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IV. Academic Blogging: Why YOU Should Blog

Oct 10, 2013 by Lee Skallerup Bessette

Let’s face it; there are a lot of time-consuming activities that are required of us as graduate students and academics: teaching (and everything that that involves), service work, research, and traditional writing projects. We also hope to be able to make time for ourselves and the people who matter most to us. So, why, then, should we add another item to the list, especially considering that blogging (in many cases) won’t earn us a tenure-track job or tenure?

Tenure isn’t the only reason to do anything (although it is a very good one). Over the next few posts, I will be talking about the reasons why you should blog, and there are many. They include (but are not limited to): forming a community, disseminating and receiving feedback on your research, engaging in public scholarship, and becoming a better and more effective writer. This post will focus on the first three, as they are somewhat linked. Then I will devote an entire post on the seemingly counter-intuitive final one.

Blogging is a great way to connect or create community. Through my various blogging endeavors, I have connected with and eventually met many academics who share my interests in pedagogy, digital humanities, and Canadian Literature. The support I received from the community that I have developed through my blogging has been empowering and a fantastic resource. For example, it was my editor at the University of Venus blog who encouraged me to move my blog over to Inside Higher Ed. Without her encouragement and editorial assistance, which helped me improve the quality of my blog, I doubt I would currently have a blog with as large a reach.

Blogging is a great way to learn more about other perspectives and gain insight into your own. By reading and commenting on other’s blogs who are writing about issues similar to mine, I am engaging in a larger conversation about a variety of topics and benefiting from the exchange of ideas and information.

I have received fantastic feedback and advice when I’ve posed questions about both my research and teaching; I am a better academic because of the feedback I have received from my readers. Once you have a community of readers interested in the same issues as yours, then they can offer meaningful advice, feedback, and support. Research-in-progress blogs are not to be feared, but embraced for their ability to make your work better.

Blogs are also a way to build interest in and to disseminate your research. Paywalls make it incredibly difficult to widely distribute our work. But, blogs and other forms of social media can help you get your message and your research to a wider public. A recent study done in the UK measured how great an impact blogging (and Tweeting) about one’s research can have. The author found a marked increase in “hits” for research papers after they were announced on a blog and on Twitter. Christopher P. Long, a professor of Philosophy at Penn State, secured a book contract with a major university press in part because of the popularity of his blog and podcast. In an era of shrinking publishing budgets, the ability to show interest in your research prior to publication (not to mention a built-in way to promote your book or work) is seen as a plus, not a minus.

You can also engage in public scholarship, creating an accessible and readable interpretation of current events (broadly understood) for a more general audience. One great example is literary scholar Rohan Maitzen’s reader’s guide to the challenging novel Middlemarch. She was seeing that the book was being cut out of summer reading groups because of the challenge it presented. She created Middlemarch for book clubs as a response. Another blog on China is now placed along side major news outlets for timely and accurate coverage of the country. Public engagement can increase your visibility as a scholar and lead to other opportunities both within and outside the academy. For example, my blogging endeavors have led to a number of invited talks and conference presentations (things that do “count” in academia)

These are just a few ways that blogging can help you in your academic career. My next post will describe how it can help you become a better writer of more traditional academic publications.

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