can I cite a blog post?

Some people still tell their doctoral researchers that they can’t cite blogs. Really? Yes really.

Just to start with …  of course you CAN cite blogs. The fact that all of the big citation styles – APA for instance – now have citation formats which not only cover newspapers and reports and webpages but also blogs clearly suggests that you CAN. And that people are.

But why would you? The most helpful analogy for referring to blogs is to think about what are called grey literatures, those documents that are public and important and sometimes highly influential – but have not been through a scholarly process of peer review. The Grey Literature Report offers this definition:

The Fourth International Conference on Grey Literature (GL ’99) in Washington, DC, in October 1999 defined grey literature as follows: “That which is produced on all levels of government, academics, business and industry in print and electronic formats, but which is not controlled by commercial publishers.”

In general, grey literature publications are non-conventional, fugitive, and sometimes ephemeral publications. They may include, but are not limited to the following types of materials: reports (pre-prints, preliminary progress and advanced reports, technical reports, statistical reports, memoranda, state-of-the art reports, market research reports, etc.), theses, conference proceedings, technical specifications and standards, non-commercial translations, bibliographies, technical and commercial documentation, and official documents not published commercially (primarily government reports and documents)

The New York Academy of Medicine ( proper researchers eh, they can’t be wrong, she says wryly) keeps a data base of grey literature, explaining that

Grey literature offers a unique perspective to the research community because government agencies and think tanks produce these reports on topics that effect policy and the people who implement that policy. Grey literature is also timely because it is not subject to a long or peer-reviewed publishing process. For instance, the morning the U.S. Supreme Court made the deciding vote on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) their report was available online at 10:15 am. This report lays out the reasons for the decision as well as the options states have for implementing the changes.

Grey literatures are useful to researchers and are cited in the knowledge of what they are.  A policy text is cited but also critically interrogated. A government statistical report is cited but may also be critiqued. A memoranda from a CEO might be cited for what it reveals about corporate practice. A state of the art report is cited and its discourses analysed. A series of news media reports are cited to indicate key aspects of context and debate.

We scholars know how to work with grey literatures.


So do blogs count as grey literature? You bet they do. And they need to be treated in much the same way.

The question is not about whether you can cite blogs, but how and why. You have to decide with any publication, blog or not, their credibility and authenticity.  And you have to decide with any published source what you want to use it for.

But blogs are not peer reviewed, I hear you say. Well no, most blogs aren’t. Thats why they are grey literature. But some do have strong editorial management just like edited books. And the comments made on posts are often far more rigorous than those that might be offered by a couple of peer reviewers. But yes, the vast majority of blogs aren’t peer reviewed, but we scholars already use all kinds of literatures that aren’t peer reviewed. Why exclude blogs?

We need to draw on what we already know about how to work with non peer reviewed material. As with any grey literatures, it’s important to ask questions of a blog post that you want to cite. First of all, what is it? Not all blogs are the same. They range from being personal diaries to journalistic reports of events to research method to research results reporting. And then you  need to ascertain what kind of information is offered, who it’s written by and for and how it’s positioned … So you ask – is this an opinion piece, a report of an activity, a review of literatures? And you need to ask – Who has written this post?  Academic bloggers range from anon to early career researchers on top of all of the literatures and debates to star researchers with years of experience and credibility.  You can usually find out who the bloggers are and decide how much you will trust what they say. You also look for the basis on which the bloggers are writing and making claims. What references do they offer in hyperlinks?

The point is that you need to apply to blogs the same kind of crap detection practices that you apply to any web material or government report or political press release so that you can ascertain where it comes from, and its status.

Asking  critical questions of a text is hardly a new and innovative academic activity. Social media might be relatively new to (some of) us, but working with a range of texts isn’t.

