Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What I think of this whole blog thing...

As I have gone through this process of writing a research blog I feel it's a good time to compare it to a conventional research paper (now the bane of my existence) and share my thoughts on this type of open scholarship writing.
Open Scholarship = Open Ideas
How can I go back to writing a paper for one person and never get to share my experience/process with others? Writing for others has been the greatest thing which has happened to me yet. It has changed my view on writing. No longer am I writing in isolation, depending upon my brain, intellect and study skills alone to form a product, but rather now I'm using them as tools to open doors for others to join in my conversation. My product is much more diverse and versatile because of that participation.

Knowing someone other than a professor will be reading my paper makes me rethink how I'm saying what I'm saying. I realized I am much more thorough in my analysis, making sure my thesis is clearly defined and easily found within my writing. I feel less pressure to say what the teacher wants me to say and more freedom to explore personal thoughts without the fear of a low grade because it wasn't the "right" answer. Because of that personal exploration, my critical thinking skills have been enhanced.

My thinking has changed from "Find something to support your theory" to a more liberating "Find an argument which makes for lots of discussion," a technique James and Chris, colleagues of mine in this class, both accomplish by asking their readers questions at the end of their posts. The beauty of this type of writing is I don't have to get it right the first time. I can be critiqued and my argument shaped into something which is meaningful to more than just me because many people participated in shaping its form. Neal's blog is a good example of such a formation as he's good at shaping his blog according to comments made on his previous blog. Stacie and Ben as well redefine their arguments when they saw their foundational argument was a bit shaky.
The Short-Comings
I will admit to being overwhelmed with the sheer AMOUNT I had to cover. Handling the literature was different as I could use more current online sources and the literature merely shaped my argument, not defined it. The task of taking on the Internet to find what I wanted to write and say was daunting. Writing a conventional paper is much easier, as I have a set amount of space to say a set amount of things, quoting a set amount of sources. With a blog, it never ends! Both a blessing and a curse. I learned much more on my topic, yet I had a hard time clearly defining what I was saying (James, a fellow student, encountered a similar problem on his blog) because there was so much already said. However, I feel I'm a much better thinker on my topic because I had so much information to sift through.
Blogs and BYU's Objectives
The second and third institutional objectives of BYU are particularly relevant to writing a scholarly blog. If BYU aims to "Advance Truth and Knowledge," what better way than to have students, the future thinkers of society, publicly document their thoughts and allow for feedback from the current "thinkers" of society to help the students refine and rethink their assertions?! My colleagues Ben, Chris, Neal and Allison all had a good amount of success with the current "thinkers" of society commenting and directing their thought processes. The third goal, "To Extend the Blessing of Education" is SO accomplished through a scholarly blog on an informal social networking site. This type of scholarship extends the resources of university students (such as articles found in databases which you must have a subscription to as well as faculty members who are experts in their fields of study) to the general population. In my blog, I tried to include many sources from scholarly journals so as to 1. add merit to my claims and 2. allow public access to those ideas encompassed by a wall of subscription fees. Through writing a scholarly blog I felt I was educating the masses and extending the blessing of my education through educating others.

This type of open scholarship has changed my view of writing. The research blog has given my writing wings to fly and with those wings I really do feel the sky is the limit!

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