I often get asked about the pros and cons of doctoral researchers blogging, and I know other colleagues do too. There isn’t a right or wrong answer to the question of course, it’s always an “It depends”. But here’s a few beginning thoughts.
Researchers and academics spend a lot of time documenting the sources of the ideas, methods and evidence they have drawn on in their own writings. But I want to try and convince you that our existing citation and referencing practices are now woefully out of date and no longer fit for purpose in the modern world. The whole scholarly purpose of citing sources has changed around us, but our conventions have not recognized the change nor adapted yet. I first set out what’s wrong with what we do now, and then sketch a radical agenda for starting afresh.
There’s nothing quite like the countdown to handing in the PhD. Puff pant, puff pant. I think I can, I think I can. But…. There are three areas that bear looking at: content, refining the writing and proof-reading.
Most people think about their cv as a retrospective document. The cv has to talk about where you’ve been, what you’ve achieved, where and with whom. However, this is not the way that the academic cv is read. All cv readers have an eye firmly on the future and how what’s on the page tallies with a particular job, bid etc. So writing the cv as if it is simply a record of what has happened in your working life up till now is the equivalent of trying to drive a car looking only in the rear vision mirror.
The imperative to stay away from extraneous detail is important for the academic cv. But I don’t think there’s any harm in thinking of the cv as an autobiography (see Miller and Morgan 1993 for a scholarly explanation). To suggest that autobiography is a dangerous headset through which to compose your cv is actually a fundamental misunderstanding of the literary form. An autobiography is simply a story of a life. And that little pronoun is important. A story. An autobiography is not the story or the only story you can tell about yourself. One life can produce many different kinds of autobiographies depending on the intended readers and the purposes for which the narrative is written. Autobiographies are selective in what they discuss, and highly edited in order to make the story interesting. If autobiographers didn’t select and edit their life stories then their books would be interminable, and their readership zip, zilch and none.
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