by Martin Hyde, Associate Professor in Gerontology at the Centre for Innovative Ageing, Swansea University
Blogging has increasingly become part and parcel of academic life. However, although there are many good gerontology blogs such as Ageing Issues, International Network for Critical Gerontology, Age at Work and many more, there is still a sense that many gerontologists are wary about blogging.
In this post we highlight some key benefits of blogging and give you some practical tips to get started.
5 reasons why you need to blog
1. Reach a wider audience
Blogs are usually accessed by a different audience to traditional forms of academic dissemination. They are freely accessible to a global audience including a wide range of different stakeholders.
As we are increasingly called upon to evidence the impact that our research has, blogs can provide a vital way to share information that might otherwise be hidden behind the paywall.
As such blogging can be one form of public engagement, allowing academics to connect and share their work with the public. This can help to build trust and understanding of universities, and can increase our relevance to, and impact, on society.
2. Broaden your professional network and reputation
Because of their accessibility, blogs can lead to new relationships with other academics, policy makers, stakeholder communities and the general public more widely.
The accessibility and exposure to different audiences tends to broaden reputations, which opens up new professional possibilities. Patrick Dunleavy argues blogging and tweeting from multi-author blogs is a particularly good way to build knowledge of your work, to grow readership of useful articles and research reports, to build up citations, and to foster debate across academia, government, civil society and the public in general.
3. Promote your work
Blogging offers another form of dissemination alongside traditional academic outlets, such as journals. If done well they can help to amplifying the reach of your research and drive up reads and citations to your work.
Research by the World Bank on the impact of blogging in economics research found that blogging about a paper causes a large increase in the number of abstract views and downloads in the same month.
Blogging can lead to further research and knowledge exchange work, public presentations and interviews, as well as invitations to write for academic publications, such as local and national radio interviews.
4. Establish writing as a routine
Pat Thomson, writing for the Times Higher Education, notes that writing blogs can be help writing to become a habit, thereby increasing your productivity and helping to combat writer’s block.
Blogging regularly can become part of a writing routine. In a couple of days a post can be written and published, and this write-publish-feedback cycle can be good motivation in building and sustaining a pattern of regular writing.
5. Develop new ideas and insights
Mark Carrigan extols the virtues of blogging (and other social media activities) as part of a process of continual publishing. In this model the blog becomes a living part of the research project in which various outputs and activities are recorded and published.
For example, rather than simply discarding those parts of the literature review or analyses which are no longer considered to be relevant, they can be tweaked and published as part of an open and ongoing conversation with other readers. This in turn can lead to new ideas or the refinement of current ideas that could otherwise not happen.
How to turn your article into a blog piece
Hopefully we have managed to convince you of the benefits that blogging can bring. However, the thought of distilling your academic work into an accessible blog piece may be a daunting prospect. Yet this does not have to be a difficult or time-consuming process. Here are some key tips on how to proceed:
Key points to keep in mind are as follows:
1. What is the key ‘news’ story in your research? Why does it matter? Bring this to the fore and everything else will follow;
2. Link into current debate where you can. This article from the co-editor of the Journal of Gender-Based Violence is a good example;
3. It may be counter-intuitive, but don’t focus on the book/article. Rather than detailing the content of the chapters, tell the story you want told;
4. Think about the reader. Use accessible language and don’t explain the obvious;
5. Get to the point quickly, keep to it, and make succinct arguments. Keeping paragraphs and sentences short will help here;
6. Questions, lists and headings break up the piece and help the reader scan;
7. Links and images add value, while case studies and other ‘people stories’ will make the piece, and your work, relatable;
8. Aim for the whole piece to be around 500-700 words.
So you’ve written and published, what now?
If you’re on social media, now is the time to use it to your advantage;
• Share your post and encourage others to do the same;
• Use existing hashtags (#) to take it to a wider audience. This is useful as people often search for # to find particular topics; e.g. #retirement, #ageing
• Do you know of blogs who publish in a similar area? Ask them to reblog your post;
• Most importantly, respond to comments and get a conversation going.