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Succeeding in postgraduate study
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1.2 Blogs and microblogs

A ‘blog’ (or ‘weblog’) is a regularly updated website or a web page post that is run by an individual or a group, offering personal, professional or organisational viewpoints. Blogs are often written in an informal or conversational style. They are regularly updated and can be sources of relevant information on many different topics. Once you have found a blog, or a blogger, that you know has authority in the area you are researching, periodically reviewing these can be a good way to keep up-to-date in your subject area. Some also allow you to set up an RSS feed to have regular blog posts sent directly to you. Many blogs also contain links such as tags, categories and references to other blogs. These can all lead to information relating to your chosen subject, research or area of interest. You can use any search engine to find blogs, but there are those that are dedicated to blogs searches including BlogSearchEngine [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] or Twingly (which has advanced search options).

Twitter is probably the best-known ‘microblogging’ site. Rather than the longer posts in blogs, Twitter posts (‘tweets’) are a maximum of 140 characters. You can choose to subscribe to, or follow, a person’s tweets and become a ‘follower’ as well as sending your own messages. If you choose to follow a number of people or organisations that you are interested in, it gives you a network to share information with, ask questions of, or pass comments on to. So as well as being a method to post information, it is also a social networking site. You may wonder how you can keep up with this if you follow a number of people, but bear in mind that you do not need to engage with it constantly or read all the posts – there simply would not be enough time – you can just dip in and out of the ‘Twitterstream’ when you like.

You can also search Twitter for mentions of organisations, products, research, names etc. Following a known academic or professional organisation that tweets regularly can be useful. Check personal or institutional web pages to find relevant people.

Activity 2 Introducing Twitter

Timing: Allow approximately 10 minutes

If you know someone on Twitter, you can search for their name to see their ‘Twitterstream’ and also see the people or organisations they are ‘following’. If you are not already familiar with Twitter, try a Twitter search at this point (or you can look up the most popular users on Twitter). Click on the underlined name in one of the tweets to see their Twitterstream and check out how many people or organisations they follow.