March 12

Academics need blogs, too

13March12BlogThere are blogs that run like online magazines, to which people contribute articles about academia, like the Inside Higher Ed blog or the ProfHacker blog of the Chronicle of Higher Education.

But when I say that academics need blogs too, I mean that you, personally, as an academic should start a blog about your research, your interests, and your life. I know several objections may pop up immediately in your head, but hear me out on some of the benefits.

Writing an academic blog will help you write better.

Writing is a skill, a muscle, and the more you use it, the better you get at writing. If you force yourself to write a 500-1500 word post once a week, I guarantee that sitting down to write your article or dissertation will slowly become a less daunting task.

Also, I firmly believe that a big problem with academic writing is the opaque, jargon-filled, rambling style of so many academic papers. Blogs are beautiful because they force you to hone in on one, specific topic and to write as clearly and succinctly as you can. If you write 20 clear, succinct blog posts about your research, I will bet that dissertation chapter will practically write itself.

You can always make the language more formal for your actual paper or dissertation, but with 20 blog posts on your research topic, you will begin with a clear idea of what you want to communicate, and clear communication is the ultimate goal of good writing. You won't just be regurgitating blog posts in “academese” language, either, since you'll discover more about your research as you write your actual articles and dissertation and book.

Writing an academic blog will inspire you to make more connections.

You don't have to blog only about your research. You can blog about your other interests, like politics or religion or music. Universities have learned that interdisciplinary research fosters more intellectual ideas. So, be interdisciplinary within yourself! Writing about your various interests will undoubtedly create inspiration for an avenue of research that you hadn't considered before.

Google is changing the author game entirely.

You remember Google, right? The end-all-be-all of search engines? They have their fingers already in the scholarly article pie, and they've just introduced something called “Google Authorship,” which connects each Google user profile to everything that person has ever written on the Internet.

That means when someone searches your name, they'll pull up the journal article you wrote, the book you wrote, and every blog entry you have written. This is potentially very powerful, and I think leads into the following additional reasons for academic blogging:

Your audience may surprise you.

Everyone reads blogs these days. Imagine all of the important, influential people in your field. Faculty, journal editors, acquisitions editors, policy-makers, researchers, graduate students at the top-ranking universities, they all read blogs.

Who's to say they wouldn't stumble upon your blog when they typed in something like “sociology immigration” (or whatever your field is) into the Google search blank? Heck, maybe they would find your blog, subscribe, and create a dialogue with you.

An academic blog just might help you land a job.

You don't need me to remind you that the market is tight for PhDs right now. When faculty are deciding who to bring on to their department, they'll look at published articles, and they'll listen to your PowerPoint pitch, but if they could also read your blog, and find out more about your current research, interests, and what a well-informed, passionate scholar you are, well, surely they'd hire you!

An academic blog just might help you get published.

Trade publishing houses are already requiring that fiction authors have [x] number of blog subscribers or Twitter followers before they'll agree to publish a manuscript. Although scholarly publishing houses tend to lag behind the times, I'll bet it's not too long before Oxford University Press wants to see your blog and subscription list, too.

You want to be part of an intellectual community, right?

Feedback, conversation, idea generation, community, these all happen on academic blogs already, and they can happen on your blog, too. More than likely, people interested in your area of research are already looking for more online interaction, and your academic blog could be a space for enlightening discussion, for yourself and readers.

Still skeptical? Simon Wren-Lewis wrote a post about his initial concerns with academic blogging and how they have turned out to not be the case at all. His article is posted at the Impact of Social Sciences blog, of the London School of Economics. (That's right, the London School of Economics has articles by academic bloggers, how could you not be on board with the idea?!)

Here are some successful academics who blog:

Katherine Everheart, advanced graduate student in the Vanderbilt Sociology department, actually maintains her two different research interests at two blogs: Performance and Protest and Music is Memory.

Mike Carrigan, graduate student in the University of Warwick Sociology department, blogs at

Eve Proper, assistant professor at LIM College in New York, blogs at Higher Ed Data.

Tanya Golash-Boza, associate professor at UC Merced, blogs at Social Scientists for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. She is more well-known for her Get a Life PhD blog, where she talks about balancing the responsibilities of being a faculty member and enjoying life.

Also, for an example of how Google tracks scholarly article authorships, look at Golash-Boza's profile here. Imagine her scholarly articles, listed with the online content she has also produced. That's what's coming. What an impressive list that would be, to any faculty, journal editor, or book publisher.

What do you think? Do you still have reservations about blogging? Or do you have a blog and love the experience? Or did you try blogging and drop it for any particular reason?

Other good academic blogs you want to give a shout out?


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