something hooks you, it’s hard to look away from it. In research articles, sometimes this hook is a statistic meant to surprise and shock the reader into continuing on with the paper, or sometimes it is the theme itself when it is of personal or global relevance to the person reading it. But regardless of how you are hooking your audience, the skill lies in how you write your paper, not necessarily what is included in the content.
You can take the exact same content and make it dry and boring, or turn it into manageable chunks that make people continue to want to read and respond to what you have to say. One way to do this is to use attention points throughout your article at key intervals.
What are Attention Points?
Kind of like the phrase implies, attention points tell the reader to sit up and pay attention. No matter how intelligent you are, or how interested in the material you may be, if a long text simply runs one section into another, it’s common to space out mentally. Your brain may be reading the text but your mind isn’t absorbing the information. These attention points are triggers to your brain to wake back up and begin processing again.
Attention points can be any part of the paper that stands out from the rest of the text and is designed to attract the focus of the reader. Typical attention point methods include diagrams, tables, charts, graphics, and other infographic images, but they can also be headers separating sections. In an electronic submission, these attention points double as a way to optimize your paper for search engine success, too.
How to Use Attention Points in Your Paper
Still, you can’t just randomly throw headers and images into your paper without having a purpose for them. Follow these tips to include attention points in your paper successfully:
● Make sure they tell their own story. Attention points in the form of infographics should be relevant to your text, but they should also be self-explanatory. You don’t want to give the reader everything they need to know about the subject inside the attention point. Just include enough information that there is a reason for the image and an end result the reader can conclude, but also make it tempting enough for them to want to go back into your article and learn more about the subject.
● Keep the text and message simple and succinct. Your research paper can be full of the scientific terminology you might normally use in your conversational skills in the lab, but your attention points should use the average person’s vocabulary. This also serves a dual purpose: It brings your paper’s attention to a wider audience, and it also casts a wider net for search engine optimization.
● Keep your attention points consistent. If you are going to have a lot of images to reference throughout your paper, try to label them consistently. Use all ‘tables’ or ‘figures,’ rather than going back and forth and confusing the reader.