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Writing History for the Web

How to communicate your research to public audiences

Published onJan 04, 2021
Writing History for the Web

This post on writing for the web will help you complete the final course assignment, where you will create an interactive blog post (800 words max) that uses at least one of Knightlab’s digital storytelling tools to communicate your research to public audiences.

Why Put Historical Scholarship on the Web?

The explosion of media formats in the 21st century has necessitated that the history profession cultivate communicators who can share historical scholarship with non-experts, generate support for historical research and inform policymakers, and the public, across these emerging channels. Historians are becoming specialists who are up-to-date on the latest technologies and digital platforms, are engaging public speakers, speak concisely, communicate in plain English without abstraction, have proficiency with blogs, infographics and video production, etc., and have professional networks within political, journalistic, film, television and other influential circles. History Communicators ensure that academic scholarship remains relevant to American life and that historians have a seat at the table during important conversations where history is invoked.1

Sample Historical Scholarship on the Web

Black Perspectives is the award-winning blog of the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS). As engaged scholars, we are deeply committed to producing and disseminating cutting-edge research that is accessible to the public and is oriented towards advancing the lives of people of African descent and humanity. We serve as a medium to advance these critical goals.”

Nursing Clio is an open access, peer-reviewed, collaborative blog project that ties historical scholarship to present-day issues related to gender and medicine. Bodies, reproductive rights, and health care are often at the center of social, cultural, and political debates. We believe the issues that dominate today’s headlines and affect our daily lives reach far back into the past — that the personal is historical.”

Footnoting History is a podcast that focuses on overlooked and underappreciated areas of the history, whether that means a topic completely unknown to most listeners or a new look at a well-known person, period, or event. Our hosts are all trained historians with a passion for sharing history's complexities with the public. They research, write, and record their own episodes on topics that excite them -- and we hope they excite you, too.”

History Communicators

Newspapers and Elections - The Election of 1800 & The Birth of Modern Presidential Politics

Writing Guidelines

Below are some of my favorite infographic tips that explain how to write history for public audiences. As you will note, when you write for the public your conclusion should go first to catch the attention of your readers and ensure that they know the key take aways should they walk away without finishing your piece.

Style Guidelines

  • Trust the site or platform’s default styles, they create a consistent look that adjusts responsively to other devices.

    • Use “Paragraph” style most frequently.

    • “Header” styles should be used for section titles. If you break your post down into sections, use those section to help you communicate the point of the piece using informative and eye-catching titles.

    • No “fancy” formatting, this tends to have an amateurish look across devices.

  • No all caps.

  • Use list formatting, do not manually type in numbers or bullets.

  • To include references, use footnote formatting (the star in the formatting bar), do not manually type in superscript.

  • Strip down as much formatting as you can (i.e. unnecessary bold, italic, bold-italic.)

  • No underlining except for links, which underline automatically.

  • Spaces:

    • Replace all double-spaces with single-spaces.

    • There should never be more than one space anywhere.

    • No spaces after final punctuation of paragraph.

    • Do not use spaces to move type around.

  • No indents on first lines.

  • No tabs.

Media Guidelines

To add the required digital storytelling element to your post, go to the media button at the top right of your post’s formatting bar, select the Iframe app, and paste the embed link from your published Knightlab project.

In addition to adding the required digital storytelling element, please include at least one background image for the header of your post. All other images should include a caption with credits that include information about where the source came from and a link. Even though images used on this site fall under “academic fair use” guidelines, images should be credited like any other source.

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