If I were going to blog ….or guidelines for grad students blogging about their capstone communication

Miriam Bertram, January 23, 2017

You’ve completed your capstone project; maybe you gave a series of presentations on “The Road to Paris: Climate Change Science and Policy” or developed a lab for a high school classroom.  You’ve evaluated what your audience retained or learned, written your capstone report.  Now those Program on Climate Change tyrants want you to write a blog.  Here are some guidelines to help make that process as painless as possible.

Think about your project and who will be reading the blog.  You’ll reach graduate students thinking about capstone projects to fulfill the requirement for the Graduate Certificate in Climate Science, and perhaps those who would use the materials you created, be it a powerpoint, K-12 teaching material, or other.  You might reach others outside of UW who are struggling to find their voice in climate communication.  Such audiences will likely have at least some basic science knowledge but you should still avoid jargon and acronyms.   Use a conversational voice, write from a personal or storytelling perspective, and perhaps include responses and comments from your target audience.

Others who’ve thought about writing blogs suggest your title should be less than 140 characters (mine is about 103) and then frontload the blog with the most important information, 1-2 paragraphs that expand on the hook, then provide some detail about what you did.  Tell us why you chose your topic; often there is a connection to research, a class, or something from your past.  Tell us!  Then give the nitty gritty, what your communication goal was, the method you chose (workshop, seminar, presentation, data lab, etc.), the nature of the evaluation of the communication.  More details and ideas can be found in Katie Burkes 12 tips and Patrick Dunleavy’s blog post.

As you wrap up the piece, include implications, impressions, and advice for the next grad student who walks down this path.

Any references to online resources should be hyperlinked, and a graphic is great if it is one that is labelled and simple.  Remember you won’t be there to explain it.

Finally, create a trailer paragraph that wraps up the topic in 4-5 lines.  Remember, we are talking about a specific application of blogging with a particular audience in mind.  We’ve drawn information from several resources and applied it to our particular situation.  One more recommendation for all blogs…include biographical information in 4-5 lines.   Target 600-1000 words total.

So, how well did this blog follow its own recommendations?

Miriam Bertram is the Program Specialist for the UW Program on Climate Change who serves as a member of the advising team for graduate students enrolled in the Graduate Certificate in Climate Science.  She also tweets occasionally @PCCeduc, maintains the UW PCC website, and works tirelessly to develop connections across disciplines and professional boundaries.  You can reach her at uwpcc@uw.edu.