What is a blog…?

An online diary, with entries (known as posts) written in reverse chronological order. It is possible to post text as well as embed other content (such as images or videos or tweets from your Twitter account).  Those reading a blog can often use the comments feature to interact with the blog writer (known as a blogger) and other people (though some blogs have comments disabled).

Anatomy of a blog

Anatomy of a blog

Blogging terminology

Blog post: Displays in reverse chronological order on the blog home page. Can be listed in various widgets and you can control how many posts display at a time. Can assign categories and tags to posts.

Blog page: Is a static page. You cannot assign categories or tags to them and they are not listed in date order (though you can control the  order in which they display).

Categories: terms assigned to a blog post to enable you to group your blog posts into general related areas. It makes sense to limit the number of categories you use.

Tags: very specific term used to describe content in your blog post. You can use as many as you like.

Confused? Categories vs Tags

Comments: Enable people to comment on  your blog post and build a discussion. See manage comments for further information.

Trackbacks: a way of acknowledging other blogs, a bit like referencing a journal article. Allow you to notify other blogging systems that you have linked to them. See the trackbacks page for instructions. If you link to a WordPress blog, then this notification happens automatically via a pingback.

Pingbacks: when you link to another WordPress blog post, it tells the blog post you are linking to that you have linked. It creates a connection between two related blog posts. See the pingbacks page for further information.


Reading blogs are a quick way of keeping up to date on current issues. They might focus on a particular research area, or on general issues of interest (e.g. open access). If a particular researcher is blogging, they might incorporate some science, some current issues and some information about the blogger. As mentioned above they also enable interaction between the blogger and their community. It is possible to monitor blogs (and other web pages) via an RSS feed (also known as a web feed or news feed).


Writing a blog (known as blogging) enables the informal communication of science (or business) to a wide audience (both expert and non-expert). Blogging can help you to improve your writing and encourages you to think about communicating to non-specialists (who may be other scientists but not necessarily in your field) as well as members of the public.

Blogs are easy to set up (you don’t need to be a techie) and blog software is often free and web-based. Some software (e.g. the locally hosted version of WordPress) enables you to use plugins to make writing science easier (e.g. LaTeX plugin). It is possible to post content anywhere, anytime – be it desktop computer, laptop, tablet or smart phone – as long as you have access to the internet. Posts can be made public or private. A blog can also be linked to other parts of your social media identity by way of widgets and other code (e.g. your Twitter account can be linked to your blog so that when you tweet about something it will appear in a Twitter feed on your blog).

The one thing you do need to blog is time to commit to it. While it’s not necessary to blog every day or even a few times a week, ideally you would blog on a regular basis to encourage your community to have a reason to follow you. If you prefer, you could set up a group blog, so that keeping it current doesn’t rely solely on one person.

Why blog? Duncan Green provides a very interesting justification: Why academics (and students) should take blogging/social media seriously

Before you start blogging take a look at our Blogging guidelines and the Imperial College London Social Media Guidelines.

Blogging case study: ed yong

This case study is an example of how a science writer (Ed Yong) blogged at a level that a non-specialist could understand. He was also easy to contact and as such was able to connect scientists and a farmer who had an unusual chicken.

“How did Sanders find me? ‘My search brought up several related blogs and articles but yours was the only one that was easy to read yet contained enough technical information (and diagrams) to answer my questions,’ he says. “’You also were the easiest to contact.’ ” (Yong, 2010)


How is blogging being used in science, BUSINESS and/or higher education?

  • As part of the actual research
  • Parallel to research
  • To engage in science/business communication
  • To engage in scientific/business/higher education issues

Or a combination of all of the above!

Most blogs tend to be a combination of these things. It depends on the field and how they communicate. It also depends on the blogger and what they want to say.

Imperial bloggers

Imperial group blogs

Interviews with Imperial researcher blogGERS

How do I find blogs (to read)?

Discovery of blogs is often via serendipity, you follow a particular blogger and they highlight other useful blogs. Also keep an eye on the blogroll of your favourite blogs.  It is also possible to use blog/social media specific search tools such as  Blog Search.

There are also a number of scientific blog networks that aggregate many science blogs, such as blogs, Blogs at Scitable by, Occam’s Typewriter, PLOS Blogs or SciLogs. Or check out Imperial’s staff blogging page. Imperial students are also blogging. Finally, some of the national newspapers have blogs, for example: the Guardian Business Blog, Guardian Science Blogs,  the Guardian Higher Education Blogs Network and Blogs at the FT.

Legal / ethical issues

The issues raised in the Legal & Ethical Issues and the Online Research Identity modules remain applicable when thinking about blogs.

These tips should help:

  • Embed links rather than content
  • Do you want your content hosted by Imperial or by a third party host
  • Check any licensing information about the original content (be it research paper, video, blog post or other format)
  • License your blog content with an appropriate Creative Commons license
  • Be careful of confidentiality – do you have the right to post particular data
  • Develop (and display) a procedure for dealing with complaints.
  • Take a look at the list of questions posed in the Online Research Identity module
  • and finally…use your common sense!

Watch this video, featuring a number of researchers (either currently at or formerly of Imperial College London) talking about their experience in dealing with the legal and/or ethical issues of using tools and technologies.


Contribute a post to the Participants’ blog on your thoughts on blogs and blogging.

If you would like to set up your own blog, then follow the directions below:


Set up an account with a free blogging software provider, select a template and get started. You can follow our Getting started with WordPress guidelines or choose another blogging provider (such as Bloglines). If you like, you could start an Imperial branded WordPress blog.

Next, customise your blog (adding an image, setting up the sidebar with widgets), identify a blog or two in your field you would like to follow and add them to your blogroll.

Finally, start writing! Write your first blog post about the opening workshop. Your second and third blog posts will be about the two ‘optional’ modules you choose.



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