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Academic Coaching & Writing

IX. Academic Blogging: To Be or Not To Be Yourself on Your Blog

Nov 14, 2013 by Lee Skallerup Bessette

A question that frequently comes up in regard to academic blogging is whether you should blog as yourself or adopt a pseudonym. Personally, with academic blogging coming out of the shadows, I think you should blog as yourself, using your own name. This is especially true if one of your goals is to increase your “visibility” in the field. Hiring and promotion committees are more open to “digital scholarship” than they have been in the past.

Yet, there are circumstances that still require adopting a pseudonym. If you are blogging about sensitive issues or are in a precarious employment situation (or if, for personal reasons, you need greater privacy), then using a pseudonym is a good idea, if not a necessity. If you are concerned about how a blog would be viewed by your colleagues, you can talk casually about academic blogging to them and see how they react.

However, I am of the mind that in order for academic blogging to gain legitimacy as a kind of academic work that deserves recognition, you need to be open about the work you’re doing. It is not a replacement for a monograph or peer-reviewed journal article, but it can be an important complement to those more traditional forms of academic publishing. Many places are beginning to count academic blogs as part of “service to the discipline.” If you are embarrassed about your blogging, then you are communicating to your colleagues and superiors that it is something to be embarrassed about, and therefore a less-than-worthy activity.

It bears repeating that blogging is different from writing a peer-reviewed journal article. You can be more informal and use it as an opportunity to refine your more authentic writing voice. Blogging isn’t a license to be sloppy or irresponsible (or slanderous), but to be able to “speak” to your readers rather than writing for peer-reviewers. Some blogs use footnotes, most don’t. Some use formal references; many just link within the post. All of this depends on what kind of blog you have decided to create and what kind of post you are writing. Remember to be true to yourself and the vision you have for your blog. Write the blog you’d like to read. Honesty and integrity are highly valued in the blogosphere, academic or otherwise. Remember that. And, while I don’t think I have to say this, I will: In much the same way plagiarism is frowned upon in academia, so too is it frowned upon in blogs. Anonymity is an easy way to slip into some of these bad blogging habits.

If blogging is to become a legitimate academic activity, you need to take ownership of your digital work, placing your name at the top of the page. I encourage you to blog as yourself, but the choice depends on your individual situation, your intended audience, and the stated purpose of your blog. Academic blogging is scholarship of a different, but no less important, kind.

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