REF impact case study authors are likely to be feeling hard-pressed right now. It’s just over 5 months to the deadline for achieving impact at the end of July. There is a bit longer to finish the writing and get testimonials – depending on institutional deadlines. And apart from exam marking and examiners’ meetings, it will be extremely important to have a good break in the summer (or at some point before the autumn). 

The tips that follow are aimed at authors of impact case studies and are based on my experience of reviewing draft case studies for a wide range units of assessment and various universities across the UK. I hope they help!

  • Make sure your case study stands out. Use bold text, underlining, bullet points, sub-headings, diagrams, tables etc, as appropriate to help with this.
  • Check that your impact summary focuses on summarising the impact. It’s not meant to be a summary of every section.
  • Your key research findings that underpin the impacts need to be clear. Consider describing them as such.
  • The reach and significance of the impacts need to be the focus of the impact section. Make sure this section does not give too much room to the pathways to impact at the expense of actual evidenced impact.
  • Be clear about which beneficiaries have been impacted upon. And the importance (significance) of this for them.
  • Make sure your corroborating sources do corroborate the impacts. Include short, objective quotes from them in the impact section. Quotes from testimonials can help to bring the case study to life.
  • Re-read the impact sections of REF 2019/01 and REF 2019/02. Not forgetting the guidance embedded in the impact template. This should help to ensure you have everything covered!
  • Get a draft reviewed by a non-specialist. Ask a colleague who is not familiar with your research to read it to ensure it makes sense to them. Keep the language free of jargon. Keep sentences short and punchy.
  • Don’t lose your hard-won learning from writing your case study. Curate it for REF 2027. Even if you don’t have a case study next time, someone will thank you for passing on your knowledge.
  • An impact case study has to be ‘complete’ at some point. But the development of impact from the research may continue to evolve. Your research area may yield an impact case study for REF 2027 – which may come along sooner than you think!

Good luck with developing the best case study you can. And don’t forget to take a break from time to time. Even short walks can help you to get new perspectives on your case study when you return to it once more.

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Jenny Ames had a 35 year career both as an academic and a senior university manager before establishing Jenny Ames Consulting Ltd in 2017. She has led on all aspects of research at faculty and university level. She was also founding Research Impact Lead for University Alliance.  
Jenny is available to give talks, run workshops, lead brainstorming sessions and provide mentoring and coaching. She can advise on all aspects of REF 2021 preparations, and strategy development and implementation regarding research and cross-organisation partnerships. Jenny also coaches researchers on a 1-2-1 basis or by group coaching. In addition she facilitates workshops for researcher development. She holds a Postgraduate Certificate in Coaching and Mentoring Practice from Oxford Brookes University and is a Member of the Association for Coaching (MAC).


Author Jenny Ames

Working with Universities, Businesses and their Stakeholders to benefit Society.

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