This is the first part of a five-part series aimed at helping staff get into the blog format in a more meaningful and engaging way. Through these five brief posts we want to highlight not only the marketing benefits but also the academic benefits of using your research blogs to give your work more traction.
So why is it important to blog?
There are many reasons why blogging is important in today’s world, and a quick google search will give you a list of articles very quickly on the benefits – and they will probably be similar to what you’ve already been told. But while the idea of blogging can be easily dismissed by a busy academic, it is worth remembering that your visibility is tied to your reputation as an academic, and blogs are one of the more visible platforms available to us on the internet. Below are 6 good reasons blogging is good for you and your work as an academic.
- Visibility – Traditionally most research has existed in peer review journals with heavily diluted versions filtering through to the mainstream media. Blogging is a halfway point between those where the academic can put a more accessible version of their work out into the world that can be easily shared and commented on. There is also an opportunity to show, through pictures and videos, as well as text, examples of your working practice that will potentially become a story in their own right. As well as the ability to link to repositories and journals where the work is held.
- Inclusion – Academic research is traditionally seen as an elitist world that baffles a lot of people. However, with university admissions continuing to grow the opportunity to knock down that wall and highlight your work to people potentially interested in attending University, or indeed to Alumni still interested in your progress. This is an instantly accessible record of your research, and while it may not be scrutinised in the manner of official publications, it is still a valuable tool of documentation to refer back to.
- Growth – Academic blogging is an area that is growing, and has been steadily for a number of years. Already some universities have very established blog networks with authoritative channels regularly used by the mainstream media, and the wider blogosphere as primary source material. In fact, blogging is seen as more along the lines of open source publishing, and whether an article is written on a blog does not make it any less valuable than something published in a physical medium.
- Establishing your identity – If someone is searching for a topic online relevant to your subject area and stumbles across your blog with your articles, links to your research, and your recent publications, this is an advert for you as an authority on that subject.
- Improving your academic writing – This may seem strange but it is a valid point nonetheless. Blog writing and academic writing are very different but the abilities required for them are not mutually exclusive. In fact, regular blogging can help to; Establish writing as a routine activity, Challenge you to think about how you’re area applies to current events and topics, Experiment with your style, Become more focused, Become more concise, Increases your confidence, build networks with other blogs, sites and publications, and identifies your readership.
- Applying and understanding research – Through blogs you can relate your work to topical and current events. For example, if your work was on improving stamina of athletes in winter, this is something you could publish in November/December or during the winter Olympics. Or if your research was in the area of European politics, the fallout from Brexit would be ample opportunity to apply your research to the ongoing commentary.
One of the biggest issues with the idea of blogging is that on the surface it looks like a time consuming add-on to your other work as an academic. But it isn’t, in fact it is an activity that compliments your other work. Also, blogs don’t have to be long, complicated pieces of journal quality empirical research. They can be reflective, they can highlight new techniques you may be using that you’d like to share, they can be used as a tool to simplify and compliment more expansive pieces and provide digestible summaries of your work.
The average blog post can range from anywhere from 300 – 1,000 words in length (essentially 1 – 2 sides of A4 paper). They can be picture heavy, or be to put a short video into context. You can draft them quickly with ease, use quotes from more in-depth work you are doing. There are no hard and fast rules other than to make sure to blog regularly.
The Digital Scholar: How Technology Is Transforming Scholarly Practice (Bloomsbury USA, 2011; free online)
The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind (Yale University Press, 2008)