“Blogging is quite simply, one of the most important things that an academic should be doing right now” (Dunleavy, 2014).
How can researchers provide information about their studies in ways that would be useful and interesting to prospective and current participants? With that question in my mind, I began to explore the potential for blogs as a bridge between researchers and participants. As with almost any online exploration, I discovered a much broader potential for blogs in the academic world.
Today’s researchers, scholars, and instructors are finding
many valuable ways to use blogs. I’ve come to realize that blogs play an important part in the publishing cycle and online ecosystem. It is not a matter of either/or: we need to find ways these different communication options fit with our career and research goals.
Blogs and Social Media
Before going any further with this discussion, it’s important to define blogs and to distinguish between blogs and social media.
Blogs, short for weblogs are personal online journals where entries are posted chronologically. Microblogs use the same principle but allow for very short entries. Blogs can be text only or embed or link to images or media. Some are public and others are only seen by subscribers or friend lists. (Salmons, 2016)
Bloggers can choose from a number of free or paid platforms where they can devise their own templates, adapt or use available templates. Popular platforms include WordPress, Blogger and Squarespace. Blogs are very flexible and users can create a wide variety of formats and styles of presentation. Some are very basic with simple narrative posts and others are complex with design features that include both static pages and time-sensitive posts. Bloggers use comment features to invite feedback or to interact with readers. Bloggers may choose to generate revenue with advertising and other promotions.
Bloggers are not limited by proscribed lengths, styles, features or page designs. This flexibility stands in contrast to posts made to social networking sites. Social networking sites are typically run as commercial platforms by large companies. These companies have determined ways to make a profit from user-generated material and are thus invested in allowing certain kinds of posts. Brands are built on the sites’ graphic design and features. Users of sites like Facebook can be surprised to login and find that their pages’ format has changed. They have become accustomed to seeing advertising on their walls, as well as links to other content the company has decided is of interest to users who fit a certain profile. Users of the microblog tool Twitter have become accustomed to the 140 character limitation.
Social networking sites and blogs are typically interconnected. Bloggers use social media in order to build an audience. They create posts that fit within the constraints of the social networking sites, but link back to the blog where they have the freedom to present information in the way they prefer. Bloggers can use social networking to interact with others and use their blogs to present more substantial writings and other expressions. The important point here is that by knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each type of site, we can make better choices about which best meets specific academic purposes.
Social Networking Sites
|Flexible formats and options for presenting narrative material of any length, attachments for download, graphics, photographs and/or media.||Format options determined by commercial owner of site.|
|Communication features determined by blogger, using free, open access plug-ins and software or professionally designed templates.||Features and design options determined by commercial owner of site.|
|Advertising determined by the blogger, who collects the revenue.||Advertising determined by the commercial site, and the site collects the revenue.|
|The blogger chooses what content to promote and what links to share.||Commercial owner of site uses data analytics to select content and links aligned with visitors’ interests.|
Table 1: Blogs and social networking sites
Academics and Blogs
I suggest that academics can use blogs in three main ways:
- Researcher-to-Researcher: Sharing and exchange.
- Researcher-to-Participants: Building credibility and “informing” participants
- Researcher-to-Public: Sharing findings, results and practical resources.
Researcher-to-Researcher: Academic bloggers communicate with each other for exchange and networking within or across disciplines. They present information in ways that build upon a shared foundation in the topics under discussion, and a shared understanding of the protocols and expectations for activities such as conducting research or teaching at the college level. They share resources, links to recent publications, calls for papers, or notices about upcoming conferences, or other opportunities of interest to other academics.
Researcher-to-Participants: Academic bloggers communicate with prospective or current participants. They present information in ways the study population will understand. Blogs intended for this purpose can introduce the study, develop the credibility of the researcher, be used to support recruitment efforts, and help to inform participants before and during the study.
Researcher-to-Public: Academic bloggers also communicate with the general public. They present information in ways that anyone would understand and find of interest. The researcher may translate academese or disciplinary jargon into more familiar terms. The researcher may offer recommendations for applying findings in practical ways. This type of blog is designed to share findings and/or to build awareness about the issues and problems under investigation.
