It’s important to embed a racial and ethnic equity lens in our research communications.

Research findings often communicate information—either directly or indirectly—about community conditions and can have policy, programmatic, and funding implications for communities. Even the most thoughtfully conducted research can be harmful if communicated poorly and subsequently misinterpreted. By more accurately reflecting the life experiences of children and youth of color, equitable communication of research findings results in more effective research. In this document, we share five guidelines for equitable research communication.

1. Say what you mean.

When communicating research findings, precisely define the study population rather than use euphemisms. Researchers should ask themselves who the research is talking about and whether the language used in the findings may render some groups invisible. For example, using the term “people of color” is not appropriate if the researcher is only referring to Black and Latino populations because the phrase most correctly encompasses all populations of color—including, for example, Asian Americans, American Indians, and Alaska Natives. While it is considered best practice in research not to generalize findings beyond the study population, researchers sometimes make shortcuts to communicate their findings. If a study population only included Black families living in poverty, describing findings using only race erases the experiences of Black families with higher incomes. Saying what you mean may reveal limitations in the data you are using. For example, the data may only include whether participants identify as “Latino,” and may not specify country of origin. If unable to add details about the target population because of the way the data were collected, researchers should share those limitations when reporting findings.

2. Consider using person-first, characteristic-second language.

Person-first, characteristic-second language avoids labeling people using their circumstances, especially if those circumstances may be stigmatized. For example, “rural children” can be replaced with “children living in rural areas.” It is important to engage and elevate the voices of community stakeholders when deciding what language is respectful to that community. Sometimes people prefer characteristic-first language, especially if they consider the characteristic part of their identities. And some communities may disagree on appropriate language. For example, according to the National Association of the Deaf, some people with hearing loss would prefer to be called “deaf,” while others may prefer “hard-of-hearing.” When there is no clear agreement on respectful language, researchers can use more than one term and explain the rationale for doing so. If someone prefers characteristic-first language, it’s appropriate to respect that preference.

3. Do not assume differences by race, ethnicity, or other groupings.