How to write a great blog post on your research topic? A brief guide in 9 steps.
Writing a blog post is not rocket science. You can do it pretty easily. The only thing you have to do is to sit down, put your computer and mobile phone in silent mode and within 45 minutes you will have a great blog post ready.
As researcher you are already an expert in your field. This saves you a lot of preparation time compared to other bloggers which write on a variety of topics. Here are some tips and hints that help you with getting started to write an interesting and successful blog post.
The Topic // Think about your topic and make sure it is neither too broad nor too narrow. Write down the answers to the following questions before you start writing the blog:
- What is my topic?
- What is the main take-away- message of this blog post?
- What is the opener or lead story of your blog post?
Audience // Have your audience/ reader in mind when you write. Blogging brings the advantage of reaching an audience other than our colleagues / fellow scientists — though some of them might read also blogs of course — our main audience are non-experts so our language should be understandable without too many technical terms, jargon and acronyms — if you use them explain them. Keep it simple and clean!
Word limits // Don’t overload your blog. It should be readable in a couple of minutes and easy to digest. It should also be not too much writing work for you. The typical blog posts that are successful have 700 to 1000 words — exceptions prove the rule.
Content elements // writing a scientific blog is not the same like writing a journal paper just shorter. Blogging has the great potential to show the human faces behind science and to reduce the gap between science and the general public. So in blogs posts we should bring in: our opinions, personal anecdotes, stories, but also difficulties and struggles we sometimes face. In the sake of the 3rd mission of research it is important to reduce the distance between the academic world and the people out there. Blogs are a great tool to show that researchers are humans like you and me.
One important content element of blogging is to pick up the current public debate or issues that are discussed by the media and comment on them based on your experiences or research results. If you have no specific research results it does not prevents you from having an opinion based on your past experiences right? So it is totally fine also just to write an opinion piece.
Get inspired // read other blogs to get inspired. Pick up the same styles that you liked in other blogs, drop stuff that you did not like. Here is a nice post on how blogging changes the nature of academic research, not just how it is communicated by Patrick Dunleavy writing for the LSE Impact Blog.
Consider also writing a blog for existing research blogs to widen your audience. Here is a first list of blogs that you might want to contribute to:
There are many more out there.
Writing // start writing the blog post by pinning down the structure and story line. Just put down a quick list of keywords for your story line.
In contrast to the structure we are used to have in scientific papers for blog posts it is recommended to start with the main outcomes / catchy first sentences and then flesh them out with background and supporting information.
Good blogs tell a story! So think of what your story is for this particular blog that you are writing on. Also when your blog is rather an opinion blog or commentary you can combine it with a story explaining why you have this opinion. Maybe you have been at a conference or you recently did empirical research and you realized something that changed your mind. Remember that stories become more interesting when there is friction / danger of failing / or a sort of fight / struggle.
- Write in the first person
- Use active voice
- “The goal isn’t to “dumb down” your research, but to explain it clearly, completely, and concisely” (Sarah Boon).
- Think about suitable subsection because “each subsection and paragraph is a potential pathway into the text for a scanning reader”.
- Avoid question sentences. Questions generally make poor topic sentences
- Avoid using scientific references (Meister Eder et al. 2019, 11) put all your sources and references as hyperlink in the text. 󠆵
Support your content for example with: Illustrating images or photos, quotes, videos, audios, maps and the like. Refer to these resources in the text so that the reader know how and wehn to look at it.
Connect your blog post to the debate in the blog platform you are publishing your blog post:
- Try to find other blog posts that support parts of your blog and link them in the text this will increase the overall visibility of your blog platform.
- End your blog post with a ‘call to action’ meaning a link to further readings (e.g. scientific paper you or another author published; blog post; news article, online feature, podcast etc.).
The Title // Finding a good title is not easy but is extremly important. Use some extra time to find a great and engaging title. The title is key for your blog to be read. The following can help to find a good title:
- Write at least 7 alternative titles down to get a nice variety
- Think of what people usually google so your blog will be found; google your potential blog titles.
- Does your title contains part of your story? If yes, perfect. If not try to integrate it.
- Think about the take away the reader is getting from reading your blog. It is always great if the reader can see in the title what s/he is getting form reading this blog.
- It is always an advantage if blogs are timely. So make sure that your title connects to a current public debate or buzz words.
Publish and shout out loud // before publishing your blog post discuss it with the blog editors about improvements and tag categories / key words under which your post will be published.
Once your blog post is published let everyone know. Think about snippets, text blurbs etc. for social media to promote your blog.
Ask your readers in the blog what their opinions are are or make a little contest (e.g. a photo contest) to increase the audience engagement.
Think also about potential blog platforms for cross-postings, where the same blog post could be published again to reach another audience.
While you go back to your usual work and think about your next blog post. What are you passionate about? What topics do you find interesting? What issues popped up unexpectedly during your research? Those topics are great potential blog post. During your work you might find a lot of resources (text, visuals etc.) that you can directly use for your next blog post.
Think also about co-authors for future blogs as they will also increase the visibility of your blogs.
This short contribution is just a very concise overview on how to get started with writing a nice research blog post. If you want to go more into detail I recommend this blog post by Patrick Dunleavy: pointing out the importance of blogging in academia, explaining different types of blogs, and giving six tips for academic blog editors.
Here is also another great overview by Kayly Oakes on how to create a successful science blog including tips for the writing process.
However, don’t get distracted in the world of blogs about blogs. Simply sit down and start writing.