What is academic blogging and how can you use it to build your professional profile?

 

What is a blog?

A blog (a truncation of the expression weblog) is a website where content is regularly updated by one or more authors. Entries are generally written to be informal, reflective, and moderate in length. Blogs may have multiple pages or they may be a single page which contains multiple posts. Usually blogs are organised in reverse-chronological order with the most recent blog post at the top.

Why blog at all?

There are many reasons why you might want to consider blogging as part of your professional practice.  You may want a space to explore and develop your ideas and share them with colleagues.  You might want to practice your writing, or experiment with different writing styles.  You may want to keep a private journal of your own thoughts and reflections. You may want to contribute to a community of peers.  Or you may want to maintain a record of your career progress and personal development.

What are the benefits?

There are many benefits from creating and maintaining a professional blog.  These include:

Developing your writing practice.  Writing short articles on a regular basis helps you to hone your craft as a writer, encourages you to get to the point concisely, and boosts your confidence as a writer.

Experimenting with different writing voices.  As an informal outlet, blogs allow you to experiment with different writing styles and voices, enabling you to find a tone that is right for you.

A single blog can have posts of different kinds. While some bloggers always use the same kind of format for posts, others choose to take a more varied approach. Because there are no rules attached to blogs, bloggers can do what they want, always bearing their readers in mind, of course. A blog might be a place to experiment with a vignette, a thick description, a set of instructions or a short review.
Seven reasons why blogging can make you a better academic writer, Pat Thomson, Times Higher Education

Academic blogging has been described as ‘conversational scholarship’, a means by which academics can attempt to loosen their formal style of writing as part of communicating to a wider audience (Gregg 2006)
Research on academic blogging: what does it reveal?, Deborah Lupton, This Sociological Life

Deborah Lupton – This Sociological Life

Thinking out loud.  Blogs provide you with a space to explore ideas and work through new thoughts, either in public or in private. You don’t need to wait until your ideas are fully formed and written up.  If you share your ideas in public the feedback you gain can help to shape your research and practice.

I enjoy the opportunity for reflective writing that it gives me and for thinking ‘out loud’ about ideas I am still forming or testing before they become formal work positions or plans. I see blogging as part of open practice in sharing ideas but also giving insight into the thinking behind some of the decisions I make in my leadership role.
thinking about things, Melissa Highton, Light Out For The Territory Ahead Of The Rest

The small, incidental thoughts are worth getting out there, that once you’re in the habit it becomes easier, that you can’t predict what will connect with people and, most importantly, this is where the fun stuff happens.
The Future of Blogging is Blogging, Martin Weller, The Ed Techie

My brain works non-­stop and is full of ideas. The reason I write them is to clarify them for myself and develop them. The reason I share them is to kick-start a conversation with other people and develop the ideas further through that conversation.
To blog or not to blog? The academic blogging question, Maha Bali, Reflecting Allowed

CC BY SA, Melissa Highton

Develop reflective practice.  Blogs provide a space to reflect on your professional practice.  You may choose to write private reflective posts, or you may share your reflections with your peers to seek feedback, support and guidance.

Curating your professional identity. Blogs provide a space to curate your professional identity and draw together different aspects of your practice, such as talks, papers, and media, into an online portfolio. You can connect your blog to your staff profile and other social media accounts. You may also wish to use your blog as evidence for professional accreditation, e.g. CMALT.

It did take me a while to find my blogging voice, but I am so glad that I did because my blog has become a central part of my working practice. More importantly for me it is actually my professional memory/portfolio.  If something significant happens I will blog about it. 
The importance of blogging as digital storytelling, Sheila MacNeill, howsheilaseesIT

In 2017 I started gathering evidence for my CMALT portfolio. Because I had already gathered evidence of my professional practice on my blog, it was easy to find the information I needed.  Choosing which evidence to use for my #CMALT portfolio was much harder! 
Using WordPress to build an online academic identity, Lorna M. Campbell, Open World

CC BY, Lorna M. Campbell

Open Education Practice. Blogging and sharing your reflective practice with your peers can be regarded as a form of open education practice.

Open educational practices (OEP) is a broad descriptor of practices that include the creation, use, and reuse of open educational resources (OER) as well as open pedagogies and open sharing of teaching practices.
Openness and Praxis: Exploring the Use of Open Educational Practices in Higher Education, Catherine Cronin, International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning

Connecting with your peers. Blogging can help you connect to a community of like-minded peers. This is sometimes known as networked scholarship.

…networked scholarship may enact Boyer’s initial aim of broadening scholarship itself through fostering extensive cross-disciplinary, public ties and rewarding connection, collaboration, and curation between individuals rather than roles or institutions.
In Abundance: Networked Participatory Practices as Scholarship, Bonnie Stewart, The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning.

Disseminate, collaborate and amplify your research.  You can use your blog to disseminate your research and share your scholarship.

Blogging should be seen as part of a programme of dissemination and collaboration, and is best used alongside traditional academic outlets (such as journals) as a means of amplifying the reach and potentially the significance and future direction of the research.
The benefits of academic blogging – should you enter the blogosphere?!, Julie Northam, Bournemouth University Research Blog.

Public Engagement.  Blogging can help you to communicate your work to the wider public.

Academic blogging is a method of public engagement, allowing academics to connect and share their work with the public, generating mutual benefit for both blog authors and readers. This can help to build trust and understanding of universities, and can increase our relevance to, and impact, on society.
The benefits of academic blogging – should you enter the blogosphere?!, Julie Northam, Bournemouth University Research Blog.

Event amplification and reporting. If you are running or attending academic or professional events, you can use your blog to amplify and disseminate the event, and to keep a record of it afterwards.  This can be useful for not just for yourself, but also for your colleagues.

Increased exposure and impact.  Blogs are a great way to share your work and to build up your professional profile and standing.  This can be particularly beneficial for early career researchers, academics and professionals

Remember: you don’t have to be an academic to benefit from having a blog.  Professional services and support staff can also benefit enormously creating their own blogs.

Further Reading

23things

Bonnie Stewart

Bournemouth University Research Blog

Catherine Cronin

Deborah Lupton: This Sociological Life

Digital Footprint MOOC

Lorna M. Campbell: Open World

LSE Impact Blog

LSE Learning Technology and innovation

Maha Bali: Reflecting Allowed

Martin Weller: The Ed Techie

Melissa Highton: Light Out For The Territory Beyond The Rest

Paul Cairney: Politics & Public Policy

Sheila MacNeil: howsheilaseesIT

Times Higher Education (EASE login)

University of St Andrews

(Playfair Architectural Drawings, CC BY, University of Edinburgh, https://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/detail/UoEcar~3~3~74478~196954:Playfair-Architectural-Drawings,-Un?qvq=q:Playfair%20CC&mi=12&trs=46#)

(CC BY, Lorna M. Campbell)