And the ways in which we use blog posts in our academic work aren’t particularly new and unusual either. If we wouldn’t cite a university press release about research results but would go to the actual report and read it for ourselves, then we do the same with a blog post, we go to the source. If we wouldn’t cite a personal anecdote without additional evidence that this was a ‘typical’ view or experience, then we do the same with a blog post – we get beyond the one-off case.  If we wouldn’t cite one letter to the editor as evidence of common public opinions, then we don’t do that with a blog post either. If we wouldn’t cite a mere two or three newspaper articles as evidence of widespread debate than we don’t do that with blogs either. Etc. Etc.

But there’s plenty of ways that we can use blog posts – an essay post for example may be very well reasoned and offer particularly interesting angle; a post that responds to a corpus of scholarly  literature or a particular theory might have a new perspective; a political commentary might raise critical issues, a personal story might cast doubts about a new policy or common practice …  Etc. Etc.

Not so hard. When we think about citing blog posts, we simply have to be clear about what we are citing, why, the basis on which they are ‘information’ or ‘knowledge’ and the claims we make about them. Simple. Just like we do with any other publication.

And really – to those supervisors who are telling their doctoral researchers never to cite blogs – that really doesn’t help them or you. Blogs are out there, they’re not going away, and they are part of the information ecology that we study and work in. Time to get with the programme. Now.


Image credit: Kennedy Library

Posted in academic blogging, academic writing, blogging, citation, grey literatures, research blogging | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

explain your terms – writing a journal article

That picky reviewer. They’ve questioned your words. Asked you to clarify. Suggested that you have things wrong. What’s that about?

Reviewers often take issue with the ways in which writers use particular terminology. They may politely suggest that some clarification would be helpful. The much less generous reviewer assumes that the writer does not know their field and/or isn’t sufficiently critical and reflexive – they demand more extensive changes.

You just have to grin and do what’s asked. But, particularly in a journal article, there often isn’t much room to go into all of the caveats, histories of argument and twists and turns that surround particular terms. In a more extended piece, like your thesis, you get space to wrestle with words and say just how you are interpreting them. And the examiner expects to see these extended discussions of contested concepts and tricky terminology.  However, in a journal article the reader mainly wants to get to the new material that you are offering. They don’t want to get bogged down in extended elaborations, they just want to know how you are using your terms and then for you to get on with it. They want you to focus, clarify and then move on.

So how to you manage to get on with it and be nuanced about your language at the same time?


Well, here are a couple of paragraphs from a paper that show one way to achieve this – to situate and define terms concisely.

I’m going to present the paragraphs first with some discussion and then show them as sentence skeletons that you might use to practice stating your particular case. Stripping out the content and leaving the rhetorical moves exposed is a helpful strategy for practising academic argument.

Please note that I’m not suggesting that these are perfect sentences and paragraphs – if there is such a thing –  and you might want to write them completely differently. The point here is simply to understand the moves that are being made – the moves give the journal reader enough information so that they can move on to the actual contribution, knowing what the writer means.

The text I’m using comes from a ( paywalled) paper written by Göran Gerdin entitled The ‘Old Gym’ and the ‘Boys’ Changing Rooms’: The Performative and Pleasurable Spaces of Boys’ Physical Education.

In a section which comes straight after the introduction, in which the purpose of the paper and its argument are outlined, Gerdin offers a series of paragraphs to clarify his key terminology and understandings. I’m going to use the first two only.

In the first paragraph, Gerdin states what he means by a problematic word in common use. He shows the reader that he understands the issues and debates about the word boy.

Article text My commentary
First of all, I want to reaffirm that, based on my Foucauldian and Butlerian lens, my use of ‘boys’ is in no way meant to essentialize or homogenize boys or their performances of gender. Although I use the term ‘boys’ throughout this article, I recognize that there are both multiple ways of being a boy and describing such gendered subjects (i.e., ‘young males’ or ‘young masculinities’). ‘Boys’ is used to refer to the male interviewees/subjects of this research in a colloquial rather than analytical sense. This descriptor was selected as it was used by the participants in this study to refer to both themselves and others (i.e., ‘being one of the boys’ and ‘come on boys’). The writer identifies a troublesome term – boys. He states the theoretical resources he is using – he then discusses how he is using the term in the next two paragraphs. In noting the theories, Gerdin also signals his wider positioning in the field – the reader knowns that the text is written with some kind of ‘post’ epistemological stance. Gerdin then says what he is not doing – he anticipates the concerns that a reviewer might have, showing that he knows the history of debate in the field. He states his basic position – there are multiple ways of being a boy. He then offers a justification for his use of the term, despite knowing its problems and having a different take on it – it is in everyday use and it came from the participants in the study.  In four sentences, Gerdin has signposted knowledge of the field and its debates, he demonstrates that he is using a tricky term in full knowledge of its difficulties.

