Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My top 6 tips for how to blog about your research

I attended a #phdchat discussion on Twitter the other day, about blogging and research. After reviewing the comments I made and reflecting on my own experience, here are my top tips for how to blog about your research.

1. Decide if blogging is the right medium for you
Before you spend time setting up a blog, decide if it is the right medium for what you want to do. If all you want to do is capture and share resources, you may be better off using other social media like Facebook or Twitter. But if you want to keep a more detailed, reflective research journal, then blogging is definitely the right medium for that.

2. Just go for it
A lot of researchers lack confidence and feel they have nothing to say. Research students in particular feel they cannot blog because they haven't completed their research, and do not have an international reputation as an expert in their field. My answer to that is that your confidence and competence will grow, the more blogging you do. And as for being an "expert"...even the most junior researcher is an expert on their own journey, so blog about that.

3. Decide whether you are going to have a separate research blog, or if you're going to combine everything you're interested into one blog
I have only one blog which I use to write about everything...research, midwifery, gardening, rugby, and anything else that takes my fancy. The reason for this is because I cannot be bothered to maintain more than one blog. I like to write personal posts because I feel they give a context to my professional work, and I know the personal stuff interests readers. However, if you decide you only want to blog about your research, that's also a very valid thing to do.If you do write about a lot of topics, make sure you label your research posts so you, and your readers, can find them easily.

3. Recognise it takes time to attract a readership
Some people say that they do not want anyone to read their blog posts...that they blog purely for themselves. If that is the case, then you do not need to worry about what you you write it or when. However, the huge advantage of having readers is that they interact with you and share comments, advice, resources etc. This, for me, is the main reason for blogging.

If you are blogging as a means of connecting with people, you do have to realise it takes time. I have comments on most of my blog posts these days, but it has taken five years of solid work to get to this stage. I would recommend you commit to writing two or three posts per week, to capture people's interest and maintain it. If you do not have the time to write that frequently, keep people informed with your progress via Twitter and Facebook. It takes a lot less time to put a message on Facebook, but it does help to keep you connected to people while you come up with your next blog post.

Another time management strategy I use is to write several posts at a time when I am free, usually Sunday morning, and then schedule them to be published during the week.This works really well for me...I successfully manage my time, and my readers are regularly updated with posts.

4. Be mindful what you write about and how you write it
This is particularly important when you work in a research must make sure that what you write about does not impinge on the intellectual property or copyright of others. You may also need to think about the possibility of your blog posts being counted as official publication. This is problematic when you come to write articles for publication, because you may be accused of self-plaigarism. This has never been a problem for me. But then again, I write a lot less formally here than I do for an academic publication, so I never usually have this problem. The other thing to check is that you are not breaking any university or organisational rules....I cannot think of any off hand...but some research supervisors can be funny about their students using blogs and social media.

Having said I write differently in my blog than I do for academic papers, I am always thinking about how I can incorporate my blog posts (and the feedback from my readers) into my EdD kill two birds with one stone.

5. Generate conversation
As I have said before, one of the values of blogging about your research is you get feedback from readers. One of the ways I generate comments and discussion is by ending my posts with open questions that hopefully encourage readers to respond. Sometimes, I get a little disappointed because no one has responded, so I always remember the 90-9-1 rule which basically means that the majority of people on the Internet are don't take your lack of comments personally.

6. Drive readers to your blog using Facebook and Twitter
By posting the links to your posts on Facebook and Twitter you will increase your readership and comments. You'll also increase your opportunities to disseminate your research. The only problem I am finding with this, is that people continue the conversation on Facebook and Twitter which I find is more difficult to track, especially weeks and months afterwards. So, to keep record of the comments where I can find them easily, I copy and paste them into the blog comments.

I am sure there are heaps more tips that can be passed on to researchers about blogging. What would you say was an important tip for blogging in an academic environment?

More reading
Is blogging and tweeting about research papers worth it? The Verdict:

Blogging about your research. First steps:

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