March 11, 2016
I have started to blog here on the research project that I am coordinating at De Gruyter Open. This made me think over the principles of research blogging again and I realized that regularity, brevity and simplicity are the basic features of good research blog writing. Considering this topic, I decided to collect all 6 tips that I found important for bloggers in one place.
To blog or not to blog – this question was already discussed here and in several other places. I have even heard some voices say that there are too many blog posts about academic blogging across the Internet, and that academic bloggers should write more about things other than themselves. So to close on this subject here, at least for some time, I want to collect a set of tips that I found important for those who want to start academic blogging, for those who are new in this topic, and for longtimers, who still want to learn from the others.
Just do it!
Just in case you still need an incentive to start blogging, I will provide you with 3 arguments for doing this before going further.
It is a good idea to do some academic blogging because:
1) It will force you to write regularly and in an accessible manner, which will positively influence your ability to write and teach.
2) Describing your work for others will help you keep it easy to understand for yourself, especially when you come back to an abandoned project after months or years.
3) Blogging requires discipline, which is helpful in organizing your work-flow.
So what should you do to successfully blog on your research work?
1. Find co-workers
Nowadays the internet is crowded and getting on-line attention needs some time and work. This work is easier when shared between several people, therefore single author blogs face more hardships in the beginning than those run by groups of authors. This is why it is always a good idea to look around for people who might work with you.
Maybe within your research area a good multi-author blog already exists. In this case it might be the best solution for you to simply join the team. Blogs of this kind might be run by informal networks of researchers working in your field, but also might be hosted by your institution or by a publisher. If you are interested in longer cooperation with an already known blog, I think that nothing should stop you to contact its team and ask. However, it might be clever to start with a single guest post, which will be a good test to see if you really enjoy this kind of communication or not. The majority of established blogs are happy to publish good guest posts, so this should be an easy way to start.
If you decided to start a new blog (for example, one devoted to your research project), try to ask your research team to support you.
2. Don’t use popular blogging platforms – they are limiting
If you are setting up a new blog, you will need two things: a domain name and some space on a server.
Thanks to easy to use Content Managing Systems such as WordPress, building a blog website and managing it is so easy, that there is not much sense in using so called blog platforms for this purpose – they offer limited possibilities only and usually force you to place your blog under long and hard to remember sub-domain addresses.
3. Choose a good domain name
With the exception of a few cases, using sub-domains such us bestacademicblog. or cheaphosting.eu will limit the number of your visitors and make promotion of your blog harder. The rare exceptions from this rule are domain addresses that are well known or even prestigious in your field. If you have the possibility of setting up your blog in a domain of top research institution in your field, glamour journal or publisher, or a prestigious association, this might be worth thinking about. But in general long domain names are hard to remember and not liked as much by visitors. Country-level domains and top-level domains such us .net, .org, .nl, .fr, cost a few dollars a year and choosing them usually pays off. Choosing a good domain name is a subject for another article, and you may do some research on that, but in general the shorter and easier to remember your website address is the better for you. Domain names consisting of one well chosen word, which is hard to misspell, are ideal.
With regard to server space you do not need much of it in the beginning. The cheapest shared hosting account should be just fine.
4. Use WordPress
When you get your space on a server and buy a domain, you may think that you are a long way from having your website ready. Nothing could be more wrong! Installing WordPress is fast and easy, and will drive you to having your first post ready within minutes. WordPress offers you unlimited possibilities of website development while still being very easy to use even for unexperienced user.
5. Describe your daily work in short and simple posts
Regularity, brevity and simplicity are basic features of good blog writing. Usually it is good idea to write short posts regularly, discussing only one problem in one time, and splitting more complicated topics into several posts.
6. Be open for a discussion
Provide the possibility for visitors to comment on every post and try to answer all comments. Discussion is the core of academic research!