General Rules of Dissemination

The practice of knowledge translation requires that a research team design the initial research question, method, and plan for dissemination with consideration of, and possibly collaboration with, the intended audience. It is imperative for researchers to engage end users when framing research and when identifying how to share the results of their work. Below are general rules to follow regarding the presentation of research findings, regardless of the mode of dissemination (for example, fact sheets, policy briefs, or chart books).

General Rules

  • The product (e.g., white paper, fact sheet, poster presentation) and the presentation of key findings must be tailored for the intended audience.
  • Consider presenting the results of one study in multiple formats to reach new audiences; be flexible in presentation and format and consider several unique products.
  • Collaborate with those using the research results to identify topics of greatest interest and the most effective product type.
  • Regardless of product, the most influential elements of any resource are the title, abstract, and introduction; considerable time must be spent writing each.

General Recommendations for Format

  • Discuss or highlight the most important information first.
    • Highlight the main points or key findings and repeat them throughout the product.
    • End the product by reiterating the most important information.
  • Messaging must be clear, concise, and action oriented.
  • Discuss policy implications or implications for healthcare delivery or practice.
  • Use consistent messaging, and if results are contrary to general knowledge or consensus, address this to make the findings credible.
  • Methods sections are largely ineffectual outside of a discipline-specific audience; if included in other products, make them brief and free of jargon.
  • Statistical significance and p-values are unnecessary and distracting in products produced for end-users outside of the discipline.


  • Identify all acronyms at first use, and avoid unnecessary abbreviations.
  • Outside of articles to be published in discipline-specific, peer-reviewed journals, write without jargon, free of technical/scientific language, and eliminate information that the end-users do not need to know in order to interpret the findings and implications.
  • Do not use multiple terms for one concept; keep word choice consistent.
  • When using terms to describe people, use people-first language.
    • Correct: Many of the children who are uninsured in North Dakota come from families with low incomes.
    • Incorrect: In North Dakota, many of the uninsured children come from families with low incomes.

Graphic Design and Layout

When able, utilize a graphic designer to develop figures, tables, and final products. If your organization does not have access to or the budget to contract for graphic design, common layout and design rules include:

  • Use simple graphics that are easy to understand and tell a story without additional narrative:
    • Pie and bar charts are more memorable than tables.
    • Label the bars in any figure with the respective percentage or number.
  • Pretest your materials with the intended audience to assess the design effect and content.
  • For headings, use a font size at least two points larger than the main text.
  • Do not use ALL CAPS.
  • Limit the use of italics and underlining because they make the text difficult to read.
  • Use high quality visuals with sharp resolution, true color and contrast, and good composition.
  • Place all visuals (images, graphs, tables) near the related text or reference point.
  • Use appropriate color in graphs and other design elements, and ensure they print well in black and white.
  • Use fonts that are easy to read both in print and online:
    • Times/Times New Roman
    • Garamond
    • Georgia
    • Caledonia
    • Arial
    • Calibri
    • Century Gothic