Academic Blogging Part 4: Turning your journal articles / lecture notes into blog posts

You may spend a lot of time and effort writing a research article for a journal. So much so that once it has been accepted and published you’ll not want to think about it again. But why not change the end of your workflow slightly to include a couple of hours distilling that paper into an accessible and short-form version?

As I’ve said in the previous parts of this series, blogging is not academic writing, and turning an academic paper into a concise blog post is literally a case of rendering it down to its most valuable points. This isn’t a process that you need to do alongside the writing, you can wait until the article has been published and use the blog post to write up a very abridged version that links to the journal and gives you something to share that more people can view without needing to be an academic and / or access the main journal.

It is not a process that takes time away from your research, it would take you one or two hours to do on average, you decide when it will be posted, and even though the post may not be cited, if you include a link or reference to the journal the original article is posted in, that can still be cited by someone who may not have otherwise found your work.

Blogging is short-form digital publishing at its most instantaneously accessible, and the more you blog, the more visible your research becomes, therefore the more your work will come up in related searches.

Right, if you’re now thinking about turning that last journal submission into a blog post there are a few steps you can take to get it distilled to the essentials:

If your paper is several thousand words long, you’ll want to get the key points ideally within 1000, any more than that and people’s attention will begin to falter. So straight away you can cut out big chunks of unnecessary text such as the methodology and literature review.

Once you’ve done that, expand on your title with a few short lines to grab peoples interest and develop on the meaning of the title (without repeating it). You can then write a short introduction in around 100 words that lays out clearly what you have found out.

The main body of your post should then be the key findings of your research, and summarise what the arguments are, how you came to them. You need to be substantive and impactful in your summation, not vague and wordy.

If you have any charts, or pictures, add those as well to help break up the text. But always make sure you explain them clearly with a caption beneath, if you can’t make your caption relevant to the central points you’re trying to get across then leave the chart/picture out.

Be clear and simple in your writing style; if using acronyms make sure you write them out in full first and then put the acronym in brackets next to it before using it anywhere else in the text. Keep your paragraphs short and on point. If you can, include hyperlinks to anywhere relevant you may have conducted the research, or when mentioning other researchers.

When you end the blog, try and tie up your argument in a neat way. Highlight further steps you indtend to take or if anyone is putting the research to practical use.

Finally add some links – firstly to the journal where the full paper is published. Then add your own social media and staff profile links.

Also, if you have a book or anything else you’d like to plug, add that as well.

That takes care of journal articles, what about lecture notes? How do you turn those into a blog post? And why should you?

The most common argument to not expand your lecture notes into a post is that they’re for the students and you don’t want people to see them before they come to a lecture. It’s a valid reason, but this again is where you can be selective and clever.

The same principles apply again, however with lecture notes, your summary may see you expanding a little more on your central points rather than cutting big chunks out. But in essence the same points stated previously can be a useful guide to turn them into something a little more engaging.

You may decide to expand on one or two points for one post, and then on another couple for a different post and leave several as just lecture notes. You can use the posts as a tool to give your students some further reading. Or you could use them to advertise an upcoming lecture you may be giving elsewhere.

There are no hard and fast rules for how you do it, but your notes are a very useful tool for providing you with potential content for your blog, and the same can be said for interviews you may have given, or books / chapters you may have written as well.