Skip to main content

Research as comics - Applied Comics Network

On Saturday 9th May I attended the first Applied Comics Network event to talk about the PhD sessions I offer on 'Communicating your research as a comic strip'.

The event was looking at the use of comics for informational and educational purposes. Attendees included academics, PhD students, graphic facilitators and comic creators.

Applied Comics Network is run by Lydia Wysocki (Newcastle Science Comic, Applied Comics Etc), John Swogger (Archaeology in the Caribbean, Something Different About Dad), and Ian Horton (Coordinator for Contextual and Theoretical Studies, London College of Communication).

They started the event off (before & after the interruption of a fire alarm!) by looking at the different types of comics the network might cover. They had all come up with different categories but they included:
  • Instructional (instructions for using/doing things)
  • Informative (providing facts/information)
  • Educational (these might be factual or have a narrative to make them more interesting/engaging)
  • Reflective (for reflecting on your own practice/methods/research)
  • Opinion (putting forward your view/interpretation of a subject)
Next we all had a go at making a quick comic strip based on a random Wikipedia page - yes, even those of us who can only draw stick figures! Then in small groups we discussed what we'd created and any issues it raised.

Points raised from comic strip exercise:

  • Difficult to create a comic strip to the time limit - several of us wanted to do more research first, rather than stick to the basic information on the Wikipedia page.
    • I wanted to find primary sources/firsthand accounts of the incident I was focusing on to bring in a human viewpoint.
  • All the comic strips were different even if we'd picked the same bit of information to base the strip on.
  • Differences included bringing a modern socio-political outlook to some of the historical events, and deciding what was/wasn't appropriate to depict (as some of the information was about a bombing).
  • One of the strengths of using words and images (comic strips, infographics, illustrated text) is that it gives you a wider choice when trying to convey information, context or meaning.
Then the invited speakers gave their presentations:
  • Lizzie Boyle (Cross political satire anthology, Disconnected Press) - Lizzie talked about trying to use a comic book prior to the election to engage people in politics. It worked best with those who already liked comics and were interested in politics, but some schools/organisations also used the book to try and engage with young voters.
  • Selina Lock (Research communication workshops using comics with postgrad students) - I talked about the workshop I do for PhD students and that the biggest barriers to using comic strips is lack of funding/artists and fear of disapproval from the academic world. Also that some workshop attendees found making a comic strip useful to identify the 'story' of their research and what they wanted to communicate, even if they didn't use a comic as a final communication method.
  • Lydia Wysocki (Applied Comics Etc) - Lydia talked about several funded projects she is overseeing to use comics to engage with the wider public - including a comic about 'Spineless Mini-Monsters' to accompany a museum exhibit and comics to highlight the WW1 & Gertrude Bell archives at the University of Newcastle.
  • Ian Williams (The Bad Doctor, Graphic Medicine) - Ian is the co-founder of the Graphic website and conference, which grew out of his Masters dissertation looking at medical narratives in comics. He also talked about workshops he, and other Medical academics in the States, have done asking medical students to create comic strips to reflect on their medical practice and interactions with patients.
  • Steve Marchant and The Cartoon Museum - Steve talked about the wide-ranging experiences he's had working with school children, teenagers and senior citizens to create comics. He either ran workshops so they could create comics themselves or created comics based on their experiences. The comics often dealt with issues such as bullying, teenage pregnancy, recycling etc.
Discussions points after the presentations included:
Visual notes by academic and comic creator Paul Davies

  •  Sources of funding to pay comic creators
    • Suggestions included -  from within existing grants if there is a wider impact focus, Arts Council (for art focused projects), Arts Council for Libraries fund, Public/Wider Engagement Funds (Specific funds within Universities, Research Funders, Lottery/Heritage Funds, Local Authorities).
  • The need to educate/provide workshops for academics/researchers on how best to communicate research using comics/graphics novels.
  • Information/workshops for comics creators on working with education, academia, businesses, and other organisations to produce comics.
  • That trying to create a comic strip can be very helpful even if the strip is not used - to reflect or examine ideas, to help focus on specific issues, to storyboard a process or to reflect on current practice or communication methods.
  • Several attendees recommended reading: Unflattened by Nick Sousanis - comic book based on Nick's PhD thesis. "The primacy of words over images has deep roots in Western culture. But what if the two are inextricably linked, equal partners in meaning-making?"

Popular posts from this blog

Get yourself up to speed on Open Access, Research IDs, Research Data Management & your h-index

Title Description Resources Open Scholarship Landscape Open Access has benefits for you beyond simply meeting HEFCE's requirements and any set by your funder. We show you how to navigate the steps of publishing an article in order to make it Open Access. Video: Publishing Open Access Talk (23mins)





OA Briefing for Admin Staff HEFCE's open access policy comes into force on the 1st April 2016 as an absolute condition for papers entered for the next REF. Find out how you can comply - easily - with HEFCE's new requirements. University Open Access Webpages
 Video: Countdown to Open Access Talk (17mins)


How to publish an open access report The Library can help you publish open access reports. We can advise you on asserting your author copyright and choosing a license. We can assign ISSNs and persistent web addresses for you.

Example of a report in the LRA (PDF)
For help just email openaccess@le.ac.uk

Create a Google Scholar Citation profile Demonstrate your scholarly impact …

Library services for PhD students and researchers: COVID-19 update June 2020

** Updated June 2020 **
Since the the David Wilson Library building closed in late March, we have been providing as many of the Library's services as we can. This includes those services and tools for PhD students, ECRs and our research community. Here is a summary of current arrangements whilst we are delivering our services virtually and working remotely. 
Accessing Resources There is no access to print books and journals, DVDs, or Special Collections. Please note that the SCONUL Access scheme has been suspended across all libraries. Public libraries are now closed too.
Our e-resources continue as normal. Our online collections and resources can found in the My Subject pages and Journals A to Z. Many publishers have made resources free to access during the lockdown. We provide an overview of these resources here.  
Any due dates are now postponed until after 2nd August. There will be…

You can now export multiple citations from Google Scholar

You can now export multiple citations from Google Scholar if you have a Google Account.
Go to Google Scholar and sign into your Google Account.Conduct your search.Click on the Star icon (Save) under each reference you want to export.Then click on My Library in the top, right of the screen.Select all the references and click on the Export option:



To Export into EndNote

Choose the EndNote option.Open the EndNote file that is created.The references should automatically import into EndNote. To Export into RefWorksChoose the RefMan option.Save the RIS file that is created.Login to your RefWorks account.Click on the plus (+) button.Choose Import References.Add the RIS file you just saved.Set the file import option to RIS - Reference Manager.Click import and your references will be imported.

--- Good Practice Tip: Always check that all the reference information you need has been imported - e.g. for a journal article =  author, title, journal name,. volume, issue, page numbers. If it has not th…