Here are the moves that Gerdin makes:

First of all, I want to reaffirm that, based on (theoretical position), my use of (troublesome term) is in no way meant to (explains the critiques that are made of said troublesome term).

Although I use the term – repeats term –  throughout this article, I recognize that there are (states the ways in which he understands the term).

(term) is used to refer to (names who/what) in a (how the term is used and is to be understood by the reader)

This descriptor was selected as it was (reason for using the term despite its difficulty).

Gerdin next goes on to address the ways in which he is using his theoretical resources to address the key idea in his paper – gender. It is important to note that he does not offer an extended essay-like discussion of these two theorists, but rather, shows how he uses them to explain gender. This paragraph extends the explanation he began in the previous paragraph.

Article text My commentary
By using the term ‘performativity’ (Butler, 1990), I take the position that gender comes into existence as boys perform, using the resources and strategies available in a given social setting. By adopting the position that gender is performative, I reject essentialist categories of masculinity and femininity as these can be seen to conceal gender’s performative character (Butler, 1990) and instead draw on Foucauldian theorizing to argue that masculinity and femininity are not fixed to the male or female body (Pascoe, 2007). Thus, I define masculinity and femininity as concepts which are detached from the biological body and part of discourses which shape performances of gender. Gerdin begins by offering a statement about what her understand the term performativity to mean when it applied to gender. He then states what follows from this position – he points to interpretations that he doesn’t make and wont make in the paper. He again anticipates potential reader concerns, while simultaneously showing his epistemological positioning. Gerdin then states how he understands gender – masculinity and femininity – drawing on his second theoretical resource. To conclude the paragraph he offers the definition of masculinity and femininity that he uses in the paper.

This is a pretty brief discussion of two highly complex theoretical resources. So I assume that this brevity means that the readers of this journal are highly familiar with these theoretical approaches, –  they only need to see a succinct statement or two to show that Gerdin also understands them and is as familiar with them as they are. However, the moves that Gerdin makes in three sentences could easily expand – they might become three paragraphs in a paper written for a journal in which readers were less accustomed to this way of thinking.

Here are Gerdin’s moves:

By using the term (key theoretical term and reference) I take the position that (outline the meaning that underpins the paper.)

By adopting the position that (connects key theoretical term to key idea in the paper), I reject (outlines major problems that often appear in writings on this key idea) and instead draw on (name of additional theorist and piece of theory which is used in the paper) to argue that (more about how the key idea is to be understood).

Thus, I define (terms integral to the key idea) as concepts which are ( summary of the two points put together as the working definition used throughout the rest of the paper).

Sentence skeletons – writing in someone else’s tracks – can help you to develop more concise expressions of your own positions, terminology and definitions. You might like to try Gerdin’s moves out for yourself. Looking at his rhetorical moves and pouring in your own content may help you to understand one of the ways in which you can tell your readers how you understand and use your own key terms and ideas.

You might like to find some definitional paragraphs for yourself, in your field, and do the same exercise. Strip out the content to see the moves that writer makes. Put your content in.

How does it feel to be this precise?

Image credit: Albert, Flickr Commons

Posted in academic writing, definition, journal article, sentence skeleton, terms, theory | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

who is ‘an academic writer’?

If every word spoken in New York City daily were somehow to materialize as a snowflake, each day there would be a blizzard. 

The words of Kenneth Goldsmith, poet founder of Ubuweb and Penn State University teacher of Uncreative Writing.

