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Researcher Development

Researcher Development


There are lots of reasons why you might blog about your research. Here are a few – in the form of a blog by Postdoctoral Researcher Dr. Gaia Cantelli for The Thesis Whisperer.

You get to explain what you love to the public

You got into your field because you love it and it’s only natural to want to understand why you do. A blog is a fantastic opportunity to explain to the general public how your area works and how your project is trying to make a difference. Explaining very complex concepts in a simple and accessible way can be much harder than to write them up for a bunch of academics. In fact, Richard Feynman reportedly once said that “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t really understand it”. That’s both a challenge to your understanding of your own work and to your writing skills!

You get to practice your writing

No matter what stage of your PhD you are at, writing your thesis is always looming in the background! Writing is not something most PhD students will have practiced extensively before getting to the write-up stage (at least in the sciences!), which means most of us could probably use the practice! Brush up on your syntax and your grammar (can you remember the difference?), as well as your style and not least your typing skills! Come thesis time, you will be glad you’ve kept your writing muscles nice and toned. Plus, the writing practice you’ll get with blogging will pay off once you get a “real job” and have to deal with writing all day

You are free to express yourself

If you are a PhD student, it’s most likely that you’re very passionate and opinionated about your field. Sadly, it is also true that not many people might be agog to hear your two cents about it! A blog is a fantastic platform to express yourself and really get into the nitty-gritty of what bothers you or excites you about the hottest new development in your field. Plus, the Internet is a big place and it’s more than likely you’ll find other people (PhD students, other researchers or just enthusiasts) who agree with your opinions. Intellectual debate is always stimulating and fun (although the Internet is also full of not-so-nice people so be prepared for some not-so-nice comments if you post anything controversial!).

It’s good for your CV

Looming past your already looming thesis is your approaching need for employment. Whether you want to stay in academia or you want to explore your options in the private sector and beyond, employers always value writing experience – or so we’re told! Most jobs that are available to PhD graduates involve a huge percentage of writing, which is why it makes sense for employers to seek out people who not only can write but are passionate about writing!

You work together with other PhD students!

Working on a cooperative blog with other PhD students from your area or department can be really fun as well as useful! After all, these are your peers and most likely your friends! Blogging is a great chance to work on a project together, bond and discover new sides of each other.

It’s important to consider why you are interested in blogging, and your purpose. Is it to communicate your research to the public? Raise your academic profile? Create resources to use in your teaching? Share your experience as a researcher? To help you think about the why take a look at the following blogs – or some specific to your disciplines – and consider:

  • What will your blog be about?
  • Who will your audience be?
  • What kind of format and content will work best for your audience?
  • How often will new blog posts come out?

Blogs by individuals

Blogs by organisations/groups

There are a wide range of blogging platforms available for you to choose from. Lifehack have produced this helpful comparison chart for the top platforms, including key features and pros and cons, is a good place to start thinking about which platform to use.

You can also download a text version of this infographic.

Brainstorm some names for your blog. Draft a shortlist and ask your social media followers, research group or a group of peers to vote for which they like best!

Also, do not forget to google your shortlist/chosen blog name. Check it has not been done before and not too close to something it can be mistaken for!

(From Dr. Kay Guccione)

The domain name of your blog refers to its URL – its unique address on the internet. With the majority of blogging platforms you can customise your domain name, which is usually

However, you could also register purchase your blogs domain name and get a web address of Successful blogs like The Thesis Whisperer ( and Patter ( have done this and as such become a brand. You can do this through websites like GoDaddy for a relatively small cost i.e. £11.99 a year.

Make sure you have an about page!

As well as your homepage or ‘blogroll’ (the feed of your blog posts), your blog needs to have an About page. This should tell your readers:

  • Who you are
  • What your blog is about and who it is for
  • Links to where people can find out more about you and your research
  • How to contact you

You may also want to include a photo of yourself – it can humanise the text format and help people connect with you at conferences!

According to the London School of Economics award winning impact blog, there are three basic kinds of academic blog post:

  1. Blogging for content tells people about research you’re doing, or what you found.
  2. Blogging for comment contributes to public conversation and debate, using your research and/or experience as material.
  3. Blogging for reportage would include write‑ups of events you went to, or things you’ve read.

Blogging for content is where many academics feel most comfortable. The main benefit is in providing non-technical summaries of your research that are likely to be much more widely read than any journal article. Most people in the media, government, policy or industry will only read this version of your work. A few might go back to your working paper, if you have one, or to your journal article and you should ensure these are correctly cited. Blogs give you an important channel to explain what you did, what you found and why people should care about it, without or with minimal jargon. Often, forcing yourself to express things in clear and non‑technical language helps deepen your own understanding of a problem (just as many people find with teaching).

Blogging for comment is more challenging, but can be very rewarding. For most academics, this is not about instant reaction to the news cycle –platforms like Twitter (or working with the LSE media team) will be better for that. Rather, it’s about providing a considered, evidence‑based response to some important story, and using your own work – where you can – to make your argument run. If you’re lucky, these pieces mayget recycled for op‑eds – or they may become the kernel of some new piece of research

Blogging for reportage is more about using a blog as a public notebook, taking down your thoughts from things you’ve read and seen – and think others will be interested in. You might think this is trivial, although your non‑academic readers– for whom you’re the expert on X – will often find it more useful than you’d imagine. Again, you may also find yourself developing new ideas and proposals out of these notes.

