When it comes to the war for eyeballs, most academics are ill-equipped to drive online attention to their research. In this post, Andy Tattersall draws on best practice from the sphere of viral marketing to develop the concept of ‘Scholarly Enticement’. He then presents a toolbox of simple techniques that can be applied by anyone across any discipline, to enhance the Scholarly Enticement of research.

Academia has a lot to learn from the outside world, especially the Web. The pressure on researchers to generate impact and attention have meant academics have tried to explore new and inventive ways of communicating their research. Many research papers fail to receive any attention at all and there may be a way to help them reach wider audiences outside of the academic domain. Given the success of email phishing and more recently clickbait websites, there may be some value in employing the former to disseminate outputs. Clickbait is a very negative term and has received a lot of bad publicity in recent years. My proposal is for the term ‘scholarly enticement’ to be used as a way to lure curious readers to explore your latest research. The principles of clickbait can be applied to ensure research using this method has:

  • An enticing and eye catching title that promises more than the research can possibly deliver
  • A visually appealing image to entice the curious reader to visit the research

The research itself will remain untouched and not follow the principles of churnalism or yellow journalism. The aim of scholarly enticement is to get the reader to visit your works although there is no evidence they will stay there.

Social analytics company BuzzSumo analysed 100 million headlines to find out what the top headline phrases were. They produced a list of three word phrases or trigrams that gained the most Facebook likes, shares and comments. To help academics align their research with the principles of scholarly enticement, I have created a template of common clickbait trigrams from top headline phrases and applied them to generic research titles. You can mix and match your clickbait phrase with your own research.


The mix and match list approach

In addition to some of the suggestions above, you can employ the list method. This is especially useful for quantitative research and is ideal for creating scholarly enticement across multiple pages. You can use a mixture of trigrams from the list above and create a research paper that has a title like this:

‘Interdisciplinary case study: 23 reasons why the planet is getting hotter and you won’t believe number 15.’

If your intelligence and analytical gathering for impact includes metrics such as page hits consider breaking your research up across 20 separate web pages. Each page should have enough scholarly enticement to ensure the reader proceeds on to the next web page in the sequence. It is important that you leave your most important findings till the very last page, that way you maximise the number of clicks on your website. In some cases it is legitimate to leave out your conclusions, results and in extreme cases all text and just use images.

Images are instrumental as part of the scholarly enticement process so it is important you apply the right images to accompany your research. For anyone seeking inspiration for their research I suggest you use these suggestions for images in the corresponding research.

Research and clickbait have surprising similarities (see my list of 25 similarities and you won’t believe number 18) which can help improve scholarly enticement. Research comes from curiosity to solve problems, that curiosity can be employed to draw attention from the outside. Research often explores human and emotional issues and clickbait titles are designed to play on our frailties, which in turn could gain you some valuable research impact. The truth is that for many of us we can’t resist clicking on the link, knowing full well it is clickbait. If academics can harness the skills of scholarly enticement they will see greater engagement with their research, just make sure you don’t link to the paywalled version of your work.


Note: This article is purely satire and clickbait should be treated with caution, furthermore the article gives neither the views of the author, the position of the LSE Impact Blog, nor of the London School of Economics. Please review our comments policy if you have any concerns on posting a comment below

About the author

Andy Tattersall is an Information Specialist at The School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) and writes, teaches and gives talks about digital academia, technology, scholarly communications, open research, web and information science, apps, altmetrics, and social media. In particular, their applications for research, teaching, learning, knowledge management and collaboration. Andy received a Senate Award from The University of Sheffield for his pioneering work on MOOCs in 2013 and is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. He is also Chair for the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals – Multi Media and Information Technology Committee. Andy was listed as one of Jisc’s Top Ten Social Media Superstars for 2017 in Higher Education.   He has edited a book on altmetrics for Facet Publishing which is aimed at researchers and librarians. He tweets @Andy_Tattersall and his ORCID ID is 0000-0002-2842-9576.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email