The benefits of academic blogging

I’ve been writing my blog now for about seven months, and I thought it might be interesting to post something about the benefits of academic blogging. As universities start to push academics to make use of social media platforms, I fully expect to see more lecturer blogs in the future, either on their own or as part of a wider collaborative project. Personally I initially found the whole blogsphere slightly daunting, but now really look forward to writing my daily 500 words.

Here then are the five main benefits of academic blogging (from my own experience):

1) Finding new ways of teaching and learning and of student engagement

I blog on a wide range of political topics every week. One problem I’ve found with students is that they don’t always fully engage with the wider subject area. For instance, while politics students often have an excellent knowledge of contemporary politics they’re sometimes less aware of events from before 1989. I write a column every Friday called “Great political mistakes” where I spend 500 words discussing a famous political mistake. If students read this it has the effect of slowly drip feeding them knowledge. Equally my columns on “Political advertising” helps raise awareness amongst students of political advertising techniques and campaigns and how they’ve changed over time. I also find that blogging can be a new way of engaging with student learning. By writing reviews of political films and books I can point students towards interesting ideas and resources. I wrote a review of the classic political thriller “All the President’s Men”, asked the students to watch it, and then used it to kick off a wider discussion during a seminar that included journalism ethics, the power of the press and the right to know.

 2) Encouraging writing and research

By writing 500 words every day I’ve found that I’ve become much more productive. The 500 words act as a warming up exercise every day, getting me in the mood to write. It’s also a useful way of stockpiling material. I recently had to give a lecture at quite short notice, and by going back through my blog I quite easily managed to put a brand new lecture together by using material I had already written.

 3) New ways of sharing ideas and research findings

The traditional dissemination of research through books and journals is still the bread and butter of academia. However, one downside to this process is that it can sometimes be months, or even years, between writing something and it being made available to read. Using blogging I can put up an idea within 24 hours to see what my colleagues or other academics think of it. It can act then as an unofficial means of peer review.

 4) Engaging with people outside the academic community

One of the problems I sometimes face as an academic is demonstrating the importance of what I do to people who work outside the university. Via my blog I’ve shared ideas and dialogue with people from a huge range of countries and backgrounds. For instance I’ve had some hugely illuminating conversations about free speech,  Native American rights and the workings of the modern media with people I’d never had met without having a blog. In the same way people have pointed me towards books and documentaries that I wasn’t aware of, that I’ve subsequently shared with my students.

 5) Raising my academic profile

One of the benefits of creating a good quality blog is that it is a great source of material for the media. I’ve written several blog posts that have subsequently been used by the press as newspaper articles, or led to me being interviewed on the radio about them. This is useful in terms of both raising my own profile and promoting the excellent work done by the Nottingham Trent University. On one recent occasion the press office contacted me to let me know that parts of a blog piece I’d written on Mubarak’s options in Egypt had appeared in a newspaper in Tanzania. On a more local level I wrote an article based on my recent research on the coverage of female sports that was featured in the Nottingham Post newspaper.

All in all then, I’ve found blogging hugely rewarding and hopefully will be able to keep writing for the forseeable future.

About matthewashton

I'm a Politics Lecturer at Nottingham Trent University. I specialise in the fields of American, British and media politics.
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7 Responses to The benefits of academic blogging

  1. shodanalexm says:

    Agreed – that’s pretty much the list I would have come up with, although I tend to focus more on 2), 3) and 4).

    The other thing I’ve found is that to get anywhere near achieving 4) I’ve had to change my writing style. For someone like me – who’d been stuck in an academic approach to writing for longer than you (judging by your picture :-)) – that was an interesting challenge. Blogging requires a more direct and less convoluted style. I’m sure I’ve plenty more work to do on that front. And I still haven’t cracked sticking to 500-700 words.

    • It took me ages to get into the habit of sticking to my limit of 500-600 words per article as my natural habit is to go into lots of detail. Luckily I know some academics who are also journalists and they gave me some hints with regard to my writing style. I still don’t think it’s perfect but hopefully I’m getting there. I do find blogging good for writers block though. Whenever I’m stuck on a paper it’s quite nice to write a film or book review and that usually does the trick.

  2. Interesting points raised – I hope I can do the same when I get to your level (few years to go yet).

    • When I did my Phd the first year went really quickly, then there was a bit of a slump in the middle, and then the final year went really quickly again. You’ll be finished before you know it :)

  3. Pingback: The advantages of collaborative academic blogging | Dr Matthew Ashton's Politics Blog

  4. Thanks for this post Matthew, I just started a blog a few days ago, and am still in the preliminary stages, but I thought I would ask you: what were the biggest mistakes or misconceptions that you made / had at the beginning of your blog ‘journey’ ?

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