Working at Campus Archaeology, I began maintaining a blog that was initially intended to update the public about our whereabouts, be it in the field or when we were giving guest lectures. What it has become, however, is a running log about our research findings, interpretations, and methodology. I have found this to be incredibly useful for a variety of reasons, and I wanted to outline some of the benefits here in hopes that other researchers might begin to do the same.
Public Engagement: One of the major elements of Campus Archaeology has been engaging the public in what we do. The blog has been a great way for us to share results and interpretations about MSU’s past on a regular basis, not just waiting for a newspaper article or journal publication to educate people about their school’s past. This also provides a chance to go beyond educating about results, and venture into discussions about how research is done: what is stratigraphy? How do you read it? What can it teach us? How do we link the historical and archaeological record? Things like this are easy to explain and easy to show through a blog post.
Getting It Out: Every researcher knows the feeling: you’ve got some idea that you just need to share, because it’s too good to wait for a conference paper or that article that won’t come out in four years. Write a blog post about it. Or a series of posts, even. This will help you work out your process, and may even help you gain some early criticism or comments before you face the firing squad that is peer review. Also? You get it down before anyone else does.
Share Results: Since Campus Archaeology has a group of people who follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and we broadcast our archaeology live from the field, we owe it to our followers to share our results quickly, or else they will lose interest. Posting to a blog allows for us to do this. They may not be exact results, but it at least allows us to answer that burning question every person has for an archaeologist, “So, what did you find?”
A Research Log: A blog also offers a researcher an opportunity to record things that have already happened. Each semester we get new interns at Campus Archaeology, and we make sure that they go back and read all the posts on the Campus Arch blog, so that they are caught up on what research has already been done. This also gives them an idea as to how to write posts themselves on their Intern Blog, which we require them to maintain. It has also been helpful for me, when I am working on archaeology reports, to have a written record of not only data, but ideas, concepts, and preliminary conclusions.
Share Those Nifty-but-not-Publishable Things: We all have them. Those fun tidbits that happen during your research that are just big enough to be interesting, but don’t warrant their own article. Maybe you could eek a conference paper out of them, but really it’s just a fun piece of history or a snazzy artifact that you happened upon, and that you want to share. A blog post is the perfect place to do this. Odds are good, if you like it, other people will, too. And no, it doesn’t warrant its own article, but damn it, it’s cool. So write about it anyway. Who knows, maybe it is more important to someone else, and you get cited.
I hope to continue to use this blog in a similar capacity when I get rolling on my dissertation research, and then again with subsequent work. Are there any other ways you think a research blog could be beneficial? Any drawbacks?
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