These blogging guidelines and handout are adapted from ones developed by Professor Elizabeth Cohn (SIS at American University)
Blogs have become a common tool for communicating ideas and analyzing developments for many policy organizations—from governments to IOs to think tanks to NGOs who partner with IOs and or serve as watchdogs. Further, these organizations have increasingly asked their analysts to write blog posts to enhance the organization’s social media presence, engage others in the field, highlight important developments and explain its work to important constituencies.
In this class, you must write two blog posts and one response. The blog post should be 750-800 words and the response should be around 300 words. I also urge you to briefly follow-up to those who respond to your post.
A post should succinctly answer one of the discussion questions listed for that class by directly addressing the relevant readings for that class. Likewise, the response posts should also reference at least some of the relevant readings for that class as well as address key claims in the original post.
Students will select a blog topic using the google doc sent by the professor. No more than two students may blog about the same topic and no more than two people can respond to a particular post. The response posts will be decided on a first come, first serve basis. In other words, the first two students that respond to a post will count. Others students are encouraged to weigh-in on a discussion but it will not count as their response post.
The blog post must be completed no later than one week after the end of that class. A response piece must be submitted within one week of the original blog being posted.
Grades will be assigned based on the quality of posts.
***Please note: While it is fine to present a countering viewpoint or disagree with your classmates and bloggers, discussion should always remain respectful and should be based on substantive material and facts rather than just your personal opinion. All comments should show respect for the opinions of others and attempt to build a constructive dialogue. Excessively inflammatory language should be avoided, and any derogatory statements based on an individual’s gender, age, race, religion, sexuality, disability etc. will not be tolerated.
Helpful hints for a successful blog post.
- Think about the audience. For this blog, you can assume the audience is a foreign policy-savvy crowd that has passing knowledge of the topic. Your reads blogs on international affairs and has a general knowledge of international organizations and their activities.
- The tone should be less-punchy and more analytical than an op-ed in a newspaper but more punchy than a research paper. A good example of tone can be found at The Monkey Cage.
- Titles, headers and the first paragraph are important to draw readers’ attention. The first paragraph should introduce the topic and put forward the main theme or argument of the piece. Be clever and descriptive with title and headers. Be comprehensive and succinct in first paragraph.
- Have a strong closing paragraph. It should logically return to the primary theme or argument in the post. The closing paragraph should NOT introduce new themes or arguments.
- Yes, blogs have a point of view, but your views have to be supported with evidence. The bulk of the post should offer evidence and elaborate on the theme or argument made in the first paragraph. Build an argument with facts. It is the quality of the logic and evidence in the analysis that make any piece of writing—blog or otherwise—persuasive. Avoid using an excessively authoritative tone (eg. “It is obvious that…” etc.)
- Do not use lengthy quotes from the readings or other sources. Summarize and paraphrase the ideas and arguments in your sources (and hyperlink to the piece). Short quotes (i.e. less than a sentence) to highlight key phrases are more acceptable.
- A few bullet points can sometimes help summarize key related claims but large majority (if not all) of the post should be written in paragraph form.
- Think small. Better to cover an idea in an article fully than three ideas in a cursory way. You are writing a short (750-800 word essay) not a research paper. No tangents.
- A good blog post requires thinking to organize your thoughts and ensure coherence. Think before you write.
- Evidence is hyperlinked rather than footnoted, endnotes, works cited page or in-text citations. Hyperlinks lead the reader to the source of a fact or idea that is not your own. Hyperlinks should be used to any source that is not directly from the reading list. Sources from the reading list that week should simply reference the author and no hyperlink is needed (e.g. Bosco argues that the IO’s critics tend to overlook the concert function of the Security Council.)
- No slang or informal language.
- Tags are important so that readers with similar interests can be drawn to your post.
Helpful hints for a successful comment?
- Specifically addresses a key point in the original blog.
- You can agree with blog post and add to the points. Or, you can disagree and offer contradictory evidence.
- Always good to say something positive before offering criticism, to be polite as this is a class assignment. 🙂
- Be professional. Don’t say “Hey Emma….”
- Make your comment substantive. Don’t just say “Post was interesting, and gave me something to think about. Or, I liked that you said some important points…”
- While you can add to the topic and not really address anything the post said, that’s a bit frustrating for the person receiving the comment since it’s really another blog post and not a COMMENT on the original post. Ideally, there will be an evident connection between your comment and the original post.
How to join the blog.
- You will receive an email, sent to your AU email account, inviting you to join the course blog. You will be invited to join as an author. If you already have a WordPress account that you have used for academic purposes, you can use your existing account, but be sure to change your display name to your full name (see directions below). If you have a WordPress account that you’ve used for personal purposes, use your best judgment on whether or not you want your personal life connected to your academic life.
- When you receive the email please click “Accept Invitation” (For those with existing WordPress accounts: If you are already logged into WordPress when you receive the email, you will be added to the blog through that account once you accept the invitation. If you want to create a new account specifically for the blog, be sure to log out of your existing account before accepting the invitation). To create a new account, click “Register” at the bottom of the page after you’ve accepted the invitation.
