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Writing a successful academic blog post: why and how you should do it!

  • December 16, 2020

During my PhD years, I became increasingly annoyed when I would see on the news information related to my research topic that was not accurate enough or drawing from so-called experts’ commentaries that didn’t sound that much of an expert to me. Willing to contribute to the public policy debate, I started blogging based on my research interests, knowledge, and findings. I quite enjoyed blogging at that time, but I also spent a lot of time writing unsuccessful (and difficult to digest) academic blog posts. In this post, I am going to share some resources and tips to write academic blog posts that I wished I had known about when I first started blogging.

 

What makes an academic blog post successful? 

Academics are used to providing lots of details and rigour in academic journal articles and books. However, when it comes to writing an academic blog post, the writing style is somehow different. While in academic articles you usually go in-depth into a topic, in an academic blog post you might want to provide a bit more breath about the topic, but still present a clear argument, statement or finding. I would say that in an academic blog post you might want to summarise the introduction and conclusions of your academic article. I like the idea presented by Anthony Salamone in his blog post ‘How to Write for an Academic Blog’, where he suggests to think of academic blog posts as something in between a newspaper and an academic article. He stresses the fact that the main argument must be concise, but it also has to be framed within an existent contemporaneous (policy) relevant debate. He smartly points us to have a look at the intentions and objectives of the blog or platform where we are aiming to publish our post, as this might clearly point out to the type of debates or contributions promoted.

Beyond academics themselves, universities as institutions are also promoting academic blogging, and supporting academics in doing so. For example, I quite like the University of Edinburgh blog post on ‘How to write an engaging blog’. As it targets academics, it makes us aware of the differences with other types of academic writing. It highlights the importance of having a ‘catchy title’ to attract people’s attention, it suggests the use of ‘spoilers’ in the front paragraph to let your readership know what your post is about, and make your content ‘scannable’, as your readers might not read from beginning to end, but focus on chunks of it.

Academic publishers have also shown an increasing interest in supporting academic blogging. For instance, the Taylor & Francis blog post ‘How to write an academic blog post’ is quite straight forward in arguing about the benefits of academic blogging, providing some examples of academic blogs that you might find interesting, as well as top tips on how to write an academic blog post. 

How can writing academic blog posts benefit your academic career?

If academics, universities, and academic publishers are promoting academic blogging, it sounds like it might be beneficial to build an academic career. But how? Academics are not journalists, and shouldn’t try to be. In several occasions, I made the mistake of trying to write blog posts following the news rather than my research interests and findings. Don’t do that! The intention of an academic blog post is not getting as many visits (‘clicks’) as possible, but to have something written about your field of expertise targeting a wide audience. Do your research, write the main findings for a non-academic audience, wait… and the time will come! Once the media, driven by the everyday top news, pick up on ‘your’ topic, you will already have something written down about it for a wider audience. Then it is the moment to share it on your social media and reach a wider audience, as blog posts are usually free content.

Writing an academic blog post highlighting the main findings or argument of a published academic article or book (chapter) is also likely to attract academics, who might, later on, read your full paper and potentially cite it in their own research. Moreover, practising other writing styles beyond the academic one is important to improve your writing routine and be more precise, as nicely pointed out by Pat Thompson in ‘Seven reasons why blogging can make you a better academic writer’.

How to write a successful academic blog post?

Finally, let’s get into the nitty-gritty (if you allow me) and put our hands and fingers down to typing! I guess that most of you might have come across this blog post because you want to write an academic blog post, but are unsure how to do it and are looking for resources and tips. Good news, don’t look any further, because I am here to provide you with twelve rules on how to write a successful academic blog post. I added an extra one to Patrick Dunleavy’s ‘How to write a blogpost from your journal article in eleven easy steps’ which follow:

  1. Max 1,000 words – people cannot keep attention for much longer
  2. Bye-bye methodology! – the general public is not interested in it
  3. Main debate in the Literature Review – not all of it, just include the most relevant discussion
  4. Narrative heading – clear and simple
  5. Initial ‘trailer’ paragraph (3-4 lines)
  6. Findings – front-load material from the very beginning (spoilers are good!)
  7. Including Tables, Figures or Images are a plus! (if relevant)
  8. No jargon, no nerds! – a general audience should be able to understand you
  9. Decisive and interesting ending – catchy title, and catchy ending!
  10. Link to your academic article – for those who want to know more
  11. ‘Bio’ about yourself– people might want to know who you are, or even contact you
  12. No references or footnotes – details in the academic article

Now you can go back to this blog post (or any other of your choice) and ‘test it’ against these twelve principles. It is always easier to criticise others’ work than our own, but the day will come when you will have to ‘test’ your academic blog post against these twelve rules (and you will hopefully nail it!).

Happy reading, writing, and commenting (feel free to leave constructive comments about this blog post)!

 

Author Bio: Dr Queralt Capsada-Munsech is Lecturer in Sociology of Education at the University of Glasgow. Queralt’s main research interests are educational inequalities, social stratification, and youth transitions from education to the labour market. Before joining the University of Glasgow, she worked as a Research Associate at Durham University and got her PhD and predoctoral training at Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF, Barcelona).

 

Comments

Anna Rudakowska
Wed, 23/12/2020 - 10:08
I would like to ask you one question that has always been on my mind. What if I am not a native English speaker and I am so afraid of making mistakes that it prevents me from blogging?
Queralt Capsada...
Tue, 12/01/2021 - 12:33
This is a normal concern for anyone who is not a native speaker. I would say that there are several apps and programs that can be used to spot spelling mistakes (e.g. MS Word corrector). If you are still concerned about your writing, you might want to ask to a native speaker friend/colleague to have a look at it. No blog post is perfect, and even native speakers make mistakes. The good news are that blog posts can always be edited :)

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