6. How should I tell people what I found? - Me pēhea te whakamohio atu i ngā hua?

The question posed in this section can be answered in regular, novel, imaginative and engaging ways. An evaluation I helped with a few years ago asked how we could assess community-based language resources that had been developed through a government-sponsored funding programme. The first assessment criteria was 'Have to hold'; in other words, did the resource make you reach out for it before you even knew what it was. Did it invoke a 'have to hold' response so that people would pick it up and investigate it further. This section looks at different ways of reporting your research findings so you can produce something that your intended audience has to hold.


Recently I visited an art gallery and saw a literature exhibition. One piece of art in particular caught my eye. It was like a concertina book that had been unfolded and stretched along two walls of the exhibition room. The pages of the 'book' were correspondence - emails, handwritten letters, and drawings - sent between the artist and people who were coordinating an exhibition of her work. It was mesmerising. And more than this, it made me wonder whether this format might also work for presenting an evaluation report.

Usually an evaluation will involve emails, visits, organisational documentation, questions, pictures, interviews, etc. What if we delivered the evaluation report as a series of letters that provided details of negotiations about the evaluation objectives and methods, feedback on what was found in documentation and the further questions these findings raised, and perhaps a plan to contact stakeholders and ask them their views on the initiative that was being evaluated. Document excerpts could be included, along with photographs of places and people (with their permission of course). How would people react to a report like this? A report that told them what the evaluation was finding as it unfolded, and asked readers to go on a journey of discovery with the evaluator.

I've also seen a Photovoice research project presented in much the same way, but this time with larger posters assembled like a fold-out book along two walls of a conference venue. The photos, drawings and quotes from young people were profoundly moving. This was a form of dissemination that spoke to people's hearts about how poverty impacted on young people's lives. It also provided thought-provoking material that would potentially move viewers to advocacy and perhaps action.

I encourage you to think about whether the report of your research findings will pass the 'have to hold' test and tug at people's minds and hearts. With this in mind some ways of presenting your research findings are explored below. You might choose one way, or you might want to present your findings in two or three different ways. The options presented below are not the only ways, so think outside the square and use your cultural capital and knowledge about your intended audience to be innovative. You may be pleasantly surprised by how your readers react.

1. Research Report

The most 'usual' way to tell people about research findings is to write a research report that sets out a background to what you've done, outlines your methodology and methods, presents your findings, and then discusses the implications and limitations of these findings as well as ideas for future research. This report will often have an abstract or executive summary at the beginning to give people a brief overview of your research.

Much of what you've been asked to write about in the first three sections of this guide has been building up to you putting it all together to form the basis of a research report. The writer's toolkit can help you start the process of report writing, including mapping out what topics needs to be covered in your report by getting you to think about the table of contents.

You should aim to keep your research report short at around 30 pages and definitely no more than 50 pages. Most government agencies and other organisations who contract researchers to do research for them want a research report, but they rarely have the time to read a long document. If you need to go over 50 pages then think about what needs to be in the report and what can go into appendices to the report to keep the actual report a reasonable length.

Your research report doesn't have to be all words. It can also include illustrations, maps, photographs, and other pictures to help illustrate the research you've done. The second case study in the 'Maori and Science' report we did in 2002, for example, has numerous pictures to help showcase the people and the place where the research was done. The third case study uses illustrations to highlight key points being made in the text.

2. Academic Journal Article

There are many, many academic journals that you could submit an article based on your research to, including a growing number of Indigenous journals. A journal article is like a short version of a research report and follows much the same structure. Depending upon the journal, the length of the article can range from 3000-8000 words (or 10-24 double-spaced pages). This is a good way to get your research findings peer reviewed, and potentially out to a wider audience. It can also be a good discipline to write a short research report that targets a certain journal; for example, perhaps a journal where you've found other interesting and helpful research articles on your research topic. If you're interested in writing for an academic journal then download the journal's instructions for contributing authors as these will guide you about how they want you to write for them.

