My blogging experience:
When I enrolled in the graduate program at VCU in 2015, I found out that academic blogging will be one of the most crucial skills I will have to learn as it was a part of weekly assignments for all of my courses. Before writing my first blog, I started my research to find out what is an ideal blog post and came across many articles which provided some insight on how I should proceed. I had often struggled with getting my opinions across to other people, as a result I was absolutely petrified of beginning this journey of writing the blogs. For me, other assignments were much easier because its content was not visible to the world. But, blogs were different, they were visible to the whole world to read. As Badgett (2016) explains “Blogging is an outlet that, at least in theory, can reach anyone in the world with access to a web browser”.
With the guidance of my mentors and by reading the blogs of my colleagues, my blogging technique and overall appreciation of blogging have completely changed. It’s helped to voice my opinions and hone my ideas about the ways I can write blog posts in an effective and engaging manner. By commenting on others’ blogs and engaging in effective conversation with them, I am able to improve my critical thinking skills. Similarly, Cohen (2012) states that “writing a blog – as well as reading and contributing to the blogs of others – seems the most practical and engaging means of achieving the intellectual ideal”.
Blogging can be employed as a crucial tool for reaching a wide variety of academic and non-academic audiences. Badgett (2016) notes that political scientist John Sides advises his fellow political scientists to “choose topics to which you can add value as a political scientist”. I agree with his advice. As a sociologist, I would prefer writing blogs about topics which make a valuable contribution in the field of sociology as well as the ones that seem important and appealing to non-sociological audiences. Moreover, writing blogs are much cheaper and quicker than publishing in academic journals which are often not accessible to general public. To be a successful public sociologist, one should be able to connect with the public and get their findings across with an ease. Badgett (2016) claims that blogs like Sociological Images provide various ways for sociologists to engage with the public, making potentially thousands or even millions of people familiar with our ideas and findings. Silva (2013) also clarifies that academic blogging can ‘coexist’ with academic journals. She states that “academic blogging can work as more of a trial run with the public before committing to a journal” (Silva, 2013). Many academics have also taken up micro-blogging via Twitter as it is easily accessible via phone or computer and only requires smaller posts than blogs. Daniels and Feagin (2011) suggest “academics, like others who use Twitter, have found short updates a useful way to find and maintain connections to others who share their research and other interests”.
What to consider before blogging?
Academic blogging has proven to be very beneficial to me as a student. However, it is crucial to consider the type of content included the blogs as well as the frequency of blog postings. The academic blogs are ‘public portfolio’ of sociologist’s academic work. Badgett (2016) suggests that since blogging is time-consuming, we should make sure the “value of the blog is sufficient to justify the time”. I agree with Badgett, it is critical to consider that we are not investing time in such blogs at the expense of time for research and other academic engagements. Badgett (2016), Golash-Boza (2011), and Silva (2013) provide a few guidelines about effective blogging. Here are some of their guidelines I would like to incorporate in my blogging:
- Write short and distinctive posts.
- Choose attractive titles.
- Choose topical tags for easily finding the post.
- Post frequently
- Use multi-media visualization such as images.
- Ask for feedback and make necessary changes. Rinse and repeat!
- Keep practicing and be patient.
- Use language that can be understood by non-academics.
- Summarize research and make it accessible to the public.
Should all sociologists blog?
In my opinion, the above guidelines should be considered for becoming an effective blogger. There are various advantages of academic blogging, however, does that mean that every sociologist should blog? Philip Cohen (2012), an owner of blog “Family inequality” suggests that not every sociologist should blog as it may seem to be an “overkill”. He explains that academics will not have sufficient time left to engage in other projects if they all decide to write and read blogs every day. Daniels and Feagin (2011) also state that “scholars across disciplines often express reservations about the use of social media as a “waste of time” or a “distraction” that takes them away from their academic pursuits”. Moreover, we cannot neglect the fact that our published blogs are visible to almost everyone in the world, making us vulnerable to critics and potential employers.
The blogging has its own advantages and disadvantages. We should be able to weigh our choices and decide if blogging is a right fit for us by considering the type of content we should write about and how to promote our blog so it can be accessible to wide variety of audiences. There are many other alternatives to engage with the public via social media, one has to decide if they can dedicate needed time and resources to publishing blogs. After blogging for two years, I can say that it’s an ongoing process of learning and adapting to new technologies of blogging. If I wish to be an effective blogger, I will have to keep updating my writing skills and style as often as I can.
Badgett, M. V. L. (2015). The Public Professor: How to Use Your Research to Change the World. New York and London: New York University Press.
Daniels, J. & Feagin, J. (2011) The (coming) social media revolution in the academy.
Fast Capitalism, 8(2).
Golash-Boza, T. (2011, March 2). So, you want to start an academic Blog? Four tips to know before you start. Retrieved February 13, 2017, from http://getalifephd.blogspot.com/2011/02/so-you-want-to-start-academic-blog-four.html
Healy, K. (2012, March 29). Should every sociologist blog? Retrieved February 13, 2017, from https://familyinequality.wordpress.com/2012/03/29/should-every-sociologist-blog/
Silva, L. (2013, May 12). So you want to Blog (academic edition). Retrieved February 13, 2017, from https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/university-venus/so-you-want-blog-academic-edition