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Writing for the Research Excellence Framework 2021: Guidance for qualitative psychologists

The guideline intended as a pragmatic tool to support qualitative psychologists in the United Kingdom who are obliged to produce outputs for submission to the Research Excellence Framework exercise (REF).

31 August 2018

We suggest that it may be useful to understand one’s REF outputs as a very specific task to complete, and offer a number of suggestions to think about when writing for the REF.

Write to the REF criteria

Familiarise yourself with and clearly address the REF criteria of significance, originality and rigour in your writing. Be explicit when, where and how you are addressing the REF criteria.

Positively convey the strengths of your own work

Avoid unreasonable claims for qualitative research evidence but clearly explain what using this approach does offer.

Think about who will be assessing your work

Psychology is a diverse discipline and outputs will be scrutinised by sub-panel members with a wide range of expertise. Your work needs to be able to withstand this rigorous scrutiny. Make it clear that your work ‘is psychology’, explicitly highlighting and signposting to relevant areas.

Avoid overlap between submitted REF outputs

Avoid apparent overlap between outputs. Make it clear how an output is original and distinct from any other.

Carefully consider your publication outlet

Ensure that your work is made open access. Ensure that the publication outlet allows you to demonstrate the significance, originality and rigour of your work as per the REF criteria.

Be aware of potential sample size issues

Outputs reporting a programme of studies and work are stronger candidates for submission to REF than reports of individual studies using single methodologies. Emphasise the transferability of findings – explain how your contribution goes beyond the sample and contributes to theoretical concepts and broader issues.

Have a REF publication strategy

Have a clear idea about your ‘REF papers’ and do what you need to in relation to these specifically. It might be a useful strategy to think about your ‘REF papers’ as a specific task to complete, distinct from other papers and work.

Download the guideline