By Boris Popov
This post by Boris Popov (Human Geography PhD student) explores reasons why PhD students should consider academic blogging.
Before I even begin making my case for blogging as a PhD student, I know what you’re going to say because I’ve heard it before and I’ve said it myself. ‘I don’t have the time.’ ‘I have nothing to say.’ ‘I’ve got plenty of writing and/or reading to do for my PhD.’ ‘I have plenty of items on my to-do list.’ Although those statements are valid to a certain extent, they are also recycled frequently in relation to a plethora of activities in which academics participate that are deemed to be not a ‘core’ part of research.
Numerous perspectives that dismiss using social media for academic purposes are rooted in the fact that blogs are not counted as publications (Lovink 2008). Particularly in the UK, publishing in reputable journals (and/or monographs) has played a central role for career advancement and institutional research assessment thereby discouraging academic engagement with blogs. However, the landscape is changing. Academic blogging is becoming increasingly important to various degrees across the spectrum of academic disciplines as the practices of research and teaching are evolving. To a large extent, “it has become accepted scholarly practice to cite websites as sources, and some scholars have developed a professional reputation for their blogging” (Kirkup 2010, p. 76). Still the question persists, why should academics, and especially PhD Students, blog?
In an attempt to answer to the foregoing question, I offer the following four reasons for blogging as a PhD student: practice writing, engage in two-way conversation, develop a community and promote yourself.
1. Practice Writing.
It is easy to make the disconnect between academic writing and writing for a blog. However, the focus of academic blogs tends to be on professional topics rather than personal while demonstrating connections between blog content, research issues and academic life. As such, a blog allows one to engage in a variety of writing formats with an academic grounding. These include but not limited to fieldwork notes, reflexive accounts, reviews (e.g., books), commentaries, opinion pieces, conference reports, etc.
2. Develop a community (Networking & Collaborating).
A blog allows you to write about what interests you (your research) while reaching a much broader audience beyond that select number of researchers working in your area. By the simple virtue of engaging with a platform that has a wider reach and a different ‘writing style’ than the traditional scholarly outputs you make your work more widely accessible and generate a community of followers both within and beyond academia.
3. Engage in two-way conversation.
You make the choices about which content you deliver through the blog. However, the other benefit of writing a blog or for a blog is to engage in conversation with the readers of the blog through comments. As I pointed out above, a blog opens access to a variety of academic and non-academic audiences. These audiences may have completely different ideas, views and perspectives beyond what you are aware of / used to within your discipline.
4. Promote Yourself.
This reason may go against the traditional notions of what being an academic is all about, but the truth is that the academic world is competitive. Therefore, you need to standout in a crowd. This is especially important if you’re hoping to pursue a job in academia where the number of candidates by far surpasses the number of jobs available. Consequently, a blog is an ideal place to promote your research, ideas, conferences and publications. The emphasis does not have to be purely on self-promotion, but it should be integrated as a part of your overall blogging voice.
The above are four reasons why I think it is worthwhile to engage in blogging as a PhD student. There are a number of other reasons that can be added to the list. While there are numerous positives about blogging, there are also a number of pitfalls that should also play into consideration when you’re making the decision about whether blogging is for you.
What are your views on blogging as a PhD student?
Boris is in his final year of PhD research in the Department of Geography at Durham University. His PhD research focuses on mobilization of scientific research beyond academia. More broadly, his research interests are STS studies, sociology of science, science communication and public engagement with science. You can find Boris on Twitter (@BorisOPopov) or read his blog (STS Turntable).
Kirkup, G. (2010). Academic blogging: Academic practice and academic identity. London Review of Education, 8, 75–84.
Lovink, G. (2008). Zero Comments. Blogging and Critical internet culture. London, Routledge.