4 ways to use your academic writing for social good

Academic Writing for Social GoodIn their TAA webinar, “Academic Writing for Social Good”, Janet Salmons, Methods Guru for SAGE Methodspace and an independent researcher, writer and consultant with Vision2Lead, Inc., and Lynn Wilson, contributing faculty in the PhD in Walden University Public Policy and Administration Program, shared insight into how academic writing can be used to influence the greater social good.

Salmons and Wilson define social good as “writing that supports change to improve well-being of people in our communities or around the world”, and shared how research and academic writing can be used to inform, organize, advocate, and propose solutions contributing to social good.

Use academic writing to inform

Salmons says that the purpose of this type of writing, often in article form through journal articles, blog posts, and newsletter articles, is to tell about something. Further, the academic writing is used to get the word out about a specific problem or topic at hand.

Wilson adds that policy briefs, in addition to the formats mentioned by Salmons, may also be used in this manner as research-based sources of information. In these cases, the informing process is directly associated with the problem rather than disseminated in a theoretical or “detached” fashion.

Use academic writing to organize

When using academic writing to organize, the intention of the academic writing is to find scholars of like mind and pull people together. The writing will hopefully spur some next stage of activity together. In organizing, Wilson notes that you may need to look beyond your regular group of colleagues. The organizing process is not just about finding interested parties, but engaging those parties as potential co-researchers and co-authors moving forward on a larger scale.

Salmons adds that by identifying what you want to ultimately achieve and where you want to publish or share your work, you will want to extend beyond your local group to find others with a common purpose.

Use academic writing to advocate

Advocating, in a literal sense, means taking a stand. Wilson says, “If there’s no action that’s going to come out of this, then why publish it, from a social change perspective.” Advocating focuses on outcomes by creating messages that invite action. Salmons summarizes the advocating method of writing as making a statement that “based on my research, here’s what I suggest” rather than simply informing people of an issue.

Use academic writing to propose

Wilson differentiates proposing from advocating stating that advocating is “these are the things you ought to do” whereas in the proposing stage, “it’s how you do those things”. Proposals may involve strategy, procedure, or practice, but are “far more specific” and engage other groups of people as instigators or recipients of action. According to Wilson, “this is one of the most active interfaces between academia and the world that will use our work for social good”.

Salmons says that at this stage, you may have a greater need for collaborative partners with additional expertise beyond your discipline or knowledge set.


The entire “Academic Writing for Social Good” webinar can be found in TAA’s library of presentations on demand.


Eric SchmiederEric Schmieder is the Membership Marketing Manager for TAA. He has taught computer technology concepts to curriculum, continuing education, and corporate training students since 2001. A lifelong learner, teacher, and textbook author, Eric seeks to use technology in ways that improve results in his daily processes and in the lives of those he serves. His latest textbook, Web, Database, and Programming: A foundational approach to data-driven application development using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, MySQL, and PHP, First Edition, is available now through Sentia Publishing.

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