ALTC 2010: Shifting themes, shifting roles: the development of research blogs

Rebecca Ferguson, Gill Clough, Anesa Hosein

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The Cloudworks Team
31 August 2010

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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 using grounded theory focused on the research blogs of three first-year doctoral students (Ferguson et al. 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 became members of an academic community of practice ((Wenger 1998), completed their doctorates and took jobs as researchers. Using participant observation, coupled with thematic analysis using the themes identified in the pilot study, it investigates 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 they became more expert in the new literacies associated with this practice (Burgess 2006; Lankshear and Knobel 2008). Once the students had made the transition to early-career researchers, 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 (Walker 2006). 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.

Rebecca Ferguson
10:31 on 4 September 2010

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