A few weeks ago I gave a presentation at a workshop for doctoral researchers and academics on using academic blogging to create impact and disseminate your research. I had started academic blogging before becoming a PhD student and in my experience had found it a very useful tool. I had been struggling to find funding and was given the opportunity to write for the LSE’s Politics and Policy Blog. It provided me with a more informal and very easy way to publish new content, helping to build my profile.
With more ways than ever share our thoughts and the emergence of websites such as The Conversation in the UK I would like to briefly share my experiences of blogging and why I believe as PhD students we should be blogging more.
Why blog and what should you write about?
Blogging allows for shorter articles, good for external audiences, making them less time consuming as traditional output methods. Do you ever find yourself angry at a news story? Then share your thoughts, you won’t be the only be only person thinking it. Your post will be easy to share via social media making it easily searchable, if you write it people will find it. It doesn’t just have to be current events you write about, you can share your conference papers and updates on research progress providing a valuable opportunity for feedback from others in our field.
Blogging also gives you a freedom in your writing that I enjoy, allowing for a whole person style where content may be personal as well as academic. Dissemination is immediate, and so too is comment and feedback. This can be a valuable tool when sharing your research and conference papers, giving feedback that can improve your analysis of a particular topic. They can also be a valuable job finding tool as employers can see more than just your CV.
Blogs vs journal articles
Blogs will never be a replacement for journal articles but they certainly have a few advantages over them. Shorter and open access, they have a potential audience far greater than journals – fulfilling an obligation I believe we have to the general public to share our research in a clear and approachable manner. In contrast to journal articles they can be colourful, with hyperlinks to relevant material, as well as contain audio and video. You can also link them to academic papers you have written, therefore increasing the audience of your work. The World Bank has done research into why economists are blogging more and how this has impressively increased the readership of their Journal articles.
Dissemination & visibility
The more you write, your audience will increase and so too will your visibility. Blog posts feature highly on google scholar, especially those from multi-author blogs. It’s always an ego boost to search for a topic and find you work ranked higher than that of your supervisors. The online nature of your posts also make it easier to see who is citing or reading your work, a quick search for my own work found mentions in Germany and Australia. Blogs are also increasingly used by journalists and can result in requests for interviews and articles, giving further visibility to your work. During recent unrest in the Tory party, journalists found some of my posts for the LSE resulting in requests for interviews and a piece in the Evening Standard.
So why blog? In the era of social media the question is, why not? It’s easy, gives you greater freedom, and provides a valuable output that can aid your research, improve your visibility, and help you find a job.
Pete Redford is a former Parliamentary researcher currently undertaking his PhD researching the ‘underclass’ at the University of Birmingham. He holds a BA (Hons) British Politics and Legislative Studies and MA Global Political Economy from the University of Hull. He tweets @PeteRedford.