why do doctoral researchers blog?

Today Inger Mewburn, Thesis Whisperer, and I presented the first cut from the survey we did – with your help – on PhD blogging.

As yet, we don’t know whether we are going end up with a book chapter, or one or two refereed papers. We’ve only looked at the closed questions in the survey so far. We still have to crunch the answers to the open ended questions, and this will affect our decisions about publication. 

So you are thinking that maybe it’s too soon to think about what will become of this data? Well no. It’s often the case that at a relatively early stage of analysis you start to think about analytic angles and publication together. You come across something interesting in the data, and you think, “Mmmmm, if this plays out further then maybe this means… and that would make an interesting paper… and there’s nothing much like that out there… and maybe this journal wold be interested…” That’s the stage we’re at right now.

Here’s most of what we said in our presentation.

You don’t get our narrative from the slides of course. We did end up raising the issue of whether blogging might be equipping doctoral researchers with a kind of all day all night disposition which corresponds to the kinds of working practices increasingly expected in higher education. And this is not to mention the matter of being and becoming increasingly visible….

We’re really interested in any ideas that you have when you look at this data. What interesting issues come to your mind when you see some of the survey answers?

About pat thomson

Pat Thomson is Professor of Education in the School of Education, The University of Nottingham, UK
This entry was posted in academic blogging, doctoral experience, doctoral research and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to why do doctoral researchers blog?

  1. Jane S says:

    Pat, I recognise many of the reasons given by your presentation responses as mine, too. For over five years now, composing personal blog posts has been an excellent medium for charting a record (your p.8) and for thinking ‘out loud’ about ideas and writing processes. (A former academic institution didn’t approve of the blog but, as it wasn’t part of their own dedicated blog space, they couldn’t do much about it.) Basically, it is for *me* ~ a free space, not limited by academic conventions. However, I’ve recently imposed a ‘moratorium’ on it. It takes up far too much time, and consumes mental and writing energies better directed into research.
    On the plus side, blogging can teach basic online skills ~ e.g., condensing your writing, or inserting illustrative material; the perils of intellectual property and copyrights, acknowledgements and so forth. And it’s been a fantastic contact hub.

    Despite being aware of risks, I do discuss ideas, put them out there. However, I’m now heading for my thesis conclusions. I sha’n’t post *those* up on the ‘Net. Sharing is a legit concern, esp. if you only have the one argument or idea, or are frightened of your unique theory being hi-jacked. But I figure my identifiable musings have blog pub. dates attached so they’re safe. Besides, although I can’t guarantee to remember prosaic day-to-day things like dental appointments or feeding the cat, I possess a ferocious memory for everything I’ve ever read – or written! πŸ™‚


  2. Thank you Pat and Inger for sharing this. I find the responses on slide 15 the most interesting, i.e. the reasons given NOT to blog during the research process (I am assuming all the respondents were doctoral researchers).

    I accept that bloggers come in all shapes and sizes (so to speak) and that contexts differ widely, eg. some researchers work in teams they see every day so can interact that way; others are working on research that doesn’t need as much interaction, brainstorming, etc. It would be interesting to break down the reasons on slide 15 into disciplines and see if the nature or perception of disciplinary knowledge being engaged with may explain this discouragement from blogging.

    Jane’s comment above is also really interesting – it is a common concern, to worry that people will steal ideas from your blog. This got me thinking, because I definitely thrash out ideas on mine (although they tend to be the ‘background noise and mess’ surrounding my idea, the ‘fluff’ that I need to get out of the way so that I can think clearly, so not really the idea itself).
    But to go back to Jane’s worry, what if our blogs could automatically go through plagiarism detection software? This would immediately pick up extensive language copying. And the other thought that occurred to me is that blogs are dated, so that can also be taken into account when trying to prove unacknowledged borrowing of ideas.

    More broadly, though, on the copying concern: why is it so bad that someone might use an idea you have blogged? Some of your participants admitted blogging to get political and other ideas out there, so presumably they would want uptake of ideas from the blog?

    I know it depends on many things so I don’t mean to come across as naive on the plagiarism front. It’s just that slide 15 (and the one before that showing that more people were discouraged from blogging that encouraged) really worried me: given the huge benefits for writing development and the development of your thinking, it seems such a shame to abstain from blogging for fear of having your ideas pinched (my advice would be ‘don’t blog the specifics of your original contribution’ – that’s between you and your supervisors, surely?)


    • Jane S says:

      “[…] what if our blogs could automatically go through plagiarism detection software? This would immediately pick up extensive language copying.”
      That would put quite a lot of lazy journos in the frame, Julia! Many trawl the blogs for ideas, and frequently cut and paste without alterations.

      Blog posts being dated is insurance against wholesale copying of text, but not 100% proof against the pinching of ideas. Not if someone is really determined. I haven’t blogged the specifics of my ‘original contribution’ but I do find the practice useful as a round-up of generalities and, in the absence of an academic diary, for recording progress ~ or lack of ~ plus the many minor concerns which surround PhD research and writing-up, e.g., domestic chaos and a hermetic existence.


  3. Pingback: Pourquoi les doctorants se mettent au blog ? | Ecole des Doctorants

  4. GC FAURE, MD, PhD says:

    Why PhD students should also be involved in content curation?
    have a look at

    and give me your opinion


  5. Pingback: 5 questions to ask yourself before starting a blog | Social Media QUB

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