This blog has focused on sharing experiences and tips I’ve learned as a sociology graduate student. I haven’t been keeping up with the blog like I should have, but I recently got inspired to write about a new publication. Considering how central research and publishing is to a student’s training, it is actually a shame that I have yet to blog about my work. So today I logged on to WordPress with the goal to write about my research… and then realized I wasn’t exactly sure where to start. So I did what any good researcher would do, I quickly researched online resources for tips on how to write about research. When I finally returned to write, I started off by summarizing my rationale for writing, but soon realized that my introduction to the post became a post in its own right. Oops, it happens.
Based off of what I found, here are some of the reasons why I will (and you should) blog about my (your) research:
1. Get Heard
Publishing in academic journals is one means to disseminate knowledge, and perhaps the best way to get your work and name out… in academic circles. This is important for your academic livelihood. However, most of what is published remains in tight circles and doesn’t get out into the ‘real world’. Back in the day, many academics contributed towards monthly newsletters or publications. Some scholars contend that blogging is actually a return to serialized scholarship. For instance, the canonical figure of American Sociology, W.E.B. Du Bois, published a newspaper, The Crisis, which included short articles and circulated over 100,000 copies in the early 1900s. Blogging can circumvent the standard gatekeeping embedded in academic journals and get our work heard.
2. Blog For a Change
This is related to the first point. Dr. Eric Grollman powerfully argued that blogging can be a form of intellectual activism – a way of speaking truth to the people. If a sociologist’s job is to study people, shouldn’t ‘people’ have the opportunity to hear findings from the study? Furthermore, if the research is about potential social change, there is a need to get the ideas out that in hopes of working towards such change. The Crisis editorial board wrote, “The object of this publication is to set forth those facts and arguments which show the danger of race prejudice, particularly as manifested today toward colored people.” Du Bois and his colleagues believed their research and writing deserved to be shared, and knew that the implications of getting the facts out could be monumental. Blogging can similarly help get ideas out to those who need it and can use it.
3. Improve Your Writing Skills
I once joked that twitter helped me become a better academic writer. I have no data to back that up, but academics do love “tight writing” and restructuring a thought into 140 characters forces me to get to the point. Similarly, blogging about research can help with academic writing. It forces you to highlight the impact of your work by pushing you to think about your work in a more practical manner. Furthermore, you learn to rely less on trivial details or jargon, and learn how to get to the good stuff quickly. Dr. Christopher Buddle actually found that blogging increased research productivity #word
Still not convinced its for you? Check out these 37 reasons from Sociological Imagination.
But wait, before you start blogging away, I want to share a few important cautions on blogging about research:
1. Don’t Misdirect Your Time
Blogging takes time–which could potentially take time away from your work. You can’t blog about your research if you are so busying blogging you don’t have time to do your research. Someone was once described to me as an academic that “spends so much time engaging in online debates and so little time creating work to back the debates that no one takes them seriously”. Don’t let that be you.
2. Don’t Let the internet Steal Your Work
I think we have all come to accept that once something goes on the internet, it belongs to the internet. For instance, just because someone deletes a tweet, doesn’t mean it’s gone. And you never know when a tweet might show up on some buzzfeed list or even in the court of law. Blogging is the same way. If you put your unpublished ideas out for all to see, you have no control over how it gets shared, if it gets cited, or if the ideas will be ripped off. I think it’s safest to discuss preliminary findings at your will, but save all of the specific details for after you have a copyright.
3. Blog Responsibly
This is a general caution, but a very good one: always blog responsibly. (<– seriously everyone, read this important post!)
And for more tips on blogging about research, check out tips for starting academic blogs, read about how to write a good research blog post, or get involved with ResearchBlogging.org.