Goldsmith’s work Soliloquy is a transcription of every word he spoke for a week. He wanted to see how much someone spoke in a week – and – he wanted to materialise and weigh speech. Soliloquy is an example of Goldsmith’s contrary approach to writing.


Goldsmith argues that we no longer need to make any new words and works – we no longer need to be creative in the conventional sense of the term –  there are enough words and works in the world. Rather, he says, we should work over the words and works that already exist, particularly those that are banal and everyday. The acts of  inauthenticity and insincerity achieved through re-formatting, re-mixing, un-editing and transcribing –  what might be seen as plagiarism – defamiliarise the assumptions and implicit social rules we usually gloss over and ignore. Our sense of order is ruptured, as Susan Sontag put it.



In the academy, only some people are seen as academic writers and researchers. Within this group, some are seen as better than others, more productive, their work of higher quality. But there is another group of people who are designated not-writers and a large number in the middle who are working hard to move into the productive category. The calculation of the corpus of ‘academic writing’ and its value, and ‘academic writers’ and their value, happens regularly in contemporary universities.


With apologies to Kenneth Goldsmith….

I imagine recording every academic word I write – perhaps starting in a week. Emails, to-do lists, notes on reading, feedback on postgraduate writing, reports of activities, perhaps an abstract or two, a couple of blog posts, some drafting of what might normally consider proper writing, minutes of meetings, a bid for funding, a letter of recommendation, score sheet from an interview panel… . Very few of these words count as proper academic writing but I, as an academic writing,  produce them every hour, every day, week in and week out.

I imagine compiling these words into a continuous text and printing them out. This is a big book.

I imagine asking all of my colleagues to do the same exercise. In a week, we have filled several book cases – I work in a large department.

I imagine doing this for an entire year.

There is no more room to store the books of words that we have produced every day for a year. The words occupy all available storage space … we begin to construct new spaces, smaller spaces where we can work, cramped in, our words literally pressing in on us, constraining where we can go and who we can interact with. We continue to turn/churn out more and more words, more and more books of writing each day.

Soon, we have to work elsewhere, as there is no more room for us amid the books of words that we never stop producing.

Well, you get the picture.


You might want to check out Goldsmith’s book Uncreative Writing. It’s one I dip in and out of periodically to disrupt my own thinking.

Posted in academic writing, Kenneth Goldsmith | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

writing from a research project – find the point

It’s often tricky to work out how to turn a piece of finished research into a journal article. Or two. Or even three.

This trickiness is in part because it’s hard to get your head out of the whole that you’ve constructed – the completed report or chapters took ages to put together and make coherent. It’s too hard and too much to think of unpicking the argument again. But it’s also hard to move away from a completed text simply because the text is already written.  You’ve slaved away at this text and it’s pretty good and you can’t bear to think that you might have to do it all again. It’s a great temptation to think that you just need to tweak this existing writing a little bit and the paper will be done.

Alas. If only.

While a few people might be able to cut and paste and fiddle a bit with their pre-existing text, most of us, most of the time, have to do much more. We have to face up to the fact that in order to get a good paper out if an existing report or chapters we can’t simply cut the bigger piece into smaller slices. No, that probably won’t work. We need to do more. You see, what we have is raw material that we now have to refashion for a different purpose. We have to remix our text into something that is a separate and stand-alone, brand spanking new text.

How is this done? Well, one strategy is to focus on the point. The point that we can make using this raw material. Alternatively thought of as a contribution. Something that adds to the conversation.

When I work in writing workshops, I often suggest that people ask themselves a series of questions. These are geared to help them focus on the reader, the field, the contribution and the point. These questions are listed here in this powerpoint. You might want to work through them to see how they work.

You might find this question based strategy helpful. It does work particularly well if you do it with someone else –  things get clearer when you have to explain your thinking to another person. Giving your answers to the questions and having someone else ask for clarifications can be a very helpful way to make sure you find your very particular point.

And… Once you have found your point, you can then go on to consider how you will stage the argument that leads the reader to it.

