Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Grad Student Use of Blogging and Social Media in the Dissertating Process: A Resource

More and more graduate students I know, or are in my extended social media network, are using social media and blogging in their dissertating process. We use it to network on Twitter, we blog about the process and experience of grad school in general, and specific events like comping, writing a prospectus, and dissertating.

I figured this post (updated as people add to it) can serve as a resource for other graduate students about the types of technology platforms you can use, and how they can help.

So, here's my bit.
My name is Karra Shimabukuro, and as of summer 2017, I am a PhD candidate at the University of New Mexico, in the English Language and Literature Department. I am in the final revisions of my dissertation on the role of the political devil in English literature to make nationalistic arguments. This is my blog, which I have used the past four years to chronicle my grad school experience. I have blogged about teaching (once blogging every week in real time what it was like to create and teach a course), student evals, prepping for comps, writing two dissertations, and other posts of interests to grad students like branding yourself, sharing your work, and starting the How to Grad School While Poor Google Doc then Wiki.

The blogging, of literature reviews, working our arguments, tangential conference papers and presentations, has created a tangible record for me. This means that when I'm trying to remember something I need for the dissertation, I don't have to search paper or computer files. I Google it, because my blog comes up immediately. I have also blogged my presentations for conferences, which makes them available outside to people who could attend the conference and helps with accessibility. I also think a quick look at my blog gives a pretty complete picture of who I am as a scholar: I am deeply committed to my teaching, reflecting often on the process. My work covers both the medieval and early modern period and focuses on folkloric figures, mainly the devil, and how he is used. I also look at how these ideas and concepts are forwarded into popular culture and the modern imagination. I am also very involved with issues of the conditions of graduate students, poverty, and class.

When writing my original dissertation, I created a hashtag (#DevilDiss) and storified my tweets weekly (#DevilDiss part 1, then #DevilDiss part 2 when I hit Storify's limit on tweets). This allowed me to have an online version of notes, and share my work. I have had senior scholars tell me that following my hashtag made them invested in my work. I also found this very helpful when thinking about the big picture parts of my dissertation to scroll through and track my thought process. In addition to all this, I wrote my dissertation (both of them) in Google Docs because I didn't have to worry about backing up, and I could work on it everywhere. Once I sent drafts off to committee members, I'd download as a Word Doc, saved in Dropbox, and work from there.
For me, blogging regularly about my experience helped me organize my thoughts. It helped me to brand myself as a grad student and share my work with other scholars in the field in a way not available to previous generations. Tweeting my work functions in a similar way, I can share my thoughts and work and make connections I wouldn't be able to otherwise. I also like that my materials are online, and available.  I have an online teaching portfolio in addition to this blog that I use to share my work. I am careful about curating my online image, managing what represents me. For me this is important as a role model for other graduate students, but also as a teacher and scholar, I believe in making things as open as I can. I think this type of open process and open scholarship is the future for scholarship.

I'd like to grow this resource, so if you're interested in writing up how you've used blogging and/or social media in your process, email me and I'll add it.


  1. Comment Press ( is a really great resource for writing and soliciting feedback. It's much easier than dealing with comments on a regular blog post, and allows for more detailed conversations.

  2. Thanks, but Comment Press doesn't work on Blogger as far as I know, and that's not exactly what I'm going for here. But thanks for taking the time to suggest!