Lately, interest in blog writing is growing among academics. At CMNH, we recently had a session to discuss strategies for writing academic blog articles, where I had the fortune of discussing the topic with colleagues. Many ideas came up, but one question that resonated with many even after the session was, “Where do I start?”
In an attempt to answer that question, I put together this piece to provide some sort of simple steps to writing an academic blog.
However, before I discuss the steps, it is important to say why academics need to write blog articles. First, not every intellectual thought ends up as a research article – you can share your other thoughts through a blog. That way, none of your valuable academic thoughts and views go to waste. Writing a blog article helps to improve your writing skills and establish you as an authority in your area of interest. It also helps in building a stronger professional network.
You could use your blog post to remind people of that great journal article you wrote a couple of years ago that no one remembers any more, by supporting your arguments with a link to that article, to maximise the impact of your research articles.
Now, let’s move on to the steps for writing an academic blog post.
Step #1: Select a topic:
The good thing about an academic blog is that you can write about almost anything as long as it has an academic angle you can explore. You can write about events you’ve attended (like conferences, seminars, workshops, etc). Did you leave an event with some lingering questions on your mind? Did you have an unfinished discussion? Write about it. You can also write about your experiences during a field work trip for example.
You may find inspiration from international days or write commentaries about lectures you’ve given or attended. Sometimes, your replies to a post in a professional email group or on social media could be spruced up for a blog post. You could also write tips for or guide to doing some of the things you do on a daily basis as an academic, e.g. tips for using a research software.
Finally, social media is a good source of inspiration. By watching trends related to your area of interest, you could get very interesting ideas to write about. I find Twitter and LinkedIn particularly helpful.
Step #2: Brainstorm:
Once you’ve decided on your topic, you need to come up with a catchy headline. Details of how to select a good title is beyond the scope of this article. However, titles beginning with “how to” tend to attract attention. Similarly, headlines that have numbers in them usually do well, e.g. “10 Tips on Writing a Blog”. Some people prefer writing the headline after the article, and that’s fine; it’s a matter of style and what you feel comfortable doing.
Next, brainstorm at least 10 points you’d like to make in the article. Some may not be lead points, but could make excellent supporting points. Other points may be completely irrelevant, but that’s also fine; save them for later – they could be useful in future articles.
Step #3: Introduce your topic:
Now the real writing begins. Introduce your topic in the first paragraph such that the reader can get an idea of what the article is about by just reading that paragraph.
Step #4: Flesh it up point by point:
Take each of the points you brainstormed and expand on it by giving more information and supporting your arguments with facts. Although an academic article is an opinion-based writing, it makes sense to support your arguments with scientific facts by hyperlinking your points to online references. This is particularly important when you’re quoting figures; readers need to know your source.
For balance and objectivity, you should mention any counter arguments as well.
Repeat the last few steps for all your points until you exhaust them.
Step #5: Conclude:
Your conclusion is a summary of what you’ve just written. It should capture the essence of your article in one or two sentences. Close your arguments with something to attract comments – a question, for example.
If you’re writing for your organisation, remember to mention something in your conclusion that relates your article’s topic to your organisation’s work. It is an excellent opportunity to increase awareness about your work. So, don’t waste it.
There you have it… the 5 simple steps to creating a great academic blog article.
Remember to try and keep it simple, clear and persuasive. Avoid jargon (or, if you must, hyperlink jargon to an explanation); use short sentences and paragraphs, and keep your article short (some say 500 to 1000 words, and I agree). Maintaining a friendly tone increases the proportion of readers who read the whole article, and increases your chances of getting people to comment and share your blog.
Finally, for search engine optimisation (SEO), make sure you mention your targeted keywords in the first paragraph and the last paragraphs, and throughout the article, to help get recognised by search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. Many SEO experts recommend that keywords should constitute 2% to 5% of your total word count.
About the Authors:
Dr. Mamuda Aminu is a researcher at the Centre for Maternal and Newborn Health, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health with interests in maternal and newborn health. He has been blogging since 2008.