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What is research blogging?


According to Jim Porter in his blog, RhetHistoria, the research blog is….


“… a professional, disciplinary blog — sometimes written by an individual, sometimes by a collection of authors — that identifies, summarizes, critiques, and shares preliminary research in a public, collaborative way. I’m not talking here about formal publication — what an online journal would do. I’m talking about the use of blogs as an exploratory inventional tool, as a way to share resources, to present preliminary findings-in-progress, and to discuss trends and possibilities. This kind of blog makes the preliminary stages of research and inquiry more public and more collaborative: in essence, it’s the use of an Internet writing tool to deploy the wisdom of the crowd earlier in the research process and in the service of invention. Was there an analog version of this? Sure. In the old days we used to talk with colleagues, share ideas with our peers, have brainstorming sessions, get feedback on early drafts, etc. But it was much more limited and much more local. It didn’t involve large numbers of collaborators or have the media power (potential power anyway) of the Internet behind it.”



How might the idea of the research blog be applied in first-year composition courses?


Some possible benefits:

  • Encourage greater audience awareness
  • Garner feedback as part of the research process
  • Makes knowledge-building explicitly social
  • Professional and academic networking possibilities
  • More concrete sense of purpose to assignment
  • Transfer of usable skills to other contexts
  • Establishes student within an active learning community
  • Dialogic, conversational dynamic via interaction



According to Jean Burgess, three types of complex computer literacies can be taught/demonstrated in blogs:


1)   Critical Literacy

  • A deep understanding of the cultural context of technology


2)   Creative Literacy

  • Ability to experiment with technology to serve social goals


3)   Network Literacy

  • Ability to effectively and ethically use technologies to construct and share knowledge



I contend that these literacies can also be applied to content and the analysis of materials in order to create research blogs:


1)   Critical literacy

  • Students must critically analyze sources, making rhetorical decisions about the content and purpose of the information in order to produce the blog entry


2)   Creative literacy

  • Students must adapt their work creatively and rhetorically in order to be effective within the particular situation and for the audience who will be reading their blogs


3)   Network literacy

  • Students must understand the complex interconnected, intertextual web on meaning on the internet in order to effectively situation their own work within it



Situating student research blogging in this manner reinforces the idea of blogging as more than mere textual production, but rather as a complex social (inter)action.


“If this kind of creative and critical engagement with learning is to be constituted effectively through blogging, students and teachers need to better understand how to build the critical, creative, and network literacies that are required for, and are in turn enhanced by, effective educational blogging” (Burgess 112).



Alexander Halavais identifies four themes that he sees as constituting a common practices and beliefs of all bloggers:


1)   Blogs rely on networked audiences that may have little in common other than their readership of a particular blog

2)   Blogging encourages conversation by presenting a text and then inviting commentary on that text.

3)   Blogging is a low-intensity activity that requires little in the way of time commitments.

4)   Blogging provides a relatively unedited presentation of the thinking process.



“For some scholars, a blog replaces the notebook as a way of externalizing thought” (Halavais 119).


In light of the four beliefs listed above, what might some benefits be for blogging rather than keeping notes in a closed, private space such as a notebook?


  • Makes the thought process visible and public
  • Invites conversation
  • Can reach audiences with similar interests
    • Other scholars
    • The general public
  • Makes knowledge-building a social process
  • Possibility for feedback and new sources through dialog
  • Can mix the personal and the professional




Jill Walker discusses the types of research blogs based upon who keeps them and why:


1)   The Public Intellectual

  • Known scholars may keep blogs as a platform for political and social debate


2)   The Research Log

  • A “pure” research log may document research as it is happening


3)   The Pseudonymous Blogs about Academic Life

  • Anonymous academics may keep humorous and/or critical blogs about life in the academy



Walker points out the social nature of blogs, saying, “Blogs, after all, are inherently social. Whether you have five readers or five hundred doesn’t really matter; it’s the knowledge that this will be read that is important” (133).


For students, who are often used to their work being read only by their instructor and perhaps one or two peers, blogs have the possibility of offering a wider audience. Along with this audience comes a rhetorical awareness of purpose and audience considerations that have more “real world” applications than merely writing for the assignment to a very limited audiences, sometimes only of one.


In addition, Walker points out that blogs are not objects, but rather “ processes, actions, sites of exchange, more like Socrates’s original dialogues must have been than Plato’s written version of them” (137).


In this way, blogs offer a rhetorical, dialogic, social way of making meaning and can be implemented in first-year classrooms in place of more isolated, conventional assignments such as the annotated bibliography or traditional journal.

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