How-To Guide: Medium for College Students and Professors (and anyone else who might benefit)

11 Steps to using Medium for college students and their professors

Before we begin, you might be wondering just what the heck Medium is. You can read all about Medium on the web, but in brief it is a web platform for publishing and disseminating your writing to the world. Created by the co-founders of Twitter, it allows you to publish articles containing a mixture of text, images, video, maps, and other multimedia that you can easily package into an aesthetically pleasing format.

In my opinion, Medium offers university professors and other educators a promising alternative to assigning the traditional term paper. I have found that it allows college students to construct a paper that is visually appealing and appropriate for the times, yet without sacrificing academic rigor. Medium is available to all with an Internet connection, and thus allows both students and educators one way to disseminate our material to a broader, non-academic audience. Students not only engage with Medium in critical and creative ways, but also are pushed by the prospect of getting their thoughts out for their families and friends to see (if that’s their choice, of course). This sure beats writing a paper with the sole aim of getting a good grade but in the end the paper ends up taking up space in a landfill or computer.

1. Sign up for Medium and bookmark the Medium help page.

The wonderful folks at Medium now offer several options to sign up for a Medium account. You can sign in thru your Twitter, Facebook, or Google accounts, or just sign up thru your email. Don’t just choose one of these four options willy-nilly. Think about whether you want your social media accounts connected to Medium or whether you’d rather keep these separate. I use my Twitter account, in part because social media was the only signup option in the past, however, you may not want other people to see your social media profiles.

Read the Terms of Agreement. There you can find the privacy policy, rules, etc. To sum them up in a couple lines: You own your content. Period. Medium can’t sell it (unless you give them permission). If you publish a story and mark it as “listed,” it is accessible to the public. You can delete your account or an individual article at any time. There is one caveat to all this — you will forfeit your soul upon sign up.

2. Set up your Medium profile

Add a profile picture and a background banner to your profile. To access your profile at any time, click your avatar on the upper right and click “your profile.”

For the profile picture click on the camera icon and upload an image from your computer. To the left is a snapshot of what the camera icon looks like. Do note that Medium will automatically upload your profile picture from the social media account you signed up with. But don’t worry, you can change it by clicking on the camera icon.

For the background image click on the icon that looks like the picture on the left. Click on my profile for a simple example.

3. Poke around on Medium

Search Medium for articles that are relevant to you. In my profile I have several that I recommend. You are also able to subscribe to publications to get updates. For example articles from a previous sociology course I taught, please check out the course magazine I put together of student projects from a 10–week freshmen seminar.

4. Start writing a new story by clicking on your avatar on the upper right (it should have your profile picture now) and select “new story.”

If you do not see the option for “new story” then I am betting you are on a mobile device or Internet Explorer. Try Chrome, Firefox, or Safari when editing on Medium. I have had no problems with these browsers. There are Medium apps for mobile devices, but note that you will not be able to edit stories with them at this time. Please correct me if I am wrong — or, if this changes with future Medium updates.

5. Learn the basics of saving, publishing, and adding your piece to our course publication.

Saving your article. When in “edit” mode, Medium automatically saves your articles while you write them. You can see in the upper right hand side of the screen if it has saved. I am paranoid, though, so when I add something that I worked very hard on, I usually publish it just to be sure. To be honest, I also hit “control+A” to select all and “command+C” to copy my progress, just to be extra careful. Also, do note that when returning to our article you will need to hit the “edit” button at the top of the screen to continue writing.

Publish. It is important to understand the “publish” button on the upper right. Clicking it will bring you to a pull down menu that looks like this for the present article:

Listed/Unlisted. Notice that my article is “Unlisted” (bottom of screenshot above). That is because I am currently working on my article and do not want anyone to see it. Once I am finished working on an article for the day, yet still have more revisions to do, I click “unlisted” followed by “publish changes.” The first time you do this you will be given a url that will directly link to your article. The only way for someone to see your article is if you send them this url. Your article is not public to Medium users nor search engines until you switch your article from “unlisted” to “listed” (see screenshot above). If you are one of my students, I advise you to keep your article “unlisted,” but published, until after you give your final course presentation. I will then go in and publish your article and list it on our course publication.

Adding to a publication. Above your article you will see an “add” option if you have been invited to submit to a Medium publication. For my students: Once you send me your Medium username and I add you to our course magazine, you will be able to use the add option to submit your article. Don’t worry — even after adding it to the magazine, it is not visible to anyone but the magazine editor (me) until it is marked as “listed.”

