As a creative outlet, discourse catalyst, and distribution outlet to reach new and expanded audiences, scholars have been reaping the benefits of blogging for years.

Scholarly blogging really started picking up steam back in 2010, and at the time, Sara Kjeilberg, a Ph.D. student in library and information science at Lund University, Sweden, interviewed 11 researchers to learn why they were blogging.

Specifically, Kjeilber’s research, identified five main purposes for scholars to publish blogs:

  1. To distribute their content
  2. To express their opinions
  3. To keep up-to-date in their research fields
  4. To remember information about their research fields
  5. To become better writers
  6. To interact with others
  7. To build relationships
  8. To share their research and opinions
  9. To be creative
  10. To feel connected to something “bigger”

Scholarly blogging not only gets scholars’ important content in front of larger audiences and catalyzes scholarly discourse, but it also enables scholars to expand their spheres of influence. One of Kjeilberg’s interviewees explained how his scholarly blog landed him a role as a guest researcher at another university. He said, “They discovered the blog and then they looked up what my research was about on the internet. Then they invited me as a visiting researcher at their university, so that was all thanks to the existence of the blog. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have known that I existed.”

Furthermore, scholarly blogging facilitates the research process. A researcher told Kjeilberg, “The blogging format gave me the possibility to combine intellectual discussion with a personal style.” Another researcher explained, “Blog posts are often of a work in progress character or they’re tentative or raise questions. And it’s often questions that people are welcome to brainstorm around in the comments. I hadn’t thought of this function before I started blogging—how useful and valuable it can be.”

Some researchers have more specific reasons for blogging. “The target audience of my research doesn’t read scientific papers, so what I wanted to try is to create an audience through blogging about fun subjects, things I know, interesting resources, or my own observations, and then mix that with my own scientific papers,” said an interviewee. “So if I have a publication, I write an abstract about that and try to [explain in a blog post] ‘this is why it’s interesting to you and here is the preprint PDF’.”

Scholarly blogs also provide an outlet for creative thinking and the opportunity to polish writing skills. As one researcher explained, “A lot of people think that blogging steals time from research, which I believe is a myth. I think just the opposite. It makes it easier to overcome writing thresholds and easier to articulate your ideas.”

Kjeilberg’s research found that scholars who write blogs with a goal to distribute their content and express their opinions are trying to reach audiences outside of their current networks and are motivated by sharing. On the other hand, scholars who blog with a goal to improve their writing, keep up to date in their fields, and remember important information are focusing on themselves as the primary audience and are motivated by the creativity that blogging offers. Blogging is a much more personal experience for these scholars.

There are some scholarly bloggers who blog to distribute their content with a goal to interact with others and create relationships. The target audience for these scholars are both other people and themselves, and they’re motivated by gaining a feeling of being connected to wider audiences.

Follow the link at the beginning of this article to read Kjeilberg’s full research report. Scholarly blogging has been going strong since well before her paper was written in 2010, and the growing size of the ACI Scholarly Blog Index shows that this trend will not stop anytime in the near future.

Image: Till Westermayer licensed CC BY-SA 2.0