Patrick Dunleavy introduced another way to categorize academic blogs, and I think his approach meshes well with mine. He distinguishes between them according to the number and type of all author: solo, collaborative, or multi-author (Dunleavy, 2014). Table 2 is adapted from his model. As an academic with an interest in blogging, you have the choice of either designing and launching your own solo blog, finding a group of like-minded writers who want to begin a collaborative blog, or looking for opportunities to contribute to a multi-author blog in your field. Alternatively, you can look for opportunities to contribute as a guest writer for blogs that focus on your area of interest.
|Type of blog and authorship||The blog owner is responsible for direction of the content and writes the posts. Occasionally guests contribute. The blog or another serves as the editor, giving the site in personal style.||Usually 2 to 10 authors generate and edit the blog’s content. Guest blogs or columns are written by regular contributors. Editorial roles may be rotated or shared.||An editorial team commissions or collates contributions from many authors. Posts are professional edited and the site has strong production values and design. The blog may have a formal tie-in to a scholarly journal or trade publication.
|How do readers find the blog?||Individual authors’ identities are key to the brand.||Topic or disciplinary identities help to develop a brand.||Strong branding, linked to university, media outlet or professional/scientific bodies or journals.|
Table 2: Types of blogs identified by Patrick Dunleavy (2014). See the article for additional categories and the full table.
How might these categories inter-relate? A juxtaposition of Dunleavy’s and my categories for academic blogs is illustrated in Table 3. The columns are intended here not as a fixed set of boundaries but more as a continuum between on one end, the individual DIY blogger who is responsible for everything from choosing the domain name, platform, hosting service, and figuring out how to make it all work to a professional operation more comparable to a journal or magazine production.
|Researcher-to-Researcher||The researcher creates a blog where he or she posts information about research interests, projects, conference presentations and publications.||Researchers with a shared interest, area of inquiry, methodology or discipline work together to create a blog about their individual or team research projects and related events and resources. The blog may serve as a channel for connecting with new research partners, conferences or funding opportunities.
|Professional society, association, or university group sponsors a blog for researchers working in a specific area of inquiry or discipline. Writing in the blog and any related publications is aimed at other scholars and academics in the field.|
|Researcher-to-Participants||Individual researchers or research teams use a blog to explain the purpose of the study and expectations, benefits and/or risks for participants. As appropriate, findings are shared with the participants. Links are shared on social networking sites.||Announcements for opportunities to participate in studies are posted on the blog. Links are shared on social networking sites.|
|Researcher-to-Public||The researcher creates a blog where he or she posts information about research findings and their application. The researcher may use the blog to promote his or her workshops or consultations about how to apply research findings. Links are shared on social networking sites.||The group of collaborative researchers and writers creates a blog with the intention of disseminating research findings to those who can use them. The researchers may use the blog to promote workshops or consultations about how to apply research findings. Links are shared on social networking sites.||Articles about application and practical use of research findings are featured on the organization’s blog. A blog may be one of many channels for reaching the public. Articles may be associated with products and services available for sale such as handbooks, workshops or training. Links are shared on social networking sites.
In another post, I shared a recorded presentation with specific examples (with links) for each of these types. Please share your favorite academic blogs and let me know how you think they would fit into these categories. Do you think the blogger or bloggers achieve their purpose? Why or why not? Please post to
#DigiWriMo and #AcWriMo, and follow me on @einterview to join the conversation.
Stay tuned – and I will share what I learn.
Dunleavy, P. (2014). Shorter, better, faster, free: Blogging changes the nature of academic research, not just how it is communicated.
Salmons, J. (2016). Doing qualitative research online. London: SAGE Publications.
Looking for examples of academic or research blogs? Check out these top 2015 lists:
- London School of Economics LSE Impact Blog: The key elements of a research story – Top Posts of 2015: Academic Writing; Top Posts of 2015: Social Media and Digital Scholarship, and Playing the (open) publishing game – Top Posts of 2015: Open Access.
- Education Week’s Top Posts
- Top Oxford University Press blog posts of 2015: Editor’s Picks
We now have many options for publishing our work, from blogs to peer-reviewed articles, books with a publisher to self-published e-books, as well as case studies, manuals, or book chapters. Which mix of options aligns with your career goals?
Mark your calendar- and post questions- for a #PubPlan tweetchat w/ @DrHelenKara & me. No registration needed, just log into Twitter and look for #PubPlan. To participate, just add the hashtag to each comment or response, so others in the thread see your posts. You can start now: suggest questions or topics you’d like us to cover!
If you want to focus on your own strategy with a small group of writers, Dr. Kara and myself, consider taking our course! The next session of Create Your Publication Strategy starts February 13. See: www.path2publishing.com to register.
See a related article on SAGE Publications Methodspace http://www.methodspace.com/research-publication-impact-might-need-strategy/
#PubPlan is hashtag! Post your questions now, and join the conversation January 17.