Tags. You will also notice that when you click publish (again, see above screenshot) there is an option to add three tags to your article. It is important that you add appropriate tags to your article so that when you publish it and make it public, other Medium users will be able to more easily find the article. For example, I tagged the article you are reading now: Medium, education, tutorial. I would guess that for our course purposes you will all have Chicago as one of your tags.

Accessing your article later. To access your article for editing purposes — whether listed or unlisted — go to Medium and click on your avatar on the upper right. Click “your drafts and stories.”

Sharing your article. If your article is unlisted you can share the direct url with people. Once it is listed you could share the url or click on the bottom right of your article and share it via email, Twitter, or Facebook. You could also post your url to sites or embed your article right into a website.

Word Count and Time to Read. Click “control + A” to select all while in edit mode. On the top right you will see your word count. Once you publish your article you will also be able to see how long the estimated time to read your article will be.

Editor Hints. Consider turning on “editor hints” by clicking the “?” on the top of your screen. On the bottom of your screen you can scroll through hints.

6. Type in your title and, if you desire, a title image.

What highlighting the title will look like. Notice the pop up with options to adjust the text. Play around with it.

Click on the links above for a full description by Medium, but basically just type in your title and then highlight your title to adjust the positioning and font (see pic on the left for what this looks like). There are not a ton of options for adjusting the text; however, in my opinion that’s why Medium is such a…well…nice medium for writing.

Add a widescreen image to your title by clicking on the “…” all the way on the left of your screen.

Alternatively you could just drag and drop an image at the top of your Medium article. However, the photo will most likely not be a widescreen image. Mine looked like the photo to the left when I initially dropped the photo in.

You’ll notice, however, that just above my picture is a black box with six layout options for my picture. If you do not see this box on your picture, click on the picture. You can do this with any image, not just the title image. It looks nice when the title image goes across the whole screen and the title lays on top of the image. To do this, click on the layout option all the way to the right. Then, if your title is still below the image, copy and paste it into the image (just click within the image) or type it in. Your header image and title should now look something like mine at the very top of this article.

7. Begin writing!

Click below your title directly to the right of the circle with a plus sign in it. Start typing. That’s it. Well, not really, but that is the basic way you can type within Medium. Click almost anywhere on the blank sheet and start typing. Hitting return brings you to a new line, just like in a word processing program. You can also type in an asterisk (shift + 8) at the beginning of a line and get automatic bullet points. Putting numbers at the beginning of a line will turn into numbered lists. Try placing a “-” in between words for effect. It looks like this when you do it — .

Highlight any text and a small menu pops up. Highlighting this text in edit mode would look something like the screenshot above. You’ll notice that you have the option for bold and italics. H1, H2, and H3 are to make any text into a title or subtitle. Play around, each one looks different. My subtitle a couple paragraphs above — “Begin writing!” — is the H3 option. The next option is to center the text, folowed by options to block quote chunks of text.

The chain link icon is to add links directly into the text, as I do throughout this article. I would recommend adding a link anytime that you cite something that is easily available online (e.g., newspaper articles, websites, pictures, etc.).

Clicking the comment box with a plus in it will allow you to add a comment, like this (see comment to the right). I would suggest using the margin comments to add urls for pictures that you acquired online as well as anything that might belong in a footnote (e.g., further reading materials for interested readers).

8. Adding Images

Adding images is a breeze on Medium. There are two ways to add images to Medium (in addition to how we added the widescreen header image above):

  1. The first is to click where you would like to add the picture (it has to be on a new line to do it this way). Click the plus sign inside of the circle and then click the camera icon. You can upload any image from your computer.
  2. Drag an image from a file or on your desk top directly into medium. Try it. It works great.

Once you have the image in Medium you can click it at any time and change the position of the image. When you do so a box will pop up on top of the image that looks like this:

You have three options. The first two allow you to wrap text around an image, much like you would see in a newspaper or magazine story. The third option allows you to put in a widescreen photograph and type above and below it. If you are dragging and dropping images, be sure to drag the image right on top of the text that you would like to wrap around it. You will then need to mess around with the different options to see which looks better. Sometimes you will not be able to get it in the appropriate position and you will just need to start over and try to drag and drop the image into Medium again.