In practice, academics often mix and match.

1. Consider your audience

Who do you want to be reading your blog? Who do you think will be interested in what you have to say?

Consider who they are, when, where, how and why they might be reading your blog, and try and write in a way that speaks to them so they’ll understand and engage with what you’re saying. Remember that your blog can be read around the world, too.

It’s also important to remember that blogs can (and do) remain discoverable in search engines for years, including by potential employers, so don’t post anything you might regret in the future!

At the same time, your blog is about YOU and should be written in your voice and style, not like an anonymous web-bot.

2. What is the post for?

Are you trying to get a point across? What is it? It’s important to make sure you have a purpose in mind when you sit down to write a post, even if that purpose is just to describe something that happened to you recently.

3. Make it the right length

There are several schools of thought regarding how long a blog post ought to be; some people say short and sweet, while others think people like longer and more detailed content.

The simple fact is that it depends what you’re writing about: a simple observation which rambles on for hundreds or even thousands of words is no good, but neither is a short post that doesn’t fully cover a topic or explain what you mean.

Experts suggest that posts of less than 250 words, or more than 1000, do less well in search results.

4. Make it readable

People read online in a different way to how they read on paper – and they’re generally much more impatient online.

It will be easier (and quicker) to read if paragraphs and sentences are short and the words are recognisable. It may be tempting to write in a creative and enigmatic style, but this could put people off reading if it prevents you getting your point across.

The design of your blog – font choice, colour, layout, column width etc – will also help to make your blog more readable. Keep your design simple and free of visual clutter.

5. Using pictures

Pictures that illustrate what you’re writing about can really help to catch your audience’s imagination and attention. You can upload pictures directly into your blog, or hyperlink to them. If you do use pictures by people other than yourself, make sure you respect copyright and make attributions as appropriate.

6. Titles: Attention-grabbing or search engine friendly?

Newspaper sub-editors have had to learn how to write headings for the internet, which is very different from writing them for print. Clever puns and intriguing statements can catch your eye in a newspaper, but they don’t make content findable online. Unfortunately, search-engine-friendly titles can often be a little boring and obvious. It’s up to you which style you prefer to use, but make sure you know the difference.

7. Search engine optimisation

The title and opening lines of webpages and blog posts are important as the words you use will be picked up by search engines, so make sure your post’s topic is clear.

Also ensure these aspects are optimised:

  • Tags and categories: put your posts in categories and add keyword tags. These help with SEO (search engine optimisation) and navigating around your blog if you have a lot of posts.
  • Metadata on photographs: people search for photographs online almost as much as text, so make sure they have proper words in their filenames and descriptions; if someone finds your photograph, they also find your blog.
  • Links to and from other websites: the more links there are to your blog, the easier it is to find, both for people browsing other websites and in terms of where your blog will come in search results.
  • More shorter posts: some think that it’s a good SEO tactic to write lots of short blog posts rather than a few long ones; but also consider that SEO experts suggest webpages with less than 250 words or more than 1000 don’t do as well in search results.
  • Topicality: search engines are now so sophisticated that they update in real time according to what people are searching for, so if you can write a post at the moment of peak interest in a subject it can bump you to the top of search results.

8. Use calls to action

You might be asking people to donate to a charity, fill in a survey, click on a link to another website, or just give their opinion via the comments box. A call to action gives your posts a definite purpose, and encourages interaction between your readers and you.

9. Respond to comments

How you deal with comments is up to you and will largely depend on the type of comments your posts receive. Some might just need a quick response via another comment, some might not need a response at all, and others you might want to respond to via email if possible.

Acknowledging that people have taken the time to write comments is polite, and responding to comments is a good way of building a sense of community and expanding your readership. It can also draw you into discussions, arguments, and ‘flame wars‘ that you don’t want to have. Don’t be baited into antagonistic situations, and remember that you can always delete comments to your blog; your blog is your responsibility, and it’s your privilege to control what’s on there.

Advice from the Communications and Marketing team at the University of Exeter

It is not enough just to write a blog post – you need to share it with your networks to reach your desired audience. You will want to consider:

  • The URL of your blog post – is it autogenerated? Can you change it to the post title or topic? This will help your audience find your posts. You can also create a short URL for easy sharing on social media and networking sites.
  • Search engine optimisation – this will help new audiences find you through search engines. Take look at the advice on the What makes a good blog post? page.
  • Sharing your post on Twitter – tweet about your post, making sure to tag people or departments you mention in the post, or key ‘influencers’ (high profile academics or those with large Twitter followings) in your discipline.
  • Sharing your post on LinkedIn, or other professional networking sites – this will help your professional networks find your blog, including people who may not be on social media
  • Sharing you blog post on relevant mailing lists – this might include your subject jiscmail list, or other groups and networks you are part of
  • Putting a link to the post in your email signature – ‘Read my latest blog post: XXXXX’
  • Having a regular posting schedule – posting, for example, every two weeks on the same day will help you build your following and helps your audience know when to expect new content!

This infographic was developed as a summary of a question and answer panel event we ran on Blogging your research, which you can watch online (log in using your University of Exeter sign-in details) You can download a text version of this infographic.

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