3. Powerpoint Presentation

Sometimes the first feedback we provide to an audience about research findings will be a powerpoint presentation. I find that thinking about a powerpoint presentation - perhaps 10-12 slides - helps me focus on what it is that's important to say and the order in which I need to say it. There are some good hints on the internet about making a powerpoint presentation if you google a phrase like "best practices for powerpoint presentations." A lot of the advice boils down to keeping slides simple (they're not your presentation notes), using high quality graphics, and interacting a bit with your audience.

I also use my powerpoint presentations to begin writing about my research or evaluations. I do this in the notes part of powerpoint as it provides a reasonably small space to get down some ideas related to each slide. This lets me write a 'script' for my presentation if I need to (a backup just in case of nerves), or provide more detail for people who might want my presentation (so they're not left trying to remember what I said just by looking at the slides). I've made some of my more recent presentations available if you'd like to check out how this works for me.

The powerpoint presentations and the notes are then the starting point for when I come to write a report, as my thoughts are organised and I (hopefully) know where the start, middle and end of what I want to write about are.

4. Animated Presentation

Telling your audience about your research findings can also be done through animation. Animation is increasingly used to communicate science to a public audience, describing research in short clips that use everyday language to explain concepts. An example of this is a short video animation below from the Guardian newspaper (12 Jan-15) that explains Stephen Hawking's big ideas, made simple.

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5. DVD - Video - Digital story

If you're interviewing people for your research you may want to consider getting their permission to digitally record them so that you can use their interviews to make a short audio or visual presentation about your research. Digital cameras are quite high quality now, and given a tripod and a quiet space for the interview the footage can in invaluable. Personal computers also offer good and reasonably easy software options for editing footage. The resulting digital story of your research might only be 3-5 minutes long but it may provide access to your findings for people who might never pick up a written report.

Some provider organisations are making short videos of the change stories of the people they work with to show the effect of their services and programmes on people's lives. These digital stories can be showcased on the provider's website and used in presentations and funding applications.

6. Website

Developing a website for your research is also an option - either to disseminate your findings, or even keeping people informed along the way as you're planning and then undertaking your research. When we began our consultation for the project on 'Researching with Whanau Collectives' people asked us for a website where they could find out about how the research was progressing. We didn't have a budget for this so decided to do it ourselves, and this is how the Katoa website started.

A website is also where you can post videos and photos (with people's permission of course), and notices about consultation or presentations. And then there are options that might reach people even better, such as FaceBook, twitter, etc. 

7. Exhibition

This section began with a description of two exhibitions and celebrated the power of taking material out to a wide audience. An exhibition is limited only by your imagination and the permissions you need to put people, places and research material on show. It may pay to think about what you want to do from the very beginnings of your research project so that these permissions are part of your informed consent process when you ask people to be involved in your research.

8. Drama, Poetry, Performance

While I haven't danced, acted or sung my research findings (yet), I have been to performances where research findings are presented in this way. This has included a great play on sleep staged by the Sleep Wake Research Centre, Massey University, in Wellington some years ago. I've also seen a stunning play about domestic violence that was based on research with women about their experiences.

Concluding Remark

This is by no means a complete list of how you might present your research findings. If you get people on board early, get permissions and spark their imaginations, then your advisors, colleagues and research communities will also have ideas about how they'd like to make new knowledge widely available.


Check out the Writer's Toolkit for hints and tips about writing about your research.

Next step

The next three steps involve thinking more about the research project you've completed and checking in about whether it fulfils what you set out to do, by asking three questions about whether the project has enabled Māori to re-claim, re-assert and re-member they are Māori. Thinking about these issues will help you learn by doing from the project you've just done and think about anything you'd like to change or improve upon in your next Kaupapa Māori research project.


From: Cram, F. (2013). He Rangahau Kaupapa Māori: A guide to undertaking a Kaupapa Māori research project. Auckland: Katoa Ltd. Available from www.katoa.net.nz.