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Researcher Development

Researcher Development


Listen to some podcast episodes from different podcasts. Make a note of what you liked about them, what you didn’t, and if any of those things would work for your own podcast. What are the different ways people use podcasts to discuss and share ideas?

If you’re not sure where to start, these are a few podcasts recommended by academics & PGRs at Exeter which have a range of ways of discussing and disseminating research and academic ideas:

  • Beyond Your Research Degree – A Doctoral College podcast interviewing people who did not stay in academic after their research degree. Try this episode on Gemma Edney’s decision to leave academia.
  • Secret Feminist Agenda – the ways we enact feminism in our everyday lives by a Canadian academic. This podcast is also being used to think about podcasts as a form of research dissemination and is being peer reviewed. Try this episode for an interesting discussion on this.
  • Witch, Please – A fortnightly podcast critiquing the Harry Potter world. This podcast was made by the same academic as Secret Feminist Agenda, so is an interesting contrast in the different ways you can bring in academic scholarship (Witch, Please being much much less formal, but discussing a lot of the same ideas).
  • BirdNote – The episodes of this podcast are just two minutes each – showing you don’t need to talk at length to have an impact. Each episode features the birdsong of a particular bird and information about them.
  • Forest 404 – This is a fictional podcast which is also research dissemination! Created by a University of Exeter researcher in collaboration with the BBC, Forest 404 is a sci-fi thriller about ecology and the environment, and there are also accompanying “Forest 404 Talks” which discuss the themes of each episode. It’s a great example of a different way of doing research dissemination using podcasts.
  • Longform – Each episode is a long interview with one interviewee. As well as being interesting, it could be a good place to pick up on interviewing skills – how and what is the interviewer asking to get these responses (bearing in mind this is the edited version).
  • The Folklore Podcast – All about folklore! Includes interviews with authors, academics, other researchers.
  • Doing It – A podcast that aims to provide intersectional sex education, with chat and interviews with a range of educators, activists, and researchers.

One of the benefits of podcasts is how flexible they are – you can make something that really fits with your topic, audience, and style. But that also means it can be hard to know where to start! These questions will help to guide your thinking. You can answer them with a pen and paper, or download the worksheet here and fill it on your computer or print it off.

What will your podcast be about? Try to be as specific as possible. For example, rather than “my research” it could be “Experiences of PGR students during their degree” or “philosophical and theoretical ideas about X applied to current events”. If you’re not sure, write down your general idea and then write down all the different specific ways you could approach it.

Who will your audience be? Knowing who your audience is will help you to form the content of your podcast. For example, you might use very different language when talking about your research with another academic in the same field, than you would with someone outside of academic who has very little knowledge of your topic.

Describe your ideal listener in as much detail as possible – what are they interested in? What do they already know about your topic? What don’t they know? Are they academic or not academic? What else do they enjoy?

Considering what your podcast is about and who your audience is, what format might work best? Make notes about how your podcast might be different in different formats (e.g. interview, group chat, solo). How much technical language or academic terms would your audience understand? How long should the episodes be? And don’t forget to consider your personal style and preferences – what kind of podcast would you enjoy doing?

How often should your podcast episodes come out? Weekly, fortnightly, monthly? How long will each episode take to make (e.g. recording, editing, sourcing interviewees)? How much time do you really have to do all the work involved? What other commitments do you have?

You should now have a clearer idea of what your podcast is about, who you’re trying to reach, what format would work best, and what schedule might work for you. Try to summarise your thoughts as follows.

  • My podcast is about:
  • My ideal audience is:
  • It will have this format:
  • It will come out on this schedule:

Before they get started, lots of people focus on the technical side of making a podcast – equipment, editing, and uploading, but the most important thing is the content. Considering what your podcast is about, and how to keep the listener engaged, always comes first. The kind of recording set-up you need will also vary a little depending on what type of podcast you’re doing (for example an interview podcast versus a solo podcast), so you need to think that through first anyway!

You don’t need to buy lots of fancy and expensive equipment to make a podcast. You can record a podcast using your phone or computer, and get good audio quality by using the mic in your phone’s headphones. Start with this basic equipment, and don’t buy any additional equipment until you’ve tried it out and are sure it’s something you want to continue, or that you even need more equipment than that.

A few recording tips for at-home podcasting with basic equipment:

  • Record in the quietest room, with windows closed. Tell anyone you live with not to disturb you.
  • If using your phone, make sure it’s on airplane mode so you don’t get notification sounds
  • Make a blanket fort! You can hugely improve the sound quality by removing the echo of the room by sitting under a blanket (or a full blanket fort if that’s your style!). These clips demonstrate the difference in sound using different recording methods:

Dictaphone placed on table (no blanket)

Dictaphone placed on table, sat under a blanket

Dictaphone placed on table with a lapel mic (no blanket)

Dictaphone placed on table with a lapel mic , sat under a blanket

If you want to buy equipment, don’t search for “best microphone for podcasting”, because what the “best” microphone is will depend on how and what you’re recording, and where. For example, there is different “best” equipment for a face-to-face interview podcast than a solo podcast, or one where you’re recording podcasts on Zoom.

