Academic blogging and self-plagiarism

I am apprenticing to be an academic (that is a fancy way of saying I’m a PhD student). I’m also a blogger. I started blogging before I started my PhD journey, so it only seems fitting that I would continue to blog.

In looking at why some academics choose to blog, I discovered “the idea of an audience is more important to these bloggers than an actual audience, and practicing a blogging identity, or voice for themselves was more important than having others listen” (Kirkup, 2010, p.82).  I can totally see that. For me, I like to at least like to imagine that others are listening. It is the idea of an audience that motivates me to write in the first place. I’ve never been particularly good at journaling strictly for myself – I really do need at least the impression that someone is listening.

Now, as an academic, I struggling with just how much I should be sharing in my blog, versus what I should “keep” for article publication. I like the idea of having captured my thoughts somewhere public. I’m inherently a share kind of person, so I suck at keeping my ideas secret. If I think I have a brilliant idea, I’m likely to tell everyone about it. McGuire (2008) lists several reasons why academics should blog, one that really hit home for me was “Blogging protects and promotes your ideas”. That is an idea that has occurred to me as well. You see, if I can’t keep my great ideas a secret, then by blogging them I at least have a record of when I thought about them!

As an academic and a blogger, I find myself a little confused over where the content of my blog fits on the publishing spectrum. “Blogging is a distinct form of authorship that can support the goals of higher education institutions and can complement and contribute to traditional forms of scholarly publication” (Powell, Jacob, & Chapman, 2011, p.2). However, when I blog, I find myself in conflict. My blog is often the first publication of my ideas, but it is self-published and doesn’t “count” in academic circles. Getting an article published requires that you cite references from reputable sources, which doesn’t generally include blogs. Self-plagiarism is where you write the same thing for two publications without citing yourself. So, if I publish my blog, then ethically, I should be citing my blog when I use the same ideas in an academic paper or journal article. However, my blog is self-published and not peer-reviewed, so it doesn’t count as a quality reference source. Citing my blog also feels a little too much like self-promotion to me. But I’m stuck, how do I blog and avoid self-plagiarism?

Power et al.  address the idea that a journal article may come out of the result of blogging, “the ideas and information compiled in a properly referenced blog can be assembled into a comprehensive article for peer review and publication in academic journal” (Powell et al., 2011, p.4). Kirkup argues that “blogging is an emerging academic practice, and a new genre of scholarly writing, which could become an important activity for a professional academic.” What neither talk about is my dilemma and the relationship between academic blogging and publishing.  I’ve search for articles that might address this issue, but haven’t found any yet. Is my thinking just wrong such that this isn’t an issue? Or is it just a can of worms that no one has decided to open yet?

Do you quote your blog when you write in a journal article? Is it appropriate or is it self-promotion? If you blog your ideas and then use those same ideas in an article for publication, and you don’t quote, is that self-plagiarism? What do you think?

References

Kirkup, G. (2010). Academic blogging: academic practice and academic identity. London Review of Education, 8(1), 75-84. doi:10.1080/14748460903557803

McGuire, H. (2008). Why Academics Should Blog. Hugh McGuire. Retrieved January 24, 2012, from http://hughmcguire.net/2008/10/26/why-academics-should-blog/

Powell, D. A., Jacob, C. J., & Chapman, B. J. (2011). Using Blogs and New Media in Academic Practice: Potential Roles in Research, Teaching, Learning, and Extension. Innovative Higher Education. doi:10.1007/s10755-011-9207-7

4 Comments on Academic blogging and self-plagiarism

  1. I have never thought the term self-plagiarism was appropriate.  Plagiarism is essentially passing along other people's ideas as your own.  Passing along your own ideas as your own is, well, okay.
    The real problem you are considering is duplicate, simultaneous, or subsequent publication of the same material.  It is in this multiple publication where the ethical and legal issue arises, of particular concern if now disclosed at the time of submission to a journal and certainly a problem after you have transferred your copyright to a journal or publisher.  The problem is that journals like to be sure they are publishing new material, and any electronic publication would undermine the novelty of the material.  Papers have certainly been rejected and even the authors blacklisted when duplicate publications are discovered.
    I know I have personally reviewed papers where disclosure of previous publications was not made, and those papers were ultimately rejected.  Depending what is published on a blog, there is certainly potential for the same to occur.

  2. I periodically write long-form articles online that are intended for a public/policy audience, and as a result of my online writings have developed a (generally positive) reputation in the circles that I work and speak in. As an academic, I've often cited my blog as a source because quite often I've produced the single best source on a particular issue. If an editor wants to give me another 3,000 words so I can flesh out what's in a post then fine. If not, then I'm going to cite my public article 😉
    When it comes to actually using text from my blog, I tend to rework it somewhat for the academic audience. This often entails tighter editing and narrowing of an issue somewhat. In my experience, I've had people come and ask me to write articles/chapters on the basis of what I wrote online – in such cases, strongly working online content into the articles/chapters is effectively a mandate for getting asked to write in the first place!

  3. I also have thought about this problem as a fellow phd student. I also like to blog, and have about the same attitude as you do. One other point in favour of blogging is funding. In Canada where I study, I am essentially funded by taxpayers. There is an argument to be made that it is our duty to share our research with the general public since they are paying for it. So it just becomes another way to help communicate the research to everyone else.

  4. Rebecca, you've posed some very timely and important questions… and I don't have the answers.  But, what you wrote made me think of this piece I recently read in Inside Higher Ed about whether or not writing that academics do in the digital world–namely for blogs and wikis–can be recognized as counting toward tenure.  Hmmm… Should they? And against what standards should those pieces be evaluated?  What a fascinating idea. Okay, I've answered your question with another question (something I always loathed my high school chemistry teacher for doing).  Apologies 😉

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