- When you reach the landing page, scroll to the far right side. Five paragraphs down (next to the large blue button that says “.wordpress.com $0”) you will see an option to “signup for just a username.” Click that link.
- Follow the directions on the screen. When creating your username use your AU email address (WordPress will probably suggest your AU email as a username). Once you’ve created your username and password, click “Sign up” and follow the ensuing instructions to activate your account.
- Once your account has been activated, return to the original email invitation and click “Accept” again. You will be redirected to the blog’s “Dashboard” and your registration is complete.
Create a Display Name.
On the blog, your display name, not username, will appear. All students must create a display name in addition to a username, otherwise we won’t be able to tell who is who. Even those of you with common names will be able to use your full name as your display name.
- Log on to the blog. Go to the main blog page.
- In the top-right corner of the blog. Your username is displayed, click on it.
- You will be taken to your account page. Under “Settings” on the right side, click on public profile.
- Three rows down you will see a box for “Public Display Name”. Enter your first and last name.
- Click Save Changes.
Signing into WordPress
Sign into wordpress.com. Click on “My Blogs” at the top of the page. You will be taken to the blog. In the black menu bar at the top of the page you will see the name of the blog. Hover over it with your cursor and a drop down menu will appear. Click “Dashboard.”
How to Create Post
Once you are on the blog dashboard, click “New posts” button at the top of the page.
Title and Author
Enter the title of your blog post at the top of the page. To make it easier to identify authors of individual blog posts, you must add your name at the end of each blog post title. Since this is a shared blog with many authors, we all want to know who wrote the blog post. Put your name at the title, for example: “Ukraine Exacerbates Division in the Security Council—Prof. Michael Schroeder”
Writing your 750-800 words
You can write your blog post in the text box or copy and paste from a word processor.
HYPERLINK RATHER THAN INCLUDING FOOTNOTES, ENDNOTES, WORKS CITED OR IN-TEXT CITATIONS. In the blogosphere, hyperlinking is equivalent to citing sources in an academic paper. Whenever you borrow ideas from another author, include statistics, or reference an event, you need to hyperlink to the original source (for those who don’t know, hyperlinks allow users to embed a website in a word or phrase so that readers can easily access the site). Instead, you can try to find a pdf version of the article online (through Google or Google Scholar). If you can’t find a pdf version and you’re using direct quotes, put the title and the author in parentheses (If it’s not vital to include a citation, you can leave it off. I am mostly concerned with your writing and analysis). If you’re using a book as a source, you can hyperlink back to the Google books or Amazon page for that book. Be sure to always check if your hyperlinks work!
How to hyperlink in WordPress: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRdIC3O0tZg
Showing only the first paragraph of your blog post on the front page of blog
Once you’ve finished writing or pasting your post, you need to add a break in the post to ensure that only the first paragraph of your post will show up on the main page of the blog. To do so, place your cursor at the end of the first paragraph. To the left of the Fullscreen icon, you will see an icon that has two bars with a dashed line (“insert read more”) in the middle, click on it. A dashed line with a “more” icon should appear after your first paragraph. Once your post is published, only the first paragraph will be visible on the main page with a link to continue reading the rest of the post.
Once you are finished with the text of the blog post, you need to categorize and tag your post. Under the format section on the right side, you will see a set of categories listed. Check off the box that corresponds to the topic(s) you are blogging about. Under the category section, you will see a tag section. Enter the appropriate tags in the text box and separate each with a comma. Appropriates tags include the country or countries you refer to in your post, a specific leader, a policy, or a historical event. Use your best judgment when tagging.
Once you’ve finished writing and tagging the blog post, you can preview, publish, or save it as a draft. Most often you will publish the post. If you wish to save as a draft, make sure to remember to publish the post after you revise it. If you wish to publish, make sure that next to the calendar icon it says “Published” and then hit the blue publish button. You will then be taken to the blog to see your published post.
Review and Edit
Check your post for formatting errors and typos. If you find any errors, there is an edit button at the top of the post (this only appears on posts that you have authored). Once you’ve checked it over, you’re finished.
Be sure that you are posting in the standard format. Before you publish a blog post, check the “Format” box on the right side of the screen to ensure that “standard” is selected. Standard should be the default setting, so unless you change it, you shouldn’t have a problem.
How to leave a comment/response post
Below each post there is a “leave a comment” button. Click on the button and begin typing your response or copy and paste it from your computer. Click “Post.” Unfortunately, you cannot create hyperlinks in comments. If you think you need to include a link, you can include the web address in parentheses.
Please remember that while it is fine to present a countering viewpoint or disagree with your classmates and bloggers, discussion should always remain respectful and should be based on substantive material and facts rather than just your personal opinion. You are encouraged to keep a running dialogue with your classmates who are posting on the same subject. You are not blogging in a vacuum, so please be sure to engage one another.