Shifting themes, shifting roles: The development of research blogs

Gill Clough and I returned to ALT-C – this time to present on the next stage of our research (with Anesa Hosein) into research blogging.

Ferguson, Rebecca; Clough, Gill and Hosein, Anesa (2010). Shifting themes, shifting roles: the development of research blogs. In: ‘Into Something Rich and Strange’ – Making Sense of the Sea-Change. The 17th Association for Learning Technology Conference (ALT-C 2010), 7-9 September 2010, Nottingham, UK.

The study described in this paper investigated the use of research blogs by postgraduate students over a four-year period. An initial, one-year, pilot focused on the research blogs of three first-year doctoral students (Ferguson, Clough, & Hosein, 2007). Analysis indicated that blogs were used to promote a community where students were encouraged to reflect and share ideas, skills and stories of research life. The blogs also acted as memory repositories and encouraged collaboration. The main study followed the students’ blogs for another three years, as they completed their doctorates and took jobs as early-career researchers. It investigated changes in the use and content of research blogs during this period. All three students continued to make use of their blogs for reflection over this period, and the blogs’ use as a memory repository became increasingly important, especially during the period of writing up research. Once the students had made the transition to early-career researcher, the nature of their blog use changed and began to fragment. This was due, in part, to issues of confidentiality, and data protection associated with their employment. While they continued to use their original research blogs to promote community and collaboration, the constraints of their work meant that new posts were often posted in closed blogs, or were marked as protected. At the same time, they were required or encouraged to make use of project-related blogs as part of a planned communication strategy by their employers. The findings of this longitudinal study clarify the changing expectations and needs of learners, employers and society in relation to researchers’ blogs, and identify skills, awareness and knowledge needed to support the use of blogging by research students.

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