I created this blog in April 2015, when I was close to leaving my job and planning on enrolling in university as a mature student. Apart from wanting to write about my interests, my blogging intention was also to improve my writing skills and to explore topics that could be slightly less mainstream in the blogosphere and more closely related to academia.
Therefore, my blog is intrinsically connected to education, especially to my personal educational journey. But can these two spheres – blogging and education – be put together? Will creating a blog help a college student in any way?
This post is dedicated to fellow student bloggers, as well as aspiring university students. Here I will prove that, yes, blogging can indeed affect and improve your academic life.
But first, let’s take a look at some similarities and some differences between writing a blog post and writing an academic paper.
How your blogging process should be similar to academic writing
1. Research the subject well.
Whatever you’re going to write, the first obvious thing to do is to research the topic. While in university, the top place to go to is the library, for blogging it’s easier to limit yourself to the Internet (that doesn’t mean that books should be out of the question).
Your research should take you to news websites for current affairs, to other blogs for current trends, and to a Google search. It’s important that, even if in the end you’ll mostly blog about your personal life and experiences, you still know your topic or argument inside out from different perspectives. You don’t want to pass on fabricated information to your readers.
2. Plan, plan, plan!
Planning is such an important step; professors and bloggers will never tire of telling you that. It’s practically impossible to start writing without following a basic plan. So, what do you need to do?
Lists are your friends. Start writing your points in a bulleted or numbered list, on paper or on the computer. The more you write, the more you need to expand (sub-points) and re-order (sequence and subtitled sections), so to properly develop your arguments. Alternate this method with a concept map, by writing your main points and connecting them to each other. Another tip is to ask yourself basic questions: What? Who? Where? How? Why? Your argumentation will be complete once you have no questions left.
3. Give your post a working title and always refer to it.
One significant risk for students, which can send their college paper flying into the trash bin, is going out of point. In blogging, this will make your post appear pointless. That is why preparing an outline and following it while writing is essential. Another way of helping yourself is to give a working title to your post (or a final one, if you’re sure of it) and always refer to it. The title, apart from being concise and catchy, needs to point out clearly your intentions as a writer. What’s the purpose of your post? Write it in the title and keep it in front of you as a constant guidance.
4. Don’t interrupt the flow.
The biggest temptation when writing is to pause at every sentence and recheck it. It’s true, admit it; I’m speaking from experience! Avoid doing that because it slows you down, it distracts you, and it also demotivates you. Just keep writing (think of Finding Nemo‘s Dory and rephrase her mantra) and try not to disturb your flow. You should have ample time to check what you’ve written after you finish the draft.
5. Don’t edit straight away.
Whether you’re writing an essay in university or a post for your blog, the burden on your mind can be huge. Who said that writing is easy, anyway? So, once you finish your draft, let it go for a while. It could be for hours, even days if possible. Your brain needs to go tabula rasa before you’re ready to check your writing, find grammatical mistakes and edit here and there. If you do it, you can easily turn your final piece of writing from meh to oomph!
6. Link the sources you use.
An academic paper must rely on facts and opinions coming from other scholars and without citations and a bibliography, it becomes a case of plagiarism. Blogging works a bit differently; in fact, I don’t see many bloggers linking to other websites, mostly because a lot of the blogging work is supposed to come from the blogger’s originality. Some kind of posts could require some linking, though. I do it, for example, with some complex posts like this and this. Even if your post is inspired by other bloggers’ content, it’s good to link to their posts. It’s nice and fair.
Some differences that you need to watch out for
1. Scope – Although a blog post can discuss any kind of topic, the domain of academic writing is more restricted and specific, depending on the area of studies. So in blogging, you can be more versatile, but then, that versatility needs to be controlled properly in university.
2. Audience – College papers require the use of a particular register because their readers are tutors and scholars. They need to sound formal and up to standard, with the inclusion of terms of a certain level. Blogging, on the other hand, tends to be more informal and bloggers like to adopt a personal voice. When you’re a student and a blogger, you need to be aware of these differences, and as a blogger, you still need to be careful because you don’t know who is reading you.
3. Limits – Writing a paper for assessment entails some limits such as the number of words and the deadline for submitting it. Such restrictions still apply to blogging, but you have the choice of flexibility. Nevertheless, if you keep a routine as a blogger, you’ll be training yourself for when the academic deadlines approach.
How blogging can boost your academic writing
1. It will make you more inquisitive.
The vast array of topics you can blog about will definitely lead you to new paths. One subject leads to another, and thus you’ll be expanding your knowledge. This can turn you into a curious researcher when it comes to choosing arguments for your academic papers.
2. It will make you more analytical.
If you outline your blog posts coherently, you’ll be training your brain to work more analytically. Transferring this skill to academic writing means that you’ll be able to come up with propositions, debate them from different perspectives and arrive at a conclusion that makes sense.
3. It will improve and diversify your writing skills.
Naturally, the more you write, the better you’ll become. You’ll get used to writing in a correct and professional manner, by expressing your ideas clearly and by going straight to the heart of your arguments, without wasting time on triviality. Moreover, by moving between the formality of academic writing and the informality of blogging, you’ll learn to master both in their proper context, and that will allow you to build a colourful portfolio.
4. It will give you confidence.
In the last point, I said that you’ll get used to writing. Getting used to the blogging process and the routine it brings along will fortify your confidence. Consequently, the craft will become easier and you’ll feel ready to tackle academic writing, whatever the topic is. What’s also good with blogging is that you can receive immediate feedback, which is a big boost to the confidence.
5. It will make you fall in love with writing.
So, we said that blogging will make you more curious, it will improve your writing, and it will give you confidence, thus making academic writing seem a little less daunting. If you enjoy blogging and you manage to nail college papers, chances are you’ll start loving the art of writing in every form, and you’ll probably want to do it for the rest of your life, perhaps even as a career.
My final comments to undergraduates and aspiring university students? Adopt blogging as an extracurricular activity now. It’s enjoyable, it’s incredibly rewarding, and in many ways, it can put you on the right track towards academic writing.