‘Cutting to the chase’ & ‘bottom lining’ your research?

Early spring blossom

One of the things I am loving about writing a blog is thinking in a bit more detail than usual about the words and phrases we use and exploring how they have come into common parlance. Why does the lens this week fall onto ‘cutting to the chase’ and ‘bottom lining’? Well a number of reasons really, firstly the British Library has announced the winner of its competition #sharemythesis and secondly I am in the midst of reviewing conference abstracts.

Both challenging researchers in different ways to be incredibly focused in the way they communicate their research. The former requiring you to summarise the importance of your PhD in a tweet of 140 characters or less, the latter being able to communicate your research in 250 words in a way which engages the reviewer, convinces them about the quality of the work you have undertaken and encourages them to select your work to present to a wider audience.

But cutting to the chase and bottom lining is not just about character or word count it is about being able to identify and distill the essence of your work. This is as much about thinking as it is about writing.

As researchers we are required to communicate our work in many different ways. The same plot, the same journey, the same end point but different representations. Some fast paced and direct with little time for sharing the nuances and subtleties of the landscape, others conducted at a more leisurely pace with time to pause and reflect on the way, to recount the detail and share the perspective.

For this post however, let’s think about the fast and direct route, the one that cuts to the chase and presents the bottom line. In case you are wondering, the etymology of cutting to the chase? The chase scene in silent movies was the bit where all the action took place, and screenwriters often tried to prolong the build up to the big scene. Studio executives used the phrase ‘cut to the chase’ to mean ‘get to the interesting bit’, stopping messing around and get on with it. Now we use it to as a means of communicating ‘get to the point’. And if you are interested in bottom lining – it comes from the word of accounting and refers to the profit left after everything had been calculated, so therefore the most important piece of information.

As someone who, at the start of their academic career, was in receipt of many a heavily edited text with comments like, ‘try to reduce the flowery language’ I know from personal experience the challenges associated with the ‘short version’.  We invest a great deal of time and energy in our research, we love the detail and nuance, we have thought about it a lot, and it is hard to let it go. We feel the need to explain the detail so that people can really understand what we are doing and why. Whilst we may find it hard to let go developing the skill of bottom lining is a valuable skill to develop so that in the situations when it is required we are able to ‘cut to the chase’ and not left floundering.

So if you want to test how good you are at cutting to the chase or bottom lining your research- can you summarise why your PhD or your research project is important in 140 characters? An interesting challenge.

Can I? So this in from my PhD: To understand how effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis is we must understand & measure what is important to patients. Have a go it’s fun and it will challenge you to really think about the bottom line for your research.

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One thought on “‘Cutting to the chase’ & ‘bottom lining’ your research?

  1. Pingback: Loosing words: writing qualitative research for publication. | Doing-Being-Becoming

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