So you subscribe to this blog – or you’re reading this post – then you know what a blog is. At least. Great! You know what one is and in an age that has witnessed the rise and rise of social media, digital networking and content marketing, you’ve probably been told on more than one occasion you should have one. But why, right? We’re going to start thinking about how a blog – yours or one you contribute to – can work in your favour to increase your research impact.
First things first, though. Let’s get some context.
Blog = Web Log
A brief history of the humble Blog begins when the term was coined sometime, way back last century, in 1999. Jump to 2011 and there were over 156 million blogs out there. A rapid rise to popularity, any way you look at it. Blogs have been compared to diaries, and they have and continue to be used in this way, but what really sets the concept apart and makes it a success is the way it gives you not only a voice among the online crowd, but the potential for a massive audience.
As you know, a blog is made up of ‘posts,’ which make their way directly to your online readership (your ‘followers’) with a relative directness and immediacy that is difficult to beat. All the major blogging platforms have their quirks; their pros and cons, but what they all share is a design that enables you to communicate in a concise manner – and this, I’m sure you will all agree, is very important. One of the most common complaints directed toward social media and other online activity is that it takes up a lot of time.
So you’re blogging about your research and opening up platforms for discussion, but you’re not writing a rigorous essay or extended piece – that hard work is already taken care of in your journal article or chapter – you’re simply promoting your work in a different context to a potentially, much wider audience. With this in mind, make sure you take every opportunity to use this exposure; point readers back toward your work – if you can’t see the connection between blogging about your research and your research impact, this is it. In a nutshell. The mantra is: the more people read your work the more chance it has of being cited.
The great thing about blogs is your posts don’t have to be a burden but they have a permanency or a longer life-span than something like a tweet, which gets buried rather quickly in the torrent of Twitter activity.
Blogging about research and blogging with increased research impact in mind is all about finding and extending your community. We’re talking about quality posts, not frequent posts.
Let’s sum-up: blogging and why it works
- It’s quick
- It’s public
- It’s an ideal signpost
- It can be read, tracked, cited and contested
- It’s ideal for presenting the core of your research – the ‘take away’ element
- It bridges disciplines and promotes collaboration
- It’s free and easy
UONBlogs: right at your fingertips
UONBlogs are a series of individual WordPress blogs that are coordinated right here at UON by a couple of key movers and shakers within Research Services and IT. The initiative was launched a couple of years ago and it’s always been driven by a commitment to the idea that any group or individual, regardless of their expertise or profile, should have every chance to promote what they do. So if you’ve ever felt like you’d like to explore blogging but didn’t know where to start, this is your chance. It’s good for UON and it’s good for you.
Who can get one?
You can get one of these blogs with a minimum of fuss if you’re at UON. There’s no catch other than signing a very straightforward form and committing yourself to keeping your blogging professional and focused on your research and research-related activities.
A quick glance at the blogs currently in action reveals a healthy and varied blogging community: history, urban and regional design creativity, digital music, sustainability and more.
How do I get started?
You can get the ball rolling by a simple email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ll be asked a few questions and get a basic rundown of the WordPress platform following this and you’ll be on your way. What do you want to call your blog? Who’s involved? And what are you going to do with it?
Let’s have a look now at one of the more active and effective UONBlogs to see how you might use one to promote your research.
Professor Victoria Haskins’ UONBlog, “Anzac: Her Story” is a good example of how to use a blog to supplement and bolster the profile of your research. Victoria has been posting in a way that successfully extends the scope of her research and increases the breadth of her readership. And this can only be a good thing. In her words, the blog:
“is based on research that I’ve been doing on the history of Australian women’s experiences of the Great War, as part of my NSW Centenary of Anzac Commemoration History Fellowship. It’s where I will be posting stories about different individual women whose stories of life during WWI have captured my imagination. I think these stories deserve to be shared more widely.”
What makes this blog successful (the stripped back, attractive look also helps) is the way Victoria uses it to really zero in on one strand of her research interest. This results in a focus that incorporates the key strengths of this format: succinctness and relevance in a small package. The blog does everything to activate the wild-fire like growth that is typical of online networks. Followers beget followers, word spreads and there’s every chance you’re attracting more readers back to the source – your papers themselves.
Next, we’ll move on to some useful blogging tips that will help you find your feet here.
Blogging for research impact
- Take advantage of the web as network: ensure you use some of the other platforms we’ve talked about on this blog. When you post a blog, promote it on Twitter or Facebook. This is where you get the chance to channel and direct traffic. So get that link out there.
- Be clear on who you are and what you do: context is a must. While the need for this is obvious if you’re posting as part of a multi-author blog, it’s also important if you’re authoring a solo blog. Your readers may lose interest if they’re not able to easily identify you as an author and where your work is being published or archived. It really pays to include a Bio page (Victoria’s blog, which we’ve already looked at is a good example) and the URLs or handles which will guide readers to where your work is published or accessible.
- Try writing blogpost versions of your journal articles: take a little time to repackage your hard work in a summarised version. It’s the best advertising your journal article can get.
- Talk to your readers: a big positive to blogging is its capacity to promote and foster healthy debate. Encourage people to comment and respond when they do. Also, do this yourself. Share, talk, and connect. Link to the work of others and contribute to a community of mutual advantage.
- Keep it simple: don’t lose sight of what you’re attempting to achieve with your blog – promote your work. By all means, try some things and get it looking like something you’re happy with, but don’t get fixated by the design. Most blog platforms organise your posts in chronological order, which is a huge advantage because what is most recent and in many fast-moving disciplines, timely, will be what the casual reader will encounter first. You can always classify your posts into different categories, but you’d do well not to put anything in place that’s going to bury your posts in a maze of links.
If you were on the fence, hopefully we’ve convinced you. There’s no doubt that blogging has the potential to make a positive contribution to your research impact. And if you’re still not convinced, don’t think of blogging as a distraction to your real work. Think of it as an activity that can complement it.