Posted in academic writing, journal article, research project, the point | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

the academic earworm

We all know about earworms. They’re that piece of music that we can’t get out of our heads (thanks Kylie). The Earworm Project – yes, there really was such a thing and it was real, proper, actually funded research – says this about earworms…

The term earworm originally comes from a translation of the German word ‘Ohrwurm’. It refers to the experience of having a tune or a part of a tune stuck in your head. Often a person experiencing an earworm has no idea why a tune has popped into their head and has little control over how long it continues. Earworms are a really common phenomenon: A recent poll suggested over 90% of the population experience them at least once a week, so it seems like having the odd earworm is perfectly normal. But 15% of people classified their earworms as “disturbing” and in a different study one third of the people described their earworms as “unpleasant”. This means that although earworms are essentially harmless they can get in the way of what you are trying to do and can stop you from thinking straight.

So, there you go. The earworm. It’s a proper thing. A phenomenon able to be researched. Something that sticks in your mind and might prevent you thinking of other things.

We all know earworms. They are verbal as well as musical. Words that are worth repeating.  Phrases and terms that just hit the spot. They weren’t there one day, and then the next day, there they are. And where-ever you look, the same phrase or term pops up over and over again. Something that sticks in your mind and might prevent you thinking of other things. (See what I did there.)


Earworms proliferate on social media. New terms pop up on a daily basis and then just become the way that we talk about stuff. Hashtags we all somehow just know and then use. Labels that seem felicitous. Apt. A way to shorthand what we want to say.

And this happens with academic social media too. Earworms proliferate just as much among the scholarly set as anyone else. For instance, not long ago there was a lot of discussion in my twitter-feed about ‘the slow professor’ and ‘the accelerated academy’. These terms then became a kind of earworm for contemporary academic life. Despite some debate about their use, the terms continue to appear as a way – the way? – of talking about the performativities of academic life and they seem to be terms that are just stuck in our heads.

Then there’s the term ‘Reviewer 2’ – that’s the awful reviewer you wish you hadn’t got. The review you wish you’d never read. Mean, nasty and almost impossible to work with. But despite some protestations about the ways in which challenging reviews can actually be helpful, and all difficult reviews not necessarily the same, we go on talking about Reviewer 2.  I found myself saying it just the other day in a workshop. Even though I hadn’t thought I would use this term, it just came out of my mouth. It popped into my head and once it was there I couldn’t get rid of it all day. And it wasn’t completely helpful, as even a ruthless and rude review can often still be of help. They thought that? How did I give that impression? How can I say this differently?

I worry about academic earworms. Yes, I use them, see above – it’s hard not to. But I do wonder what using them actually does to thinking for myself/thinking for ourselves. Does the academic earworm, like their musical equivalent, sometimes prevent me/us from thinking straight?

Let me give you an example about my vague concern. One of the things I occasionally study is leadership. Well, what leaders do. School leaders in my case. Not my fave topic to be honest, but I just end up back at it every now and then. It’s very common in the leadership literatures to talk about leaders and followers. Completely ubiquitous. It’s a kind of earworm. Say leader and you think follower. It’s a twosome that’s sticks in the mind, leader/follower pops into your mind without you even thinking about it. If there’s a leader there must be followers.

Well, of course a leader has to have followers or they actually aren’t a leader But a leader doesn’t just have those who follow. A leader may also have some people who oppose them, some who couldn’t give a rat’s tail, and some who are potentially, or actual, rival leaders. In following the academic earworm – leader/follower – we lose sight, in the moment and potentially for much longer, of what else might be going on around the leader – we don’t see who else is there other than followers, and what the non followers are doing.

But why does this matter? It matters because critical interrogation of terms is what academics do. It’s one of our signatures. We are known for being pernickety about meanings. It’s what we train our students to do from the moment they begin their undergraduate studies. We academics don’t take things for granted. We try not to use language indiscriminately. We work to become discerning about the ways in which we speak. And that’s why the academic earworm is insidious. Because the word or phrase that just pops into our heads may in fact need quite a bit of examination.

And social media isn’t a place necessarily conducive to intellectual precision. Too many academic earworms altogether.

