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Social Scholar: An introduction to writing blog posts (29 October 2014)


How do you write a blog post? Is it the same as writing a very short article or a press release? Next Wednesday (29 October), Matt Phillpott (School of Advanced Study) will talk at the Social Scholar lunchtime seminar on the topic of writing blog posts in an academic and higher education environment. 


By Matt Phillpott

If you search online you will very quickly find numerous articles offering advice about how to write a good, successful blog post.  Many of these will be lists – 20 Quick Tips on Writing Great Blog Posts or 19 Headline Writing Tips for Blog Posts – or suggest that if you follow these ‘rules’ then you will quickly make money out of your post: Writing a Good Blog – For Dummies; How to Write a Blog Post: A Simple Formula etc.

 a blog can take any form that you want it to take. It can have any voice you wish to give it. It can be thousands of words or a few hundred; it could be an image with a title, or a video. There is no right or wrong way to write a blog post.

As a general rule in academia we are not interested in making money from blog posts. That is not their primary purpose or even their secondary purpose. It’s simply not relevant. We are interested in attracting an audience – of course – but the advice pieces often do not help us to solve the balance problem that we often come across whenever we try and summarise complex material into a short gathering of paragraphs. How do we ensure that our point has been made and understood without losing the very audience we seek in the process?

I have been involved with blogs since 2010 (which doesn’t sound long, but then blogs have only really developed beyond their initial focus as personal online dairies since c. 2009) and I have spent time thinking about how to write posts and reading the advice scattered throughout the internet. Most of it isn’t very helpful for academics. The advice is directed towards business – towards pushing up sales – not toward scholarly impact and public engagement.

The advice talks about ‘rules’ but I’ve looked at successful and unsuccessful blogs from academic institutions, groups, and individuals, and the ‘rules’ often don’t apply. In short, a blog can take any form that you want it to take. It can have any voice you wish to give it. It can be thousands of words or a few hundred; it could be an image with a title, or a video. There is no right or wrong way to write a blog post.

And yet! The advice that does exist can be used by academics and research facilitation staff as a guide and as a means to more successfully put a point across. There are ways to write that aid skim reading (for almost all blog posts are skim read more than they are read in detail), there are ways to point out quickly what the topic is about, and there are ways to ensure that the blog post works for you just as much as it works for the intended audience.

I will therefore be offering suggestions at this month’s Social Scholar on how you might wish to write and structure a blog post. I won’t be suggesting ‘rules’, but I will be offering advice on structuring, length, and tone and much else besides.

Full details can be found on the SAS events system. The Social Scholar is a FREE event held by the School of Advanced Study every month. Please also follow us on Twitter @SASNews hashtag #socialscholar.


First Battle of Ypres: ‘the calamitous campaign of autumn 1914’


Race_to_the_Sea_1914By Professor William Philpott

In October 1914 the British army found itself fighting near a Belgian town that was to become synonymous with British military experience in the First World War, Ypres. While traditional images of individual and collective heroism worthy of pre-industrialised wars have ever after been associated with the First Battle of Ypres, which raged from early October until mid-November, in fact the remnants of the British regular and Indian armies were embroiled in a very different sort of battle. Continue reading →

Why I studied law


Conor Gearty1

By Professor Conor Gearty, FBA

In this special guest blog for Being Human, Conor Gearty, professor of Law at the London School of Economics and Fellow of the British Academy, looks back on inspirations drawn from a career studying law. Touching on some of the law events organised for Being Human, he argues that, ‘Law is a compelling combination of humanities and social sciences, with a dash of scientific logic thrown in’. Continue reading →

#PotW: IHR 2015 Winter Conference: Utopian Universities


UntitledA conference devoted to the new universities of the 1960s.

Rather than duplicate the various individual jubilees which have and are taking place in the seven universities (Essex, Lancaster, Sussex, UEA, UKC, Warwick and York) themselves, our aim is to look back at this moment in the history of higher education.

The conference will examine comparatively the aspirations and achievements around curricular development, campus design, philanthropy, the student experience, and local participation.

Additionally, the conference will look back to the pioneers, such as Keele; to the successors, such as Stirling and Ulster; and also consider the legacy of the utopian universities in the modern world today.


Venue: Institute of Historical Research, University of London.
Senate House, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7H

Date and time: 23–24 October 2014

Register here

‘German in the World’. A One-day Symposium


By James Hodkinson

So where in the world is German? This deliberately wide-ranging question is not merely a geographical one: recognizing the undisputed political and economic importance of the German speaking nations, it also asks about the status of the language itself. To what extent are school children learning it and students studying it? And as educational politics seems to step back time and again from any real commitment to modern foreign languages, despite so much rhetoric to the contrary, is German in some sort of crisis within educational systems? Or is it more the case that, within the MFL field, German is ebbing away as other languages rise in prominence? Continue reading →

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