The Digital Academic: Blogging tips from Thesis Whisperer Inger Mewburn

So my task today is to write a successful blog post about a talk on running a successful blog held at The Digital Academic workshop at the University of Warwick – so in effect blogging about blogging.

But not only that, I am blogging about hugely successful antipodean blogger Dr Inger Mewburn (@thesiswhisperer)and her site The Thesis Whisperer which has over 25,000 subscribers and around 80,000 visits per week. So no pressure then.

Dr Mewburn held an honest, generous and inspiring session at the and Piirus event on March 23 which explored tools and tips for research impact and ECR employability.

The Thesis Whisperer, which has been running for five years, is a vast resource for postgraduate students and early career researchers which now earns Dr Mewburn a decent “tax problem” income and is certainly something I wish I had at my fingertips when I conducted my PhD.

The strength of the WordPress site was outlined in Dr Mewburn’s talk which gave the following tips for a successful blog:

  • Research tells us…

Academics tend to blog about academic culture, research dissemination, their academic practice or general information for academics, professionals and the educated public but blog less about technical advice, self help, personal reflections, teaching advice or career advice for students and researchers.

  • Find a niche

Think about where your expertise lies, what problems you can solve and use your blog to give people advice, pointers and tips on what to read, where to find information and how to deal with common issues.

  • Think community

Consider the communities you are connected to and what their problems are and think about how your knowledge can help them. By providing something people need you have more chance of making your blog ‘stick’.

  • Be generous to the competition

Other similar blogs are a great resource to link to and share ideas with rather than being viewed as competition. Be generous to them and support one another. Share links on social media channels and build a profile as someone who makes reliable recommendations.

  • Have clear rules for your contributors

For example The Thesis Whisperer moderation policy asks bloggers to keep posts under 1,000 words, to talk about stories not precise research topics, to be polite and be aware that rude, “ass-hattery” comments will be removed

  • Learn about licensing

Be aware of who owns the content on your site and think about allowing people to share it and swot up on Creative Commons licences.

  • Use a blog to gather data

Seek advice from your institution research ethics committee but consider using your blog to gather data. You can also use your blog to write about your research rather than writing the research i.e that which you would submit to a peer review journal

  • Blog for others

If you don’t want to set up your own blog then consider blogging for other sites such as The Conversation or contact blogs that you would like to write for.

…So hopefully you will have found this blog post niche, community orientated and generous with its links, as advocated by The Thesis Whisperer herself.


About Lily Canter

Dr Lily Canter is a journalist, lecturer and journalism studies researcher. She is Principal Lecturer and Subject Group Leader for Journalism at Sheffield Hallam University where she teaches digital journalism, research methods and journalism issues. Her research interests include regional newspaper websites, online participatory journalism, social media and journalism training. Lily previously worked as a reporter and features editor in the regional press and continues to work as a freelance journalist. She is also festival chair and co-founder of short film festival Film Northants.

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