I've been asked to compare and contrast conventional research writing with the research blog writing I've done over the course of this term. While I don't think there's a much better feeling than finally being able to print and staple a well-done, tangible research paper, I've learned that the process of documenting my research on a blog has a great deal of advantages.
To begin with, research blogging gave me the chance to explore issues and concepts that in a conventional paper would seem tangential. My favorite part of the whole blogging experience was being able to embed and hyperlink to my sources. Instead of having to explain the background behind a source I was using, I could just SHOW the readers what it was all about and focus more fully on analysis. I was able to formulate a full-bodied thesis statement and to explore as much as I wanted to within it. The more complex my ideas were, I learned, the more discussion I fostered and the more I was helped in reaching a conclusion. Several of my most meaningful blog posts (here, here, here,and here) were totally the result of the comments my classmates gave me, namely Heather, Ben, Neal, and James. The element of camaraderie that developed between my classmates and I as we all worked together to create solid research blogs for each other was something I haven't experienced in a writing class before, and I think it was essential to my success.
It was also exciting to be working on a project that was not only for my classmates to read and comment on, but for the online learning community as a whole. I feel like, through this blog, I've been able to make an actual contribution for actual people, instead of just an ink and paper end product that will inevitably end up in a garbage can. This is research that I can share with others and that I can easily re-access for the rest of my college career. I feel like this very neatly falls into the third institutional objective of Brigham Young University- to "extend the blessings of learning to members of the Church in all parts of the world." By openly communicating what I've learned, other students will be able to reap the benefits of it, and not just at BYU, and not just those that are members of the Church. I feel more accomplished as my research blog nears its conclusion than I would if I had just turned in a freshly printed research paper. And that's saying something.
Because my research blog has given me the opportunity to so fully delve into my topic, at times I felt completely overwhelmed. There was so much content for me to use, and with the perks of being able to embed and hyperlink sources, I was at times at a total loss for what to do. Even as this project is concluding, I'm still thinking back to all of the things I didn't get to fully analyze, all the avenues I wasn't able to explore, and all of the posts I didn't get to write. I guess that there is a certain element of this in every research project, but with the online world literally at my fingertips, its especially overwhelming. The biggest disadvantage of a research blog is that the line between process and product is blurred in a confusing and often frustrating way.