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Academic blogging – 10 top tips

Academic blogging is a valuable part of the wider ecology of scholarship, with the potential for engagement, outreach and reinforcing academic impact. Although our background is in science, we hope this list of tips will be useful to all blogging academics.

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1) Write about yourself and your life. People are just as interested in researchers (and their activities) as their research; also write about what goes wrong as well as right – the human story of failed experiments is interesting but rarely gets told.

2) Find your blogging voice. Don’t worry if it takes a year or more. Your blog will evolve as you discover your style, which might be short topical pieces or long-form reflective essays (or a combination of the two). Read other academic blogs and you’ll quickly see the range of voices people use.

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3) Be clear what your blog is for. Are you writing to share your musings on life, the universe and everything, or a specific theme or topic? Again let the scope evolve; it can be difficult to start blogging with a mission statement, but it is useful to start out by thinking what you would like to achieve with your blog.

4) Blog as yourself. While there are circumstances in which blogging anonymously is necessary, in general it is better to be clear and open about yourself and your academic position. It’s also important to make clear whether you are writing on behalf of your university.

5) Think about how controversial you want to be. Calibrate the degree of controversy according to risk (especially for an early career researcher compared to a tenured professor); in general, only be prepared to put something on a blog that you’d be prepared to say to someone’s face (or shout out in a crowded room). Courting controversy can be fine if you are a senior academic, but be mindful that your position lends a level of authority to what you write – so make sure you’re happy for your words to be quoted.

6) Remember: a blogpost is a publication. If you are writing about ongoing research which is not yet published or patented, then be mindful of the dangers of prematurely revealing details of potential inventions or intellectual property.

7) Let your university know about your blog. Have a chat with your line manager about your intention to start an academic blog. You might not need their permission, but it’s best if your blog doesn’t come as a surprise to your manager or institution at an inopportune time.

8) Think about how often you want to blog. If your blog acquires a following then your readers will look forward to your next post, so don’t put yourself under pressure by creating expectations of, say, a blogpost every few days when you know you can’t keep it up in the longer term.

9) Use social media to promote your posts. Twitter is an easy way to tell the world that you’ve just posted a new piece on your blog, opening up wider interaction and engagement.

10) Blog because you want to. Don’t blog because you have to – it should be fun, not a chore! There are already plenty of onerous tasks for an academic; this should not become one of them.

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