Thinking about a qualitative research methods course update for the digital age? Doing Qualitative Research Online covers ethical and theoretical foundations, as well as a wide range of approaches to collect or generate data. In addition to finding appropriate extant data, the book encourages researchers to explore ways to elicit data online through interviews or focus groups, or to use enacted methods such as arts-based and experiential methods.
See the SAGE Publications companion site for instructional ideas including a sample syllabus, assignments, media, and (open access) articles.
From an instructor’s blog: “Everyone in the class liked the text. It is well organized, informative, and clearly written. There are great charts and tables throughout that illustrate the points being made, and students appreciated this component.”
“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
How can we teach students to be inquisitive? Critical thinking and mindsets open to inquiry are needed, whether or not students are preparing to conduct empirical research. In this webinar, we will explore ways to use updated inquiry models of instruction (Weil, Joyce, & Calhoun, 2015) and experiential research activities in curricular or methods courses.
Learning to Research, Researching to Learn
- Free webinar, as part of the Connecting Online conference by educators, for educators
Friday February 3
11 AM EST 4 PM UTC
No registration needed! Just log in http://bit.ly/2iTJWBg
- Articles on SAGE Methodspace
Join me for a free seminar, with a forum discussion and webinar. Register here.
It is essential in this time to change the ways we teach– whether we work with children or adults. They need the opportunity to develop skills needed to scrutinize, dig deeper, and ask hard questions! In the process, perhaps they avoid taking information they receive at face value, and can better understand the importance of scientific, evidence-based approaches. And these skills and mindsets prepare them to be future researchers!
See this post on SAGE Methodspace: http://bit.ly/2kQXgUA
Join me for a free webinar, part of the Connecting Online conference: Friday February 3 at 11 AM EST 4 PM UTC. No registration needed! Just log in http://bit.ly/2iTJWBg
In the webinar I discussed creating podcasts, communicating visually, and creating a cross-platform strategy.
Here are some resources related to topics covered and questions raised in the webinar:
- Infographics and Visuals
- For more about creative representations of research findings, see Chapter 9 in Digital Tools for Qualitative Research by Paulus, Lester, and Dempster.
- For more on creating a cross-platform strategy in conjunction with text or academic publishing, consider taking the Create Your Publication Strategy (TAA members receive a $25 discount.
Here are some resources in response to questions posed in the discussion.
- Using Twitter lists:
- Dealing with hate on social media:
Online resources and books about social media and academic life:
- 101 Twitter Guide for Academics and author’s blog, The Online Academic
- THE A to Z of Social Media for Academia
- Harvard Business Review: How Academics and Researchers Can Get More Out of Social Media
- Social Media for Academics by Mark Carrigan, author’s blog: http://sociologicalimagination.org/
- Social Media in Academia: Networked Scholars by George Veletsianos, author’s blog: http://www.veletsianos.com/ . Listen to a Research in Action podcast with the author.
Resources for TAA Members:
- Tips and Techniques for Enhancing Your Approach to Visuals webinar, register now! Listen to recorded webinars.
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.
I contributed an article, “Social Media or Social Web?” As part of a special issue of a UK online magazine called Discover Society. The special issue is about “Social Science & Social Futures: Fast Scholarship, Emerging Technologies & The Future Of Inquiry.” You might find the editors’ article of interest: Mark Carrigan is a prolific writer and one of the leading thinkers about social media and academic life.
The University of Oregon Research in Action project offers great resources, and opportunities to hear and learn from diverse researchers. The 2016 list includes some excellent reads– thanks for including my books, Doing Qualitative Research Online, and Cases in Online Interview Research! You can listen to my podcast: http://bit.ly/2gbg7Mi and access the Instructor Guide here: http://bit.ly/2gbae1r .
Here is the full list of 2016 podcasts: http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/research/podcast/episode-guide/ and Instructor Guides: http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/research/podcast/instructor-guides/.