Writers, think beyond Academic Writing Month to the 2017 calendar & writing events! See the Text and Academic Authors Association webinars: http://bit.ly/2fJljTq
- Six Strategies for Using Social Media to Promote Your Writing Wednesday, January 25, 3-4 p.m. ET
- Texts Plus: Ancillary Materials & Companion Sites Monday, April 24, 3-4 p.m. ET
Not a member? Reasonable membership fees allow access to community of writers, resources on book contracts, and of course free webinars! https://taaa.memberclicks.net/member-benefits
Thanks to everyone who attended the Social Research Association webinar, “Generating Qualitative Data online with Arts-Based & Participatory Methods! I created a clean recording of the session, and posted additional resources here:
- A handout with exercises you can use with your class or group: Enacted Guide_SRA You can find more handouts on research topics here.
- A Reference list for articles mentioned in the presentation.
- Discount coupon for Doing Qualitative Research Online, and/or Qualitative Online Interviews, from SAGE Publications.
Follow me @einterview to learn about future webinars and events. I hope to see you in the UK in autumn 2016, look for training offered through SRA!
Contact me with questions or follow-up.
If you teach research methods and want to update your course– or perhaps add a whole course focused on digital approaches– see this syllabus for ideas. Plug a few units into an existing course or teach the whole class as outlined.
SeaTrust Institute and Vision2Lead are pleased to announce an innovative new public-private partnership!
Together, we aim to translate United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities focused on women helping women. This partnership leverages the power of two women-directed organizations, SeaTrust Institute, and Vision2Lead, to engage CSR leaders with training and projects that uplift global women in sustainability endeavors. As part of impacting critical environmental and social changes, women are helping women to address issues that are central to a better future for everyone.
Join us for our free International Women’s Day webinar, Women Help Women: Let’s Work Together to Hit SDG Targets!
The United Nations Sustainability Development Goals include 169 targets, of which at least 30 relate directly to the lives of women and girls in a changing environment. Join us Tuesday, March 8, 2016 at 17:00:00 to look at the critical targets and discuss ways to use corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects, research, and partnerships to create a better future for women and girls.
We will focus on three themes:
1. Access to education and training;
2. Inclusive societies; and
3. Sustainable jobs and entrepreneurship.
Educational, employment, and health care needs of girls and women must be addressed in order to achieve the SDGs. As a member of the United Nations Global Compact, SeaTrust Institute is adding this partnership to its research, educational and climate change adaptation projects as part of our commitments for 2016.
SeaTrust Institute, led by CEO and founder Dr. Lynn Wilson, is a research and educational NGO that is focused on climate change and the environment. Vision2Lead, led by president and founder Dr. Janet Salmons, is a private consulting firm focused on leadership and social responsibility in the information age. Both leaders have experience in higher education, business, and non-profit/NGO settings. Together, they provide research, educational opportunities and consultations to small and medium-sized businesses, educational institutions, governmental and non-governmental agencies. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
I look forward to working with you as a Boomtown mentor! Schedule time to meet with me to discuss your business development goals or dilemmas. Let’s talk about how I can help you build your business.
- Online Qualitative Business Research
- What do we need to know about whether our approach is the best one? User, customer or market research.
- How can we quickly get feedback? Questionnaires, interviews and/or focus groups.
- Leadership & management
- What kind of leader do I want to be? Who are my heroes?
- How will I motivate and inspire others?
- Will the organization be top-down, bottom-up, flat or?
- How will decisions be made? By me, by consensus, or?
- Teamwork & collaboration
- When do we need people to work collaboratively versus individually?
- To what extent do we want workers to collaborate face-to-face or virtually?
- What planning strategies or project protocols are needed to promote collaborative efforts?
- How can we manage virtual teams/remote workers to get work done?
- How will we reward excellence in collaborative efforts, versus individual excellence, when measuring performance?
- Ethics & social responsibility
- What is our organizational character, what character is associated with our brand? And how do we want to be known in local and global communities?
- Do we want to contribute towards meeting the UN Sustainability Development Goals discussed in Paris? If so, how?
- How do we build and maintain credibility, trust and respect online?
- How do we deal with cultural differences about the meaning of ethical business?
If you have access to the Oxford Handbooks through your library, you can now read my chapter “Conducting Multimethod and Mixed Methods Research Online” in The Oxford Handbook of Multimethod and Mixed Methods Research Inquiry.
This chapter discusses uses of technology in collection of data for multimethods research designs (i.e., research using more than one approach within a qualitative or quantitative paradigm) or mixed methods studies (i.e., research designs that use both qualitative and quantitative approaches). As selected exemplars show, researchers use a wide range of information and communications technologies such as web and videoconferencing conferencing, e-mail, social media, and mapping tools in studies that may occur in a local community or across the globe. Through an analysis of a set of exemplars and a meta-synthesis of the collection, This chapter examines ways that the unique characteristics of communications technologies influence the experiences of researchers and participants and the phenomena being investigated.