I’m trying to stop myself using easy phrases and catch words when I post.  I’ve become really conscious of academic earworm proliferation. Of the tension between being critical and writing colloquially and communicating ideas in a relatively short word space, between the need for scepticism as well as making myself clear enough for readers to get past the first few sentences.

When, I am asking myself, is it OK to use an academic earworm, and when does it become counter-productive? When does the academic earworm cloud an issue, rather than help make things more visible/audible?

Image credit: Garrett Coakley, Flickr Commons.

Posted in academic earworm, academic writing, critical, language | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

refining your research topic – starting the phd

Where do research topics come from?

The research topic you have at the start of your PhD may come from work you did in your Masters. It may come from a professional or policy context, perhaps your own professional work situation, or something you’ve read about in the media. Or it might come from the scholarly reading that you’ve done.


People generally start their PhD with an idea of what they want to research. They’ve had to put in a proposal as part of the entry process.

But this initial idea is not fixed. It might change. Yes really. Your first idea may not be what you end up researching. Your primary task in the first few months of PhD candidacy is to revisit and refine your initial topic so that it becomes a research-able project. A researchable project that is focused on the potential contribution you will make by doing it.

Your task, in the first few months of the PhD, is to refine your topic – through reading. You read to find:

(1) what other people already have said about your topic

Many PhDs, not all, but most, find themselves researching a topic where a corpus of research and literature already exists. This research might be exactly on the topic that you are interested in, or it might be in a related, overlapping area. As you read, you can begin to see how your proposed topic sits in relation to what already exists

(2) what material you need in order to make sense of your topic

You’ll usually find and read bodies of literature that establish the wider context within which your research sits. These literatures provide you with important contextual information. They offer you examples of the differing research traditions that you might work within. They show different conceptual and theoretical possibilities that you might take up in your study.

(3) ‘less likely’ material that also might have something interesting to offer to your topic

Sometimes, reading outside of your discipline, reading something tangential, provides you with an angle on your topic that is new and interesting. Many PhDs neglect this wider reading in favour of the first two, more focused, literatures work. This is not a mistake, but an omission that might mean your work is not as “original” as it could perhaps be.

At the end of this beginning reading, you should be much clearer about what research is and isn’t done about your topic. You can therefore think about what possibilities there are for you – what you might do and accomplish in your PhD. Perhaps you will look at a different group of people, or work in a different place, or work in a different tradition. Perhaps you’ll bring a different theoretical tradition to bear on the topic or combine perspectives across disciplines – maybe one/some that are not usually brought to the topic. The process of bringing your topic into conversation with the literatures is often called finding the gap – although most often we are not talking about a gap, but rather a niche. A niche that you can occupy.

Once you’ve completed this early reading, you can then reconsider your initial topic – and modify it if you need/want to.

In addition, you will also need to read at the start:

(4) how your topic can be researched.

This methodological reading is often the crunch point. This reading helps you to decide whether there is a defensible way to find an answer to the question or problem you have tentatively formulated. You look at various methodological and methods possibilities to see which of them are most likely to yield interesting data. You think about how these might be analysed.

You can also check how much time different approaches will take, and -scarily- whether it is even possible to do what you want, given questions of access, distance, cost and so on. You can see whether yours is a topic for one person for a year or so full time equivalent field work or whether it needs a team of people for several years! These practical issues are vital for you to consider… many a PhD topic has to be modified simply because the research isn’t actually do-able.

At the end of this early period of reading you will be in a position to come back to your initial research idea.

Read your proposal again. Is it still OK? Then consider:

  • How might you express your proposed project –  In a question? Aims and Objectives? As an hypothesis to be tested?
  • What is the contribution it will make?
  • What is the research design?

If you have read thoroughly enough, then you will be able to answer all of these questions –convincingly and concisely – after just a few months.