Image Grids. You can also upload multiple pictures at the same time to create an image grid (a very ordered collage). To do this click the plus sign and then the camera icon and select multiple pictures. It will look something like this collage of old trains I obtained from Flickr Commons:


I have a couple tips for using images. First, have all of the images you want to use saved in a clearly marked file. Also name your images so that you can identify them. Second, make sure there is a space above and below images when you are working on drafts in Medium. This will prevent the case where you cannot add a space later (you’ll know what I mean if this happens to you). It’s difficult to explain, but add a space before and after images. Trust me. Only delete the spaces when you are ready to publish your final article.

Tip on acquiring images. For my students, you will be using many of your own images for this project. Yet many of you will be interested in using historical pictures. My suggestion is for you is to try searching the Flickr Commons, making sure that the option “no known copyright restrictions” is clicked. You can use these images in your Medium article without fear of copyright violation. Out of courtesy, and for purposes of transparency, please add a url in the “notes” section on the margin for all of the photos you did not take yourself. Google Images is another fabulous way to find images; however, again, you will want to check if the images are copyright protected. The Medium folks put together a list of other sources for free stock photos. If you are unsure contact the website administrator of the site that the image is located on. If you are still unsure, don’t use the image.

Editing images for free. I would recommend several free resources for editing your photos. The first is Google Plus’s photo editor which allows you to easily edit photos in your web broswer for free. Not only is the Google Plus editor useful for most basic editing purposes, but Google Plus also allows you to automatically back up all of your photos from your computer and mobile devices. Here is the help guide for Google Plus photos. Two other great free online editors are iPiccy and PicMonkey. They also have basic free photo editing tools and also allow you to resize photos, a feature I have yet to find on Google Plus’s photo editor.

9. Adding Videos

To add a YouTube video or videos from other video services (e.g., Vimeo) just copy the url and paste it right into Medium. Hit return. That’s it. Be sure to cite the video in the notes, especially if the video producer is not obvious from the video embed.

To add your own video I would recommend uploading your video to Youtube or Vimeo and then highlighting the public url and embedding it like above. YouTube, in particular, has video editing capabilities that are very user friendly. If you do not want to mess around with video editing, yet want to begin any video clip at a certain point in time, see this very quick tutorial on a couple ways to do so.

Here’s an example of an embedded YouTube video of the Rolling Stones playing with Muddy Waters at the legendary Checkerboard Lounge on the Southside of Chicago in 1981.

10. Two Ways to Add Maps to your Medium Article

Google Maps Example 1:

Using Google Maps to embed a fully functional map.

This is the easiest way to embed a map into Medium. It is as simple as copying a url on google maps and pasting it into Medium. Hit return and voila!

For example, my students who are doing Chicago neighborhood projects might want to embed a Chicago map containing their neigh borhood. To do this for the Humboldt Park neighborhood, for instance, go to Google Maps and search: “Humboldt Park, Chicago, IL.” You will notice that the Humboldt Park neighborhood is highlighted in red. Now zoom out a couple clicks by hitting the minus button on the lower right of the map so that you can better see the neighborhood’s relationship to the rest of the city. Now drag the map slightly to the left to reposition it. Copy the url and paste it into Medium and click return. The map should look similar to the one below. Notice that you can zoom in and out, pan in all four directions, see my Google profile picture in the top right corner, see my saved places (the stars), etc. You will also be able to click on it in edit mode and adjust where the map is positioned. However, you will also notice that Humboldt Park is no longer highlighted red ☹.

One option would be to go back to Google Maps, do the exact same thing as above, although this time click on the white menu on the upper left and click the “save” button underneath the star icon. This will place a star on the map in the middle of Humboldt Park. This star will then show up when you re-copy the url and paste it in Medium. Do note, however, as you can see in my map below, you will be able to see all other places that you have saved in your Google account.

Another option is to add a map that shows walking, biking, or driving directions. I will walk you through a simple example of a map I made showing the route of the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession on Good Friday in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. Here is a brief blog post on my website showing a few pictures I took of Via Crucis in 2014. If I were writing a Medium article on the procession I would probably want to show a map of the actual route of the procession.

To do this you would first search for walking directions on Google Maps. Click on the white menu on the upper left of Google Maps and select “directions.” Search for Providence of God Church as the starting point (the beginning of the procession) and Harrison Park as the destination (the place of the crucifixion reenactment). Then hit the little “+” icon below the second location (Harrison Park) and add St. Adalbert Church (the place of the final prayer service). You could add several destinations if needed. The search box in Google maps would look something like this:

Then, once you have the proper route displayed (just drag the white circles along the directions to reroute) and the map properly positioned (i.e., zoomed in/out appropriately for your particular purposes), copy the url and paste it into medium. Once you click return it will look something like the map below.

