Blogging as an undergrad

“Goals of getting undergrads to write blog posts? Improve their science comm or improve their understanding of science? Or both?#scio11

-from @colo_kea on the Twittersphere

As an undergrad that attempts to blog about science topics, I would like to say that the goal of science blogging should be both to improve the communication and understanding of science. However, I’d like to add an addendum to the above tweet. Instead of getting undergrads to just write blog posts, they should also be involved in Twitter. Blogging when combined with Twitter is far more effective at these goals than it would be on its own.

Through Twitter, I’ve made some fantastic connections with other geologists and professionals in their chosen fields. It’s a lot like having open access to the faculty lounge where I can drop in when I want to and ask questions or share thoughts. When combined with my blog, I have an outlet where I can formalize my thoughts and questions in a less restrictive format and receive critiques to help bolster my understanding of science. Without Twitter, my blog wouldn’t have the same benefit for me that it currently produces.

As I write about science topics I’m forced to learn the material and verify the validity of what I’m writing. It’s basically like writing a research paper and the geotweeps are there to offer corrections and answer my questions. In this way, I strengthen my understanding of scientific principles and I have the chance to communicate those findings with guidance from professionals. This ensures that I’m not espousing quackery and psuedoscience as real science.

From my perspective as an undergrad, the goals of blogging are clear and the benefits tangible. For me, the real question is how do we get more undergrads involved in the blogging process?

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9 thoughts on “Blogging as an undergrad

  1. You bring up great points. Communication and understanding go hand in hand: we can’t write effectively about something we don’t understand. That’s especially true about plain language science writing, because we can’t hide behind jargon.

    Strong, effective oral and written communication skills are key employment skills. In my experience, geoscientists who can write well for a variety of audiences are likely to have more job options open to them.

    • That’s one of the side benefits to keeping a blog that I didn’t have the chance to address in my post. Writing a blog post presents different challenges than writing a research paper. Blogging forces you to adapt your language to be more accessible to those without any science background. That in itself can be immensely challenging.

  2. How to get more undergrads to blog? Make it an assignment. Blogging well takes a bit of time and a bit of dedication. Undergrads may not feel their schedule allows enough hours in the day to get that done. If they know it’s for credit and that the eyes of their fellow students are upon them it could be a great launching platform for the few students that kept up with after the class ended.

    To be fair, PZ Myers already does something like this for one of his classes, but I don’t feel like tracking down a link for it.

  3. Pingback: Blogging as an undergrad, pt. 2 « Glacial Till

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