What makes a good blog? (survey results)

surveyIn the survey that was initially carried out for Blogging for Historians (see the blog post here) several questions focused on good practice.  Participants were asked what they think works well in a blog-format in terms of content and, also, what works less well.  The results were interesting. 

Let’s start with the kinds of content the participants felt worked well in a blog-format.  Many of the responses noted the need for posts to be short (possibly around the 300-500 word level), dealing with a straightforward subject (i.e. one question asked and answered or a review of something, or ‘problem’ topics).  The need for images was noted quite often as well, suggesting a desire for some visual interest to act as a further stimulus.

Here are a few of the other suggestions:

“Things that provoke discussion within the academic community – there has to be a question driving the blog post”

“A mix of formal posts and more off-the-cuff think pieces”

“Blogs are a great opportunity to discuss research-in-progress and teaching, respond to current affairs, and engage with subjects (such as popular culture) that aren’t usually discussed in more academic contexts. They also allow for greater use of images and videos.”

“Sharing odd tidbits of historical fact – people, artefacts, small stories – that aren’t enough for a piece of scholarship but are curious.”

“Working papers (like a written conference paper).  Editorials”

“Short pieces of a few paragraphs (though maybe linking to longer articles”

“News content, reflections in short sentence, and image-centered article work well in a blog-format”

“A short case with some analysis, methodological problems, messy bits”

“It needs to be presented in an accessible style of writing, since one only allows oneself limited amount of time to browse and read blogs and therefore don’t have the time to unravel a dense text – there are enough of those in the regular course of one’s day”

“I like the personal aspects of blogs – i.e. how I research what I research”

When asked what kinds of content work less well in the blog-format the principal response was ‘long essays or narratives’.  Blogs need to be kept short and succinct.  They also need to be kept relatively simple.  Heavy discourse was frowned upon as not right for this format.  There were also some suggestions that the use of footnotes and other scholarly apparatus just gets in the way for blogging, these should be left for journals and books.  The flip of the coin, was an expression that ‘too personal’ is a bad thing.  It is suggested in the survey answers that scholarly discussion needs to be dosed in an informal narrative.   Blogs are not the place for the presentation of full scale research, but snippets, provided in a more relaxed writing style than would normally be the case.

Of course amongst all of these answers were some stating that anything can potentially work under the right circumstances and that much has to be left to personal taste.  This is of course true, but the participants do strongly seem to argue for short, succinct, and informal posts, with pictures, but not too personal.

Survey investigating History Blog practices

A crucial part of the research for the Blogging for Historians project will derive from the survey.  This is now ready and it would be brilliant if you could take a moment of your time to fill it in.  The survey is very short and should take less than five minutes to complete.  It is broken down into three sections:

  1. Using blogs
  2. Creating and managing blogs
  3. Personal details

It is the first two sections that will provide the majority of interest and will hopefully rise some interesting thoughts, ideas and questions.  Essentially the survey asks why do we create blogs?  What do we hope to gain from them?  How do we access blog posts as a reader?  What do we gain by reading blogs?  From this survey I hope to be able to begin to understand the processes and many reasons why blogs have become such a successful forum for writing, reading, and discussion over the last few years, and what impact or importance this might already and in the future have for the History discipline.



I would be very grateful if you could fill in this survey.  It doesn’t matter if you own a blog or just visit them (or even if you don’t visit them – I would be interested in that too).  The survey is interested principally in History-related blogs, but this does not necessarily mean academic or professional.  There are a variety of History-related blogs out there, some better and more interesting than others.

Access to the survey can be found from this link:


It should take no longer than five minutes to complete and personal details will be kept confidential.  Statistics from the results of the survey alongside my thoughts and analysis will appear on this blog early in 2013.





What would you like to know? Initial survey questions about blogging

An essential element of this project is to gain results from a survey looking into academic, librarian, and archival blogging practices and to find out, more widely, why people blog and what people expect to gain from reading blogs.  I am currently working on these survey questions, sketching out the type of questions I would like to ask.  Here are my initial thoughts:

The survey will be broken down into three sections totaling about 20 questions in all.  I’m expecting the survey to take no more than 5 minutes for people to complete.  It does presume that the participant uses or has used blogs related to the History discipline.

Sections are:

1)      Visiting Blogs

2)      Owning Blogs

3)      Personal Details



Part 1: Visiting blogs

  1. How often do you visit History related blogs each week?
  2. How do you access blogs? (web browser, e-reader etc.)
  3. What reasons do you visit History blogs?
  4. Which blogs do you visit regularly?
  5. What do you hope to gain from visiting these blogs?
  6. What kinds of content do you think works well for blogs?
  7. What do you think works less well?
  8. Which additional features do you think makes for a good blog?  (Twitter feeds, categories, etc.)


Part 2: Owning blogs

  1. Do you own any blogs?
  2. How many?
  3. What are the blogs called and could you give us their url’s (this question is optional)
  4. Why did you start your blog?
  5. For what reasons do you post blog posts?  What do you get out of it?
  6. Do you have any recommendations for best practice?


Part 3: Personal Details

  1. Which occupation best fits you?
  2. Which age group do you belong?
  3. Any other comments you would like to share?


Do you have any suggestions for improving these questions?  Or is there anything that I have missed out?  I would love to hear from you in the comments section below.  The survey will be posted early next month (November).