Why do academics blog? What about? and who listens…

I’ve mentioned The Thesis Whisperer as a goldmine of resources for academics on a few occasions. A recent post sent me spiraling down an academic blogging rabbit hole. Of particular note was a peer-reviewed study about who blogs, what about, and who is listening…

In the aforementioned post, The Thesis Whisperer (Dr. Inger Mewburn) references a recent study that starts:

“Academics are increasingly being urged to blog in order to expand their audiences, create networks and to learn to write in more reader friendly style. This paper holds this advocacy up to empirical scrutiny. … “

Captivated by the first two sentences of the abstract, I was a bit bummed to learn it was behind a paywall. Rather than take to time to setup my VPN, I started googling and serendipitously stumbled upon an author’s Powerpoint presentation (only later did I learn that The Thesis Whisperer  actually is an author of the study…but I digress…).

First, I’d like to bring your attention to slide 5, where she ranks the topics that academics blog about most often. It is encouraging to know that we’re most interested in writing about topics that are scarcely covered in the academic blogging realm. Specifically, these are:

  1. Information – I understand this as topics related to our interests (academic or otherwise).
  2. Self-Help Advice – Articles related to work-life balance, interpersonal issues, etc.
  3. Technical Advice – Tutorials, walkthroughs, professional development, etc.
  4. Personal Reflections – Personal anecdotes relating to the academic experience.
  5. Teaching Advice  Self explanatory, and common to all, yet sorely needed.
  6. Career Advice – Safe to assume this would encompass both in and outside of academia.

Slide 6 ranks the audiences of academic bloggers and suggests that the following audiences are underserved:

  1. The educated public – While particularly hard to reach, our recent foray into MOOCs may help to attract members of this demographic. That being said, I think Twitter and Reddit (and to a lesser degree LinkedIn professional groups) are great mediums to interact with these folks.
  2. Students – A few articles directed at undergraduates would be fruitful for all. 
  3. Researchers – In context, I believe this is in reference to private sector researchers. This demographic overlaps with that of the educated public (or at least, those that participated in the MOOC).

I look forward to reading the actual study tomorrow, once I sidestep the paywall. In the meantime, I’ll be brainstorming topics to rant about expound upon.

About ellscubed

A computational biologist whose passions lie at the nexus of evolutionary theory, epidemiology, and public outreach.
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2 Responses to Why do academics blog? What about? and who listens…

  1. Great post! The Thesis Whisperer inspired me to start my blog.

  2. Pingback: Embracing the blogosphere | Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics Graduate Student Association

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