Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Blogging is Thinking

Just over a year ago, I began writing a blog I was embarking on a fourteen month trip abroad with my family to conduct research with deportees in four countries. I wanted to record the experience, at least for us, our friends, and our family.

When I began, I was not sure whether or not I would have something interesting or useful to say on a regular basis. But, I figured I would give it a shot and hope that my blog would not join the ranks of most blogs – which feature a few posts and then disappear from existence.

It turns out that my original blog – after a year of regular posting – is fading out. The reason is, after writing a couple hundred blog entries, I realized that my blog tends to be about three distinct topics – my travels, my immigration research, and advice for academics. Thus, I decided to split the blog into three blogs:,, and

As a person who has to write as part of my job, you might think that writing a blog (or three) would interfere with my “real” work – writing academic articles and books. To the contrary, it has invigorated it and made my other writing easier. There are two principal reasons for this. The first is that writing a blog allows me to practice my writing, and thus to improve it. The second reason is that writing is thinking, and the more I write (and thus think) about my work – the more academic writing I can produce.

Blogging is Writing
Writing, like most skills, improves with practice. Writing blog posts three times a week has giving me quite a bit of practice with writing, and my writing skills have improved as a consequence. Writing is also a habit. Writing every morning on a consistent basis has turned writing into a regular habit for me. Since I blog – and thus write – on a regular basis, my writing gets better with practice.

My blogs have a very modest audience. Even still, they have a much larger audience than my academic writing. And, the production time is much shorter – I write, I click “post,” and it is online. When I write a journal article, I write, I revise, I submit, I revise, and even once it is accepted it takes several months or years for it to appear in print. For me, the instantaneous nature of online publishing provides an additional incentive to write and to share my ideas. Knowing that someone will read what I have written gives my writing purpose and inspires me to do more.

Blogging is Thinking
The second reason that blogging helps my academic writing is because writing is thinking. In my blog, when I write about my research, I think through my findings and theoretical approach and am able to solve puzzles that emerge. I also write about my methods, which allows me to think of ways to improve it.

For example, one of the greatest challenges in my research project this year has been to find deportees to interview. I have written about this challenge a couple of times. This has allowed me to think of new strategies to find deportees to interview, and to remind myself that I need to continue to think of new ways to find deportees.

I also write about emerging findings in my research, which allows me to think about them, keep track of them, and to ensure that they are integrated into my ongoing research. For example, in my research with deportees in Goiás, Brazil, I tried to figure out why Goiás is such an important sending region for Brazilian migrants. Writing about this, thinking about this, and receiving feedback and tips from colleagues in a virtual forum gave rise to new ideas about migration patterns.

Of course, I could accomplish all of this by simply writing a journal and keeping track of my thoughts. I did that with fieldnotes when I was conducting my dissertation research. However, I have found that the blog format – which allows me to share ideas, post photos, and discuss my findings with others – has worked better for me.

For me, it turns out, blogging is thinking.


  1. I'm so glad you listed your other blogs here. I am going to use your stopdeportationsnow blog with my Spanish community service-learning students. Our challenge in service-learning is to move students along a path: first, they form strong personal connections with the Latinos and organizations they work with in the community; second, we need them to see those issues in a broader context; third, we want them to see how to enact change, going beyond volunteerism.
    Anyway, too much information perhaps, but wanted to let you know that your blog will be helpful to my students.
    Finally, I agree that blogging improves your writing in general. I haven't blogged this summer, but my blog ( is also a repository for my ideas. Sometimes I return to a blog post where there was a hint of something deeper, and then I expand upon that idea in an article manuscript or in my teaching materials.
    As always, I love coming to your blog!

  2. Thanks, Ann! I also use service learning in my class - on race and ethnicity. I should include more online content into that class....

    Glad you are thinking of using the Stop Deportations blog! Hopefully I will be able to keep it up during the semester.