Much like our map of Humboldt Park above any visitor to your article will be able to use the map as a fully functional Google Map. Note, however, that your map will not be fully functional until you hit publish.

Google Maps Example 2:

Using Google’s My Maps and a partial screen capture

To get started, first bookmark the My Maps help page for everything you could ever want to do with Google maps. I will go over some basics relevant to your project.

  • Go to Google My Maps (this is different than Google Maps) and click “create a new map.” You’ll need to sign into Google if you are not already signed in.
  • Give your map a title so you can find it later. Do this by clicking on “untitled map” to the left.

Below I again use the route of the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession in Pilsen as an example.

  • First, search for “Pilsen, Chicago,”
  • Then let’s highlight important areas in the neighborhood. For my students, you might highlight areas or institutions you are studying and/or the walking route of your field observations.
  • For the Good Friday Procession in Pilsen we will again look up the three major points along the procession route. Search for “Providence of God Church” and click on it in the finder. You’ll notice a green place marker will drop onto the map. Click on the marker and select “add to map.” The marker will turn red and will now be saved to your map. Let’s do this for two other locations: the place where the crucifixion was reenacted (Harrison Park) and the closing prayer at St. Adalbert Church.

Next, let’s change the place markers from red to three separate colors that are labeled A, B, and C (the order of the procession). To do this use the white menu on the left of the screen. It should look something like the screen shot to the left. Click on “uniform style” and change it to “sequence of colors and letters.” In the same location change “set labels” to “name.” Your map and icons should now look like the picture below.

Let’s draw a simple line to highlight the route of the procession down 18th street to Harrison Park. However, first, you’ll need to get to know the menu on the top of your screen. It looks like this:

From left to right this menu allows you to “undo” or “redo” previous actions. The hand allows you to select items. The teardrop looking icon allows you to add a marker anywhere you desire. The next icon (looks kind of like a triangle with points and circles) is used to draw lines on your map. The arrow second from the right allows you to draw driving directions. The ruler measures the distance between points on the map.

To draw the Via Crucis route in Pilsen click the triangle(ish) icon positioned three icons over from the right. Then click on “walking directions” and click on the “A” icon (Providence of God) and the “B” icon (Harrison Park). You’ll notice that a line pops up along 18th street. You also have the option of naming the route.

Finally, I want to show that people walked to St. Adalbert Church after the crucifixion, but do not want to use the walking directions. In other words, I want to visually distinguish the two routes from each other. Click again on the same triangle icon and chose “add line or shape” and draw a walking route to St. Adalbert Church. Then click on the menu to the left to relabel the new route. I entitled it: “walk to prayer service.” Our map now looks like this:

There is a ton more you can do with Google My Maps. You can change the icon shapes and colors, add or take away layers, rename places, add pictures to the icons you draw on the map, etc. Play around with it.

However, and this is a very big however, there is one problem with My Maps. When you attempt to drop the url for our beautiful map into Medium, a Google Maps engine picture pops up and your visitors will have to click on it to get to the map. This is not ideal. If you self create a map you will need to screenshot it like I did above and drop it into Medium just liked you would with an image. This looks great, but the map is not functional like the other maps we created above. To screenshot on Macs, click “command-shift-4” and use the cursor to highlight the part of the screen you want to snapshot. Macs, I believe, by default save screenshots to the desktop. For Windows users, see this article about screenshots.

11. Embed all sorts of media

To embed video, tweets, Sound Cloud, Vines, etc., just enter the url and hit enter. For example, below I embedded a recent tweet I made after the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. You’ll notice that by clicking on @chriscnote you will be taken directly to the tweet. I embedded the tweet by copying the url for this particular tweet and then pasting it into Medium. To find the direct url for an individual tweet click the “” below the tweet and click “copy link to tweet.” At this time I do not think that Medium is capable of embedding a live Twitter feed. For more help see Medium’s help page on embedding.

Embedded Tweet

You can even embed SoundCloud playlists or stations. Go ahead and try it. It works - it really does!

As I said in the note up top, this is not an exhaustive tutorial of Medium, but I do hope it will get you started on using this new and exciting platform. Please message me if you have any questions. Good luck!

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