- Bored reading science? Let’s change how scientists write
- The Chicago Guide to Communicating Science: Second Edition, Montgomery
- Alan Alda’s Experiment: Helping Scientists Learn To Talk To The Rest Of Us
- eLIFE: Plain-language summaries of research
- Why Every STEM Professional Needs a Blog
- How to Build Narrative in Explanatory Stories
- Writing Elegant Background
- A Guide to Cementing Stories Together
- The Art of Narrative Structure
- How Science Writers Use Sensory Detail
- How Great Nonfiction Writers Discover Great Ideas
Why Every STEM Professional Needs a Blog
Whether you work with young people, research full-time, or you’re employed in a commercial setting, you can advance your STEM career to a new level just by blogging.
If you’ve been on the fence about starting a blog, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll show you how blogging can benefit your career, explain how to get started, and give you tips about leveraging your blog following to maximize its impact on your career.
What’s in it for you?
It’s no secret that STEM expertise is in demand today. How can you stand out from the crowd? Blogging is one way to begin differentiating yourself among your peers or to reach out and help others contemplating getting into a science, technical, engineering, or mathematics profession.
Establish Your Authority
Specialization can sometimes mean the difference between a promotion and a layoff. If you’ve got unique or hard-to-find STEM expertise, starting a blog is like getting your foot in the door at the companies where you want to work. You can establish yourself as an authority on your favorite topics by writing blog posts about it from different points of view.
Just getting a selfie for my astronaut blog.
Or you can provide advice to people outside of the field as a way to get the word “expert” attached to your name. Once you establish your expertise by blogging, new and exciting opportunities may open up for you like nabbing conference speaking engagements, selling courses in your specialty, building up an audience with an eye toward publishing a book, and much more.
Expand Your Knowledge
You’ve spent a lot of time studying and honing your skills in your STEM profession, so it feels good to flex them on your blog. However, you can also use your blog as a way to journal your expeditions into new fields of knowledge. Documenting your thought processes can help an employer or a client confirm that you’re a quick study. What’s more, teaching others hastens and reinforces your own learning, thanks to the protégé effect.
Interacting with people who comment on your blog posts can be an effective way to grow your professional network — all over the world. Your new connections can lead to new employment, meeting new clients or vendors, and finding new friends. Blogging can also increase your online profile, allowing you to have more impact on STEM influencers and thought leaders.
Helping STEM Aspirants
Today’s technological world needs diverse talents to solve the difficult problems facing the world today. So, recruiting great minds and nurturing them is critical for humanity as a whole.
It can be very fulfilling to use your blog as a means of mentoring and encouraging young people who are considering entering your field.
How to Get Started With STEM Blogging
Since you’re in a scientific field, you probably already have a good idea of what it takes to set up a blogging platform. You need to get a domain, find a web host, and install a content management system like WordPress. (If you need a refresher, we’ve got a great series called How to Start A Blog that will ramp you up quickly.)
Things You Don’t Need to Worry About (Yet)
As a person with an enquiring mind, it’s probably tempting to pull all the levers and tinker with this shiny new toy called a blog. Our advice: Don’t monkey with too any settings at the outset. Instead, immediately jump into what’s most important in a blog: writing content.
Let’s get it running before we decide on the perfect color scheme.
That said, even talented STEM professionals can feel a little intimidated by blogging’s learning curve at first glance. In this spirit, we’re giving you permission to skip some setup items that others might recommend. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt to put these topics aside until you’ve got your content rolling.
- Don’t worry about search engine optimization (SEO). Search engine algorithms from two years ago are already out of date. Nowadays, search engines reward deep dives into good content rather than clickbait headlines. As a STEM professional, this change works in your favor.
- Don’t worry about plugins. Plugins can make blogging easier, no doubt about it. But adding a lot of plug-ins can slow down your blog and can be difficult to debug if you add a lot of them at once. What’s more, a lot of fancy plugins aren’t worth a darn on a blog with no content.
- Don’t worry about hits and clicks. We technology and science professionals love a good puzzle, so obsessing over analytics plays right to our strengths. However, in the beginning, watching analytics too closely can demotivate you.
- Don’t worry about landing pages and lead magnets. That’s some high-end marketing zazz right there and there’s no reason for you to clutter up your blog before you even get an audience for it. Besides, marketing fads come and go. For example, lead magnets used to be all the rage, but now they’re falling out of favor.
How to Write Engaging Content for STEM Readers
Knowing the purpose for your STEM blog will also help you to set up the most relevant social networks around it. For example, if you’re blogging with the aim of attracting students and young people, posting blogs on Facebook is a no-brainer. But if you want to network, focusing on getting traffic from LinkedIn might be more sensible.
