Blogs can be a great way for academic authors to reach audiences they might not otherwise have access to. Read on to discover expert tips for writing a successful academic blog post.
Why write an academic blog?
“Blogging has become a really huge [and] popular way of disseminating research […], talking to each other as a community, and sharing knowledge.”
Inger Mewburn, Managing editor of the Thesis Whisperer blog
There are many benefits to academic blogging:
- Provide opportunity to test an idea, concept or style of presentation
- Help your research reach a wider audience, including the general public
- Hone your writing skills by distilling a paper or thought process into a brief, readable blog post. (Such a skill is highly valuable as researchers strive to ensure their work has as wide a readership as possible, driving tweets, shares, likes, impact, and eventually citations)
- Drive people towards your research or latest article
- Improve your communication skills and the way you present information
- Make your research more shareable, e.g. via Facebook or Twitter
Of course, there are also reasons against. Blogging can be time-consuming, especially if you’re the one setting up and running the blog. If you’re worried about time you may decide to pitch your idea to a well-established blog – writing an individual post, rather than starting off your own blog from scratch.
Academic blog examples
Before you start writing your own blog post, it’s worth looking at some examples for inspiration.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is an academic research blog where authors publishing in the journal are also invited to write a blog post to go with their article. You can read insights from the editor who set up this initiative.
The Thesis Whisperer – an academic support blog edited by Inger Mewburn which covers all sorts of topic on research support, from general writing advice to presenting and publishing.
Patter – another blog offering a wealth of support on academic research and writing, edited by Professor Pat Thomson.
Regional Studies Association blog – a space for society members to share ideas and insights from their research.
How to structure your academic blog
There is not a set academic blog structure, and the more informal nature of blogs means you may choose to use a more creative approach than you typically would when writing an academic article. Make sure your ideas flow and the structure makes sense.
Here are some things to bear in mind when thinking about the structure of an academic blog:
- Organize your points so that the most important ideas come earlier on. Unfortunately you can’t rely on all readers reaching the end of the article, so you want to catch their attention as early as possible.
- Because blogs are online you can easily use links, images, videos and other multimedia to help the reader understand what you’re saying.
- Short paragraphs, use of bullet lists and headings can break the text up, helping to keep your reader engaged.
10 tips for writing an academic blog post
So, what steps should you follow for writing an academic blog post? Here’s 10 tips:
- Pick your topic, set your aims. Before you start writing your blog post be clear and specific on the topic and why you’re writing it. You might want to cover what you learned from a recent conference you attended or write a lay-summary of a journal article you’ve published.
- Choose the right platform: Once you know your topic and what you want to get out of writing the blog post, choose the platform which will meet your aims. Do you want to allow for discussion and engagement? Write for a blog which allows for comments – though make sure you’re prepared to respond to these. Do you want to reach a particular audience? Then write for a blog with this readership.
- Use an effective title. For a blog post you want to use a catchy title, encouraging people to click through. But at the same time, make sure it isn’t misleading and accurately reflects the content of the post. Snappy titles e.g. ’10 tips on ….’, ‘5 things I learned about…’ can often appeal to the time-short reader.
- Know your audience. Who do you want to reach? Is it researchers in your field? Those from outside your area of specialty? The general public? Policy makers or the media? Keeping your audience at the forefront of your mind is essential in every decision – from choosing the title to selecting images that will resonate.
- Translate your language. An academic blog post is different to an academic journal article. Often, they are intended for a wider audience, including those outside of academia so you need to tailor language to your audience. As journal and blog editor Per Carlbring notes, “do not use unnecessary technical expressions – it’s a difficult art to explain complicated principles in an easy way.”
- Be concise. Again, blogs are typically a lot more concise than journal articles. So, translate your arguments into the essential points.
- Make it visual – using appropriate videos or pictures can help break the text up and make your blog post more engaging to the audience. Make sure you have appropriate permissions to use any images, giving credit to the artist where necessary.
- Think about the whole picture. Your blog post is a publication, so make sure it fits in with the rest of your research ensuring you cite it appropriately and bear in mind any intellectual property issues. If your research has not yet been published, bear in mind any risks with giving information away.
- Include your social media handles. Include links to your other social media accounts, whether that’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or any other academic networking site – helping build up your online research profile.
- Be aware of your digital footprint. These days it’s not uncommon for employers to look up potential candidates online. So, ensure your tone is professional and don’t include anything you wouldn’t want to be quoted on.
Hear more about academic blogging and other essentials for researchers from Inger Mewburn, Managing editor of the Thesis Whisperer blog, in our podcast discussing 4 skills for researchers of the future.
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