The Podcast Host has lots of useful information pages, including general guides and reviews on what equipment to use, and this overall guide on different types of mics and recorders. They also have a specific guide on equipment and recording face-to-face interviews.

If you want to improve your sound quality without spending too much money, I would recommend getting a lapel mic (the kind of microphone that attaches to your shirt). You can find entry-level lapel mics from about £15, and you can find ones that work with your phone, a dictaphone, or computer.

If you have an interview podcast and are recoding remotely rather than face-to-face, you have a few different options:

1. Recording locally – everyone records their own audio and then the different tracks are mixed together

  • Pros – If both people have good equipment, it provides the best audio quality & doesn’t rely on how good your internet connection is
  • Cons – Your interviewee needs to have the tech knowledge to record themselves, and it’s extra editing work & skill to put it together

2.  Recording everyone together via Skype or Zoom

  • Pros – Easy and free for both you and your interviewee to use, and the interviewee doesn’t need to do any set-up themselves
  • Cons – Skype can be more unreliable, and your interviewee’s audio quality will be less good than yours in Skype.

3. Recording via a specific remote recording podcast platform

  • Pros – Records each person separately & automatically syncs the separate tracks for you
  • Cons – Costs money to use

The great thing about podcast is that it isn’t live – you can cut bits out, re-do the intro, add music, and generally make it sound how you want before you put it out there.

There are lots of different programmes you can use to edit audio. A good place to start is Audacity, which you can download for free here. It’s free, and includes accessibility features such as support for screen readers and keyboard-only use.

Audacity has a lot of features, so can be intimidating when you first look at it. But – you can ignore most of those features and still make a high-quality podcast. This download includes instructions for how to use all the key features you’ll need for podcast editing.

You can also add music to your podcast, for example to use as part of an introduction, or sound effects throughout if that’s your style! You have to use royalty-free music, or pay to use music in your podcast. Thankfully, there are lots of places to find all kinds of royalty-free music – you just need to check the usage rights, for example if they want you to credit the artist or you can use it with no credit.

Some places to find free music:

Download Audacity and the “Basic Editing in Audacity” instructions above and have a play around! Here are some things you can try:

  1. Record yourself talking (about anything) and upload it into Audacity
  2. Create one mono track from the stereo track you’ve uploaded
  3. Play around with the difference between play and quick play, and pausing and stopping
  4. Delete a section
  5. Upload some music
  6. Move the tracks so the music plays before you speak
  7. Fade out the music and move the tracks so you start speaking as the music fades

Getting your podcast out into the world can be confusing. You listen to podcasts in places like Spotify, iTunes, Overcast, etc, but that’s not where you upload them. You also don’t upload them to your own website. So what do you do?

The process for publishing your podcast is:

  1. Upload your individual episode to a podcast host
  2. Submit your podcast to podcast players (iTunes, Spotify, etc)
  3. Share the link on your own website, Twitter, email, etc.

1. Upload to a podcast host

A podcast host is basically a website that stores your podcast episodes (audio files). There are lots of different options, both free and paid-for. For a research podcast, it’s always best to start using a free service. You can always upgrade later if it really takes off or you need extra storage space.

These are some free podcast hosts. Different hosts have different options for free hosting, such as how much you can upload and how often, or whether episodes are deleted after a certain period of time, so check them out to see which would work best for your needs.

  • Podbean – Free plan includes 5 hours total storage space
  • Buzzsprout – Free plan includes 2 hours a month & episodes are deleted after 90 days
  • Anchor FM – No limits on amount you can upload, but fewer stats & features
  • Soundcloud – Free plan includes 3 hours total storage space

You can also upload cover art for your podcast in most of the hosts above. This helps give your podcast an identity and so people recognise it when the episode pops up in their player. Canva is a free website with lots of templates, so it’s perfect for creating some cover art regardless of your artistic ability.

2. Submit your podcast to podcast players

Your podcast is never uploaded to the podcast player (like iTunes), but the player actually links back to the RSS feed created by your podcast host. This means you only need to submit your podcast to the player once, rather than every episode, as all your episodes will be linked to the same feed. It doesn’t cost anything to submit your podcast to podcast players.

If you use a podcast host which also has premium features (like Podbean or Buzzsprout), they will have detailed instructions for how to submit your podcast from them to different players. If you don’t use those services, this is a great guide from The Podcast Host on how to submit your podcast to iTunes, Spotify, Sticher, Google Podcasts, and TuneIn Radio. Most podcast apps link into one of these.

3. Share your podcast

Once you’ve uploaded your podcast episode, you can promote it by sharing the link. You can share the link from key players (like iTunes and Google Podcasts) on your social media, in emails, or on your website. Some podcast hosts also have embed codes or WordPress plugins so you can share the episode on your website if you have one.

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