Writing For Impact by Martin Tunley, author of Mandating the Measurement of Fraud

© Springer As a result of Martin’s publication, government, business and charities are now treating fraud loss measurement as a significantly higher priority. He describes his own experiences in approaching the writing of his book to achieve desired impact on policy and industry.


My own personal experience of writing for impact involved developing my thesis into a book that was aimed at two distinct audiences: firstly, central government ministers and local government elected representatives who are all in a position to effect change and secondly, senior management from the public, private and charitable sectors, who having embraced my argument, would then implement change within their organisation whilst also lobbying those in the first group. In this piece, I will offer my thoughts on what impact actually means to me.

What is impact?

Writing for impact means influencing change for the greater good. This involves capturing the reader’s imagination and making them think about the way things are currently done, critiquing this, and offering an alternative that offers improvement with potential widespread benefits. The change that can be influenced can have an academic impact, an economic or societal impact, or both. The academic impact involves the development of new knowledge which may in turn influence theory development or revision of an existing thought process or explanation. This theoretical base may in turn have practical application through implementation of these ideas for change within government, industry, society, or a combination of all three. Returning to my own publication, Mandating the Measurement of Fraud: Legislating Against Loss, I identified a recurring theme in my research in terms of attitude towards the problem I had identified. When examining existing academic literature, I identified that this attitude was in fact the antithesis of an existing and widely acknowledged theory. Accordingly, I developed what I have defined as Immoral Phlegmatism, which is already becoming accepted amongst scholars of counter fraud studies and being cited in other academic words, which is another example of achieving ‘impact’, recognition and acceptance amongst one’s peers. The second element within my book was the intention to facilitate change by drawing attention to a different way of approaching the particular problem of measuring fraud, and suggesting an alternative which offered financial benefits through reducing losses which was applicable to all three sectors, and in turn could benefit the population as a whole through stemming losses of public sector money, reduced charges for financial services, or increasing the benefit of voluntary charitable donations. So to summarise, to me, impact is provoking thought and debate with the purpose of influencing change that will benefit a wider population than just academia and the author themselves.

Supporting Evidence

Another important element when considering impact is that of supporting evidence, which may take several forms, but most importantly should be empirically based. Examples of such evidence when writing within the social science discipline can include case studies, interviews, surveys, observations (participant or non-participant) or even experiments. As previously mentioned, this evidence should be empirically based and can offer ‘real world’ examples such as how things are being done well, how they might be improved by offering an illustrative example of where things have gone wrong, academic or practitioner opinion on a problem or an idea for change, victim accounts of experiences, or even an experiment whereby the idea for change is implemented tested within a controlled environment. What is important is that whatever evidence you as the author draw upon, it must be persuasive, challenge assumptions and stand up to both scrutiny and challenge.

Achieving my impact

To explain what I mean by supporting evidence, I will return to my own publication, which I offer as a case study. When developing the research, I elected to use a combination of a case study, semi-structured interviews with both academics and practitioners, and finally a survey of practitioners within the counter fraud arena. To give this substance, it is probably best if I explain the chronology of how this was developed. Initially, I started with a hypothesis that fraud loss measurement could be improved, however to achieve this some form of regulation might be required. I drew upon a case study based upon legislation enacted in the United States which actually mandated the process, and had produced results in terms of a reduction in public expenditure. I then formulated my hypothesis and tested this by conducting interviews with academics and practitioners in which I sought opinion on whether the argument I was developing was both practicable and achievable to implement. Having secured the answer that I hoped for, I then tested my hypothesis on a wider population, which again offered empirical evidence that there was significant support for my options for change within ‘the field’. Accordingly, when writing my research monograph for publication I drew upon all three evidence typologies to support my contentions so that I gave myself the best possible opportunity to achieve the desired impact.

Some do’s and don’ts in you quest for impact

  • Before you commence writing, outline what you hope to accomplish
  • Choose an attention-grabbing title for your work
  • Remember key word searches when selecting your title and developing the abstract
  • Adopt a different writing style and move out of your normal ‘comfort zone’
  • Attempt to grab the interest of the reader as early as possible in your writing
  • Be succinct
  • Key messages should be simple
  • Carefully consider your intended ‘audience’, and place your work in the right conversation
  • Ensure your argument(s) stand up to scrutiny and challenge
  • Support your arguments with empirical evidence
  • Select a title that sounds very grandiose, but fails to give any indication what the title is about
  • Never underestimate the importance and potential impact of your abstract
  • Avoid being too rigid and formal, be more conversational
  • If you identify any weaknesses within your assertions don’t ignore them, address them
  • Be rushed into completing your draft as there is a risk you will miss something important that will help achieve the desired impact

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