Image credit: J D Noske

Posted in academic writing, doctoral research, doctoral researcher, research design, research proposal, research question, research warrant, starting the PhD | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

don’t do as I did, don’t do as I do

I really love reading about other people’s experiences of the PhD and beyond. But I don’t much like talking about my own. Well, I do sometimes talk about myself on this blog. Talking about me makes the blog a bit human. And occasionally I do a bit of show and tell on the blog about how I do something. But by and large I’m not one for talking a lot about my own academic work. However, I’ve been asked quite a few times why I don’t, since that seems to be the blogging way. And I got another set of questions about why not recently… so here’s an answer.


My methods of work are very idiosyncratic. For instance, I can generally sit down and just write. Even if I have nothing in my head I can just sit down and write myself into something. If I get stuck, and I do very occasionally, I generally can – with only one notable exception – work out what is going on and eventually summon the willpower to sort it out. I can do this now because I’m pretty experienced at writing all the stuff. But I know that’s not the case for everyone and this blog is about what’s likely to be useful to newer researchers.

And I do lots and lots of things that people tell you not to do. For instance, I do my email at the start of the day. I leave the email on while I’m writing. I often do email when I’m in the middle of writing something and then I go back to what I was writing. Or twitter or Facebook. In fact, when I write, I usually do things that are potentially distracting. Spotify is my writing BF.  I listen to all kinds of music while I’m writing, often new releases, and quite frequently stop mid-sentence to chase something is that I’m listening to. But this isn’t a problem. Even when something takes me away from writing for a bit I can always get back to it. Writing is now a deeply embedded habit and it doesn’t take much for it to kick in. But knowing that I have a writing habit doesn’t necessarily help anybody else.

Oh, and I now take a lot of short cuts. My hacks don’t really work for researchers starting out, the blog’s target readers. The ways in which I work with literatures for example don’t involve highlighting or indeed a great deal of note-taking or additional writing. My ‘little’ system works for me as I’m building on a whole lot of other reading I’ve already done and I have a good short-term memory. But this minimal process isn’t likely to work for anyone just starting out.

The blog is really not about what I do – it works with what I know from research, from being a teacher and from teaching and supervising a lot of different people over a long period of time, and from what I read that other people are writing about themselves.

But if the blog is not about what I do, it’s even less about what I’ve done. I don’t talk about my PhD much because I was an aberrant PhDer. I occasionally meet someone like me – we didn’t have a hard time doing the doctorate. In fact, we positively loved our PhDs. And we not only finished on time, but also finished well before the three years were up. Even writing this just feels like bragging to me – and I’m squirming about it as I write – and it’s not in the slightest bit of help to anyone else and probably not really of interest.

Nor do I talk a lot about the process and products of my writing. I have blogged about co-writing and I posted live on a couple of book writing projects. But I don’t do this a lot. It’d be totally boring to hear about what I’m writing. Nor do I want to use my writing as the justification for why what I say might be of use. The thing is, this is a blog, not an ongoing commercial. I have a books page on the blog and people can check it out if they need to. And a list of book chapters and papers are on my university webpage. These blog posts ought to stand on their own merit. They are either worth reading or not.

And I don’t write about me mainly and primarily because times have changed. What worked for me was at a particular time and place. The rules and expectations about academic research and writing have shifted, and not necessarily all for the better. On the one hand, there is a lot more experimentation, interdisciplinary research and global chatter. On the other, audit requirements and precarious employment prospects make it pretty difficult to get into and on in any local academy. What I say on the blog can’t really be based in and on my own experience, but must take account of what is happening now, and what might be possible in the current situation.

So I rely not on my own PhD experience, but on research and on reading what other people have to say about their own current experiences. I read a lot of PhD blogs and research about PhDs. And of course, there are conversations. Conversations at workshops and with PhDers I supervise. And because there isn’t a one best way to do anything, especially with writing and research, and because what emerging researchers need are lots of strategies and options, my focus is on generating more ideas, not less. I collect strategies and approaches, the more the better. Other people’s experiences feed the blog.

Let me be frank. This blog would be pretty tiny and sporadic if it just relied on what I do and did. I’m really not that interesting. Patter depends on and responds to what other people do, ask and say.

Posted in academic writing, blogging, blogging about blogging, experience, patter | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments