My students have to write blog-posts that fulfill the following quality requirements: focus, relevance, documentation and correctness. These four elements have to be understood in the context of a university course and are therefor influenced by general academic standards, particularly the last two (and are not usually considered by other blogging advisers such as Darren Rowse or Yaro Starak 2008). Nevertheless, my recommendations may prove useful to any kind of blogger:
- Focus: The main contribution of the post must be clearly visible from the very beginning; it should be summarized in the first paragraph or even in the first sentence. The most interesting data (whether names, numbers, or dates) should be extracted and made noticeable in the first lines (eg. linking them to source URLs). It is also advisable to illustrate the leading information with a (sharable) picture. And, please, avoid expressions such us “As it is well known…”, “Nowadays it is becoming increasingly important…”, or “This is part of my home work” at the beginning of the post. Finally, it is also very important not to confuse our collective blog with Wikipedia or Wikiversity, which would be the places for students to contribute with general world knowledge.
- Relevance: The opposite of relevance in our case is not mere irrelevance but noise or even spam (i.e. text with no value what so ever). If we want to win immediate interest from casual readers we should offer them new and relevant information. An effective way of achieving this is by selecting interesting data from on-line sources (professional reports, academic papers, monographs or even newspaper articles) addressing our topics. But beware of plagiarism, which is completely forbidden. Plagiarism can be easily avoided by the use of quotations. Yes, making quotations form a well selected bunch of sources (three are enough) is a good way to obtain relevance.
- Documentation: And sources should be reliable. This means that we should be able to recognize the authors name, and the date of publication. The title of the document and the publisher (or the site’s affiliation) are the other two pieces we need to complete a full academic citation. If for example we use Wikipedia as source, which we can if it is not our sole source, the reference can be directly copied from the citation page and included at the bottom of the post (as I’m doing below in APA style). A second source can be obtained from a scholarly search engine such as Google Scholar. Asking about the benefits of using blogs in education, I got several references: Boulos, Maramba and Wheeler (2006) at the top as it has been cited 486 times. This almost guarantees that any information extracted from it will be relevant. Three to five references should be enough, so please make no bibliography (you should only mention those sources used in your post and not every thing related to your topic). Neither is the need to make a list of links (with all URLs included in the text).
- Correctness: Correctness is an obvious (and somehow redundant) requisite for quality. But I need to mention it overtly, in particular with regards to satisfying the rules of written language (because simple rules as using capital initials in proper names are often forgotten). If we are writing in a second language, as many of us do, lexical and grammatical correctness may be difficult to attain. Tools such as spell-checkers (in the browser), dictionaries (eg. Answers) or bilingual corpora (eg Linguee) will prove very useful for this. Another rule of correctness (obligatory for WCT students) is to categorize the post in at least one the blog’s categories. As regards to size, three to five paragraphs (between 300-700 words) will be ideal; the only headings being the title (outside the body, i.e. not inside the text, and References –please, use only the HTML tags provided by WordPress–). See the full rule checklist of the practical.
- Relevance. (2011, December 2). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 12:04, December 6, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/Relevance
- Yaro Starak (2008, February 9). How To Write Great Blog Content – The Pillar Article. In Entrepreneurs-Journey. Retrieved 2011.12.06 http://www.entrepreneurs-journey.com/845/pillar-article/
- Maged NK Boulos, Inocencio Maramba and Steve Wheeler (2006). Wikis, blogs and podcasts: a new generation of Web-based tools for virtual collaborative clinical practice and education. In
BMC Medical Education. Retrieved 2011.09.11 from http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6920/6/41
- Darren Rowse (2005.12.30). Ten Tips for writing a blog post. In Problogger. Retrieved 2011.12.06 from http://www.problogger.net/archives/2005/12/30/tens-tips-for-writing-a-blog-post/