Using blogs for academic purposes
It's likely you will be asked to use blogs at some point during your studies. These can provide you with opportunities to reflect and gain new perspectives that stretch your mind. However, make sure that you use blogs in the specific ways required for your assignments.
Decide first on your reasons for creating a blog: to develop your ideas; to develop your understanding; personal reflection, etc.
If your blog is for an assignment, check the guidlines. In particular: word limits; frequency; timing; style and tone.
Writing regularly on a theme provides opportunities for your mind to generate different perspectives. In the time between posting, your brain may still be working away at an issue, and you may then find ideas forming more fully the next time you sit down to write.
You may be required to write a reflective blog as part of a research project. This is to encourage you to give thought to one or more aspects of how you: conceptualise the task; plan your work; apply learning to new contexts; and evaluate what happened, drawing lessons from the experience so that you do things even better next time.
There are many online tools to choose from when creating a blog. Useful starting places are:
Wordpress comes in two flavours: the fully hosted WordPress.com, and the self-hosted version, whose software is available for free at WordPress.org.
Also available for free: Blogger, Tumblr, Wix and Squarespace.
Free blogging services are sustained through advertisements so be prepared to see these appearing on your own blog pages. As you become more experienced you may wish to pay to upgrade your account, receive better services and tools and to remove the advertisements from your site.
You will be assisted through the process of making choices to customise your blog. There are a number of common features you should think about when designing your own:
Title should be clearly visible in large font across the top of the page
Author this should be obvious, at the top of the page
Links be sure to add a description of your links to other websites so your readers will know what they are linking to
Widgets decide whether to include social media channels (e.g. Twitter feed) on your blog page
Post content posts can be text, images, movies, links or a mixure of these. The most popular blogs use a combination of text and multimedia content to keep readers interested.
Post title each blog post should have an informative, clearly visible title that informs the reader about the contents of the article
Depending on the tool you are using, decide how to publish each blog post - be it private, restricted access or public.
Private This means that the post (or the whole blog) can only be seen by you
Restricted access This means that you decide who will be able to read your post (or the whole blog). You may be able to password protect the blog.
Public This means that anyone will be able to read your post (or whole blog).
Unless you are required to share your blog with peers, it is usually important that materials that contribute to a graded assignment cannot be seen by others prior to it being assessed. If another student uses your ideas or text, you might both be in trouble!
One key difference between blogs and traditional journals is the practice of opening up blogs for readers' comments.
Select who can comment Configure the commenting tools to suit you. Normally, this facility would be open to anyone you have allowed as a reader. However, you may be able to require readers to log in to - or register on - your blog so you have a record of who posts comments.
Encourage readers to comment Ask questions; respond to comments; show interest and respect; consider using a comments policy
Explore and test your choices by writing your first blog post.
See our section on Organisation and time management for tips on setting up a routine to make sure you keep blogging regularly.
Adapted from: COTTRELL, Stella and Neil MORRIS. 2012. Study skills connected: Using technology to support your studies (Palgrave study skills). Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.