Should I blog about my studies? Some thoughts…

Perhaps the first port of call to ask these questions should be your supervisor(s)? They will be aware of assessment criteria for your programme and the codes of conduct for the University. Or maybe you’ve already been provided with these?

I suspect that Aaron tagged me in knowing how important blogging was for me, so here are my perspectives on the two specific questions you raised:

Do you think it’s ok if I blog about my education master’s this year while I’m doing it?

Blogging for me was partly about maintaining a record of progress in my thinking, but mostly helping me bring order to chaotic, randomly generated, nascent, and under-developed thoughts. The post history allowed me to track how those thoughts changed: in response to different texts; following discussions with supervisors and others; and as I wrangled the ongoing project. If at any time I needed to revisit what had prompted me to choose a particular path, I had the means to do that. Of course that needn’t have taken place in a public arena such as a blog; it could just as easily have been through a digital journal such as OneNote etc (Paper-based journals do have some advantages; search is not one of them!).

I felt that taking a more private route would have been misaligned with my area of study. Having been blogging as a way to learn with my professional network over several years, I felt it would have been inappropriate to then conduct my thinking privately, especially given that some of that network would become contributors as participants in, or discussants of my work. At any stage, participants had the opportunity, should they wish to look back at how I’d arrived at the questions I was researching, the methods I’d chosen, and the theories which would underpin my study. Crucially, Aaron and other kind souls asked questions and made observations through the blog comments which obliged me to think more deeply about many areas; they helped me refine my thoughts and reflect on the directions I was taking.

Did it take more time? Certainly. Was that time wasted? Not one moment. Some people are capable of translating their thinking directly into meaningful, high-quality, well-reasoned text. I lack that skill and need to mull things through over time, discard redundant dead-ends, and refine those ideas I wish to retain. Transposing my thoughts into text by blogging allowed me to do that.

[Edit] Just thought of another benefit – writing practice. Getting into the habit of writing regularly can help when you get to the stage of assembling a dissertation. Posting that writing into a public arena encourages more careful and considered choice of structure and content. Even though I knew my ‘audience’ was tiny, if even present at all, I attended more carefully to the words I chose more so than had I been writing with no potential audience at all.

Is there anything I need to watch out for so I don’t accidentally “academic misconduct” myself?

More experienced academics will have more to say here. In the tweet thread some mention plagiarism, both self- and by others. It’s important to be mindful of what content is presented and whether anyone might find it of value. Other academics? Probably not. Other students – possibly. I always felt that most of what I posted was work in progress – I invariably concluded posts with more questions than solutions.

As Aaron mentions, it’s likely you’ll be required to submit a final version of your dissertation through a plagiarism checker like ‘TurnItIn’ before finally submitting it for examination. Having submitted my thesis through TurnItIn, I then had to include a copy of the report produced, together with any of my responses, with my thesis.

I should also mention that you need to think through potential ethical issues. If any posts you write discuss people, whether authors of texts, fellow students or academics, and especially participants (or the groups to which they belong), it’s crucial to think through potential ramifications and the impact your blogging might have. Then there’s how you refer to organisations such as schools, your own university, professional bodies etc). You will doubtless have been issued your university’s ethical code of conduct and will likely have been (or will be) required to make an ethics submission. Revisit these in the light of your blogging.


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