What is a blog?
The term blog started being used around 1999, it was derived from the longer weblog. Back then a web log or blog was basically an online life log or journal. Today the definition of blog has evolved along with the medium and the web to mean something different.
If you ask Google, a blog is a website on which an individual or group of users record opinions, information etc. on a regular basis. This much broader definition fits with how the web and blogs are used today and highlights how blogs have infringed on the territory of the website to become a subset rather than an alternative.
The key to this modern definition is ‘on a regular basis,’ and this is what sets a blog apart from a website. A website generally consists of a defined number of pages and subpages that are presented in a static format. Only rarely are new pages added to your website. The blog, on the other hand, is a constant source of new information. And it’s used to push this information out to the public and engage that public in a discourse.
And that really is where you come in for the STEPS blog – we want you to write content that will reach and engage the PGR community in Manchester.
If we look at the growth of the blog in general; the reason for the popularity of blogging is that that the blogging tools have removed the barriers to publishing on the web; you do not need to understand servers or code to publish content.
But probably more importantly than that, blogs contain a different sort of content from websites; good blogs are full of tips and tricks, ideas and concept, debates, musing and creativity.
People of the web really like this kind of content, not only that…they also share it. The key to any kind of blogging is to share valuable insights about whatever world you are writing about.
If you do this consistently and well; the blog can become a trusted source of information for people in your community.
Doing this and being associated with a project like this will bring benefit to you personally because the web is an integrated entity. Associating your name with a blog by publishing content will help you to tap into this integration.
Reasons why you should blog:
- Get better at writing – a lot of stuff that you will read as part of your literature review is not particularly well written!
- Promote yourself
- Make useful connections
- Be part of a community
- Explicitly contribute to strategic aims of institution e.g. Social Responsibility, Engagement etc (which can have leverage with funders!)
- Learn stuff about yourself and other people
Writing blog posts
When you are trying to write it is helpful to adopt certain attitudes; don’t worry about spelling or grammar at first, you can fix those latter. All good writing needs a clear motivation. Think about some of the things you want to write about and that your audience might be interested in too.
What is the message?
You need a topic. The more focused the better. The topic is a bridge between you and the reader. It has to be something that engages both of you. If you have a topic that is clear and compelling, the writing becomes much easier. Once you have settled that, you will need to define the post’s structure.
You can use structure to make your writing loads quicker. Obviously there are a range of formats (see below) and there is always room for personal architecture within those constraints.
A compelling headline
- Bold statement or proclamation
- Controversial topic
- Unusual perspective
- New or relevant information
Easily scannable content
People need to be able to easily find and read the pieces of your article that they’re most interested in and then just simply move on to the next item in their RSS reader. They might be reading on a phone or other device. Break writing into smaller chunks so that it’s more easily digested by web readers.
Lead with your best
Try really hard to make the first few sentences or the first paragraph interesting. You really need to grab their attention and compel them to read further.
Have a storytellers touch
Every blog post needs to tell a story. Even a simple how-to article leads the reader from ignorance to enlightenment through a certain path. If one step of the path doesn’t follow the next, readers can get bored or lost. So you need to find ways to connect with your audience; a ways of doing this writing about a personal experience or moment that the audience will identify with.
Use images throughout
Use images throughout the post to illustrate what is being said.
Types of blog post
How-to articles are very common on blogs. They’re usually written as a series of steps, and they’re addressed directly to the reader. Examples would be things like: How to deal with your supervisor. Usually there is a step of a problem – some solutions broken into tips – and a conclusion.
Advice articles can be a lot more creative than that this is a really nice one comparing supervisors to animals in a zoo. So they are using a metaphor to be a bit more interesting. Also it creates a nice image in the mind of the reader – if you can engage this kind of visual memory you are more likely to pique their interest.
Reviews/Reports about events
Reviews are pretty straight forward; stuff we would like you to review for steps might be a training event or conference. They range from a 100 to 2,000 words, with the reviewer giving opinions based on experience with the product or service. Some reviews are comparative, where writer looks at several objects of the same class and then ranks them against each other. So reviews are matters of opinion.
Is also opinion; but it is written in response to a news event or social situation. Like news articles commentary is usually short and punchy, and of course they are trying to persuade you to agree with their point of view. Commentaries are usually set aside to delineate facts from opinions.
These can include…
- Stuff you like about doing research
- Stuff you don’t like
- Work life balance
- Personal growth and revelations
- Reflections about yourself and others
The narrative of people; the detail of someone else’s life is really intriguing to others. We want to know why things succeeded or why they failed so that we can repeat the success, or avoid the failure in our own lives. We want to know how your experiences have changed you, and your perspective on the world.
It is okay for personal narrative posts to wander a bit they might be a bit more in depth and tends be longer than the other types of blog post. Above all though personal narratives should only be included if they are thought provoking.
Interview based post
You can interview people to find stories for your posts, there is the traditional Q & A like this one. So here they have they described the transition from PhD to Early career researcher and combined interview with a description – think about if there are any people in your networks you can interview to find stories.
Or there is a story based-format – record the conversation you have with someone and use that in a post like this one.
Become a STEPS blogger
You can use the STEPS blog as a forum to engage other people; to share the amazing things you are doing, to find out about what other researchers do, and to take advantage of studying at a University that is the size of a village.
We are always on the lookout for fresh PGR blogging talent. It’s easier for you to become a regular contributor or a one off guest blogger.
If you are interested in blogging for us please email us your article or to ask for more details.