08 November 2012

Blogging about research and visiting Pittsburgh

This week I'm in the USA, attending the 32nd Charleston Conference. On the way to South Carolina, I spent a few days in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. On Monday, I visited the University of Pittsburgh's School of Information Sciences. This was a really valuable opportunity to get an insight into the US approach to doctoral studies. The US PhD course seems to have a much greater focus on equipping students with the skills they need to become faculty members. The final thesis or dissertation only occupies around one year to eighteen months, rather than being the focus of the full three or four years of study, as it is in the UK.

In the afternoon I facilitated a discussion session about blogging for research. I gave a brief presentation, which included talking about three blogs created and maintained by members of the University of Sheffield's iSchool. I also discussed my own experience of blogging including the benefits of maintaining this blog, such as:
  • Popular posts about events which I've attended - sharing experiences which may be relevant and of interest to other people, but which not everyone would have the opportunity to attend;
  • Acting as an informal record of the progress of my research and a place where I can embed resources such as presentations or documents;
  • Leading to contacts from people interested in my research, either through comments on the blog or by email;
  • Providing further information about my research for research participants or potential participants;
  • Giving a global dimension to my research, with a significant number of blog visitors being based outside the UK;
I also talked about some of the challenges and limitations I've experienced, including:
  • My lack of integration of the blog with other social media tools;
  • The somewhat sporadic nature of my postings and the challenge of finding time to post;
  • A relatively small number of comments - I'm aware I could do much more to encourage discussion here;
  • Ethical issues and issues relating to prior publication - how much can I say about my research findings here on the blog and how much do I want to save for journal articles or conference papers?
The presentation was followed by a lively discussion about the pros anc cons of blogging about research and encouraged me to resolve to blog more frequently.

Many thanks to everyone at the University of Pittsburgh iSchool for giving me such a warm welcome!

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