Thursday, 8 November 2012

Using blogs for research - a discussion in Pittsburgh

On Monday, I had the opportunity to facilitate a discussion at the University of Pittsburgh iSchool about using blogs for research. This is a topic I have spoken about before at one of our monthly informal researcher discussion sessions in Sheffield and I hope this is a subject we can return to in another meeting later this year. In Pittsburgh, I began the session with a brief presentation, highlighting two UK reports which I think are relevant to this topic: Research Information Network (2011) Social Media: A Guide for Researchers and JISC (2012) Researchers of Tomorrow: The Research Behaviour of Generation Y Doctoral Students. I followed this by discussing three blogs created and maintained by members of the University of Sheffield iSchool:
  • This blog - Sheffield iSchool researchers - which I think is a good example of a group blog, providing an opportunity for a number of people to author posts relating to their research or about methodological issues. I also think this is a good example of how a virtual community, based around the blog, can grow and reinforce a real world community, based around the monthly informal researchers' discussion sessions.
  • Sheila Webber's Information Literacy Weblog - a really good example of an expert blog, which is a very valuable current awareness source for both academics and practitioners working in the information literacy field. Relatively short posts and lots of photos make the blog very accessible, whilst the integration of other social media tools, such as a Twitter feed and a Flickr stream, potentially broadens the blog's audience.
  • My research blog, which gives a personal perspective on my experiences as a PhD student and my research activities - especially about the events I've attended.
I summarised some of my own reflections about the benefits, limitations and challenges of blogging and we then moved into a really interesting and lively group discussion about blogging for research. Now I'd like to ask you a few questions, as a reader of this blog, whether you're in Sheffield, Pittsburgh or anywhere else - perhaps we can continue the discussion here:
  • If you're a new visitor to this blog, what do you think about it?
  • If you've been viewing or contributing this blog for a while, what has kept you coming back?
  • Have you ever referred anyone to posts on this blog? If so, which ones?
  • What could we do to improve our blog?
  • What are your views about blogging about research in general? Have you used a blog, or would you like to share a good example of a blog which has been useful for your research?
Finally, I'd like to offer a very warm thank you to everyone at the University of Pittsburgh iSchool who made me feel so welcome earlier this week and to everyone who took part in our discussion.

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