Elevate the Debate: A Multilayered Guide to Communicating Your Research

Elevate the Debate: A Multilayered Guide to Communicating Your Research

By: Jonathan Schwabish
  • This book helps researchers, analysts, and scholars to use traditional and digital media environments to their advantage.
  • Real-world guide helps readers present their data-driven research with greater clarity, coherence, and impact.
  • An array of practical strategies and proven techniques enables readers to make their research accessible to diverse audiences, form engaging narratives, and design and implement meaningful outreach plans.

The Urban Institute team has written a concise, practical, must-read primer for all researchers and experts who seek to improve public policy.

Anthony Williams

Anthony Williams

CEO of the Federal City Council and former mayor of Washington DC

More Praises

This terrific book that takes you through the entire process of communicating data, research, and analysis to different audiences. The Urban team shows you everything you need to know about how to reach a wider audience.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin

President of the American Action Forum and former director of the Congressional Budget Office

Facts still matter. Now more than ever, we need experts—analysts, researchers and scholars—to bring evidence to bear in our critical public policy decisions. This book is an outstanding guide to the best, most effective practices to make that happen in ways that matter and will have impact on improving outcomes across society and the economy.

Susan Dynarski

Professor at the University of Michigan

Schwabish and team are master communicators! And Elevate the Debate masterfully explains how to bring your scholarship and data-driven research out of the library, off the page, and into the eyes and minds of those who can put it to good use.

Don Baer

Former Communications Director at the White House

Being an expert is both a privilege and a responsibility. So often researchers struggle to clearly frame their work in a way a larger audience can appreciate. Elevate the Debate lays out easy-to-follow steps that will help the wonkiest of wonks break down their research and clearly explain why their work matters. If you wish more people could appreciate why your work is important, check this book out.

David Autor

Ford Professor of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Elevate the Debate is the scholar’s handbook to bridging the divide with policymakers and making a real impact with one’s research. The research report is yesterday’s tool for dissemination; the infographic is today’s. The Urban Institute team clearly and artfully guides academics in identifying their audiences and visualizing results in new, more media-friendly ways that hold great promise for improving evidence-based policy and practice.

Dan Gorenstein

Host and Executive Producer of Tradeoffs: A Health Policy Podcast

Data without communication is just data. This essential guide shows you how to transform those numbers into something real and vital that can have true impact. If you want to change the world with data, this guide is a great place to start.

Carolyn Heinrich

Patricia and Rodes Hart Professor of Public Policy, Education and Economics, Vanderbilt University

In an age of increasing disinformation and noise, it's crucial that scientists, researchers, and educators of all types get their message out with simplicity and clarity. Evidence-based thinking and communicating has never been more important than it is today. This may be the most important book you read this year!

Simon Rogers


At a time when the world struggles to separate fact from fiction in our media and information, there are few more important endeavors than guiding researchers and scholars in disseminating their work. This exceptional volume from the Urban Institute is an essential and timely resource for doing just that. Here's hoping it is widely read and absorbed!

Garr Reynolds

Author of Presentation Zen and Professor of Management at Kansai Gaidai University

This book is the essential how-to guide for researchers and analysts who intend to be relevant. Getting your message into the right hands doesn’t happen by accident!

Jimmy Soni

Award-winning author of A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age

Elevate the Debate is a fabulous new book that offers to teach researchers how to communicate our work to get attention from multiple audiences. This volume takes the importance of a good presentation as a start and goes on to help researchers and analysts to communicate data, research, and analysis to different audiences. It is accessible, clearly written, and a very important tool to increase the use of our work to improve policy formation. I hope it is widely read and followed.

Tom Terry

CEO of the Terry Group

Book Details

Publisher : Wiley; 1st edition (February 11, 2020)
Language : English
Paperback : 224 pages
ISBN-10 : 1119620015
ISBN-13 : 978-1119620013
Item Weight : 1.18 pounds
Dimensions : 7.3 x 0.5 x 9.2 inches
Best Sellers Rank : #672,712 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
#1,452 in Sociology of Urban Areas
#8,352 in Personal Finance (Books)

About the Author

Jonathan Schwabish


Jonathan Schwabish is an economist, writer, teacher, and creator of policy-relevant data visualizations. He is a senior research associate and data visualization specialist at the Urban Institute and publishes a blog and podcast at his site PolicyViz.com, where he helps people improve the way they process, visualize, analyze, and present their data and research. His tutorials, remakes, and interviews with data visualization and presentation experts speak to scholars, policy wonks, and anyone with a data story to tell. He is on Twitter @jschwabish.

Downloads & Materials

These resources are provided to help you plan and strategize your research communication efforts. Different file formats are offered to enable customization of these materials for your own needs, audiences, and content.

Audience and list brainstorming (PDF and Word)
Building an audience list can include thinking through already established contacts and stakeholders to identify project stakeholders, focus groups, advocates, and others who might be interested in your work.

Presentation worksheet (PDF and Word)
This 10-question worksheet can help you develop your presentation before you start building it and guides you through the various sections and important elements of your presentation.

Presentation preparation checklist (PDF and Word)
A list of the likely technologies, tools, and supplies you might need for your next presentation.

Reporter checklist (PDF and Word)
Prepare for your next interview by identifying some of the major questions you might hear, tips for giving good interviews, and strategies to pull it all together.

Policy impact plan template (PDF and Word)
Good communications planning, like any kind of strategic planning exercise, begins with stating a goal and strategically working through the aspects of your communications efforts.

Worksheet kit (PDF and Word)
Download all of these worksheets in a single kit to help you effectively strategize, create, and communicate your work.