Here are some tips to crafting successful content for STEM:
- Find a niche. Don’t try to be all things to everyone. In fact, it’s better to restrict your subject matter as much as possible. For example, you won’t be able to rival NASA’s blogs, but maybe you can carve out a specialization in Mars habitation. Better yet, focus specifically on the kind of furnishings homes on Mars might need. Although it may sound counterintuitive, a narrow specialization for a blog is better than a broad one. Follow your own interests to find a niche. If you’re completely at a loss, chat with your colleagues about what they’d be interested in reading about.
- Talk to your audience in their language. Early on you should choose how detailed you’ll get in your posts based on your audience. You can write jargon-filled, acronym-rich posts if you’re writing at the level equivalent to research papers for your peers. But, if you’re more focused on recruiting people just starting to study STEM in college, you might choose to use less lingo or explain it thoroughly when you do use it.
- Determine a posting schedule and stick to it. Consistency can’t be overstated. Keep your readers coming back by posting at regular intervals. A good interval to start with is posting once a week.
- Don’t be afraid to go long. Your audience and your topic will determine your typical post lengths. The more technical the topic, the longer the post should be. Gone are the days when bloggers were advised to keep posts under 300 words. One day you might post a comic strip that amused you, while your next post is a 3000 word summary of a research paper.
Don’t worry if you don’t have your niche cemented right off the bat. Just pick a topic and post consistently. Your readers and your own interests will steer your content in a direction that works best for you.
STEM Markup Tips
Depending on your specialty, you may need to learn a bit of HTML coding to get your point across. Here are some shortcuts STEM professionals might find useful:
- If you plan on posting numerical or chemical formulas, there are plugins to help you.
- Use the
<code>tag to format programming snippets. You could also use it to highlight specifications.
- If you intend to use references, a footnote plugin can help you.
- You can add interactive charts easily with Google Charts.
- Some spiffy widgets from Wolfram Alpha can add interactive tools that your audience may appreciate.
- If you use Zotero for organizing bibliographic references, you can tap into them with the Zotpress plugin.
- Use Google Forms for surveys, polls, or quizzes.
How to Find Interesting Blog Topics for STEM
A rare photo of a young Marie Curie brainstorming blog topics.
The biggest fear of every blogger is that at some point they’ll run into writer’s block and won’t be able to come up with interesting topics to cover. Luckily, there are some common methods you can use to keep your blog filled with great content.
- Keep a notebook handy — You never know when inspiration will strike, so keeping a notebook handy will allow you to jot down post ideas wherever you may be. You can also use a service like Evernote to keep your ideas stored digitally.
- Use BuzzSumo — This online tool lets you research the most-shared topics in any niche. It can be a great way to hunt for a unique spin on a trending topic.
- Look through TED Talks — These videos can be a springboard to new ideas when crossed with your own thoughts.
- Find hot topics on Quora or the STEM category on reddit – Quora can be an invaluable tool as it’s a question and answer site which allows you to see what questions people are asking related to STEM. The STEM subreddit, on the other hand, describes itself as, “A community for all things STEM & STEM Education.” Both sites can serve as a springboard for potential blog topics.
- Use current events — Cross pollinate your STEM niche with whatever’s happening in the news. Twitter is a good place to find what’s currently trending — but act quickly before it changes!
How to Attract Visitors to Your STEM Blog
If you write high-quality content about STEM topics on a consistent basis, visitors will find your blog. Aside from that, you’ll need to promote it to gain more visitors.
Get Active on Social Media
The next best way to drive traffic to your blog is by promoting it on social media. If you’re writing primarily for your peers, getting active on LinkedIn is a good place to connect with others in your field. You can also take advantage of LinkedIn’s article publishing features and Groups to share useful content with your audience. If you’re targeting students or other non-professionals, setting up a Facebook page and engaging in Facebook Groups should attract a following.
Write Guest Posts on Other STEM Blogs
Many popular STEM blogs will consider pitches for original articles from other bloggers with expertise in the pitched topic. Although most blogs don’t pay for pitched articles, getting published by a high profile blog will attract visitors to your own blog and help circulate your name among your peers.
Here are some websites that will consider guest posting pitches:
- Steminist — Submit profiles of women in Science, Tech, Engineering and Math fields.
- TeenLife (STEM Category) — A blog about “enrichment programs for students in grades 7-12, along with regular content to support strong teen growth and decision-making.”
- iTeachSTEM — Engaging classroom ideas targeted to teachers
- SpotOn — Science policy, outreach, and tools online
- You can find more blogs on this list of 100 science blogs.
Here’s some general advice about guest posting:
- Prior to pitching your guest post, interact in the blog’s comment areas establish a reputation and connection before you pitch. Signing up for email newsletters and interacting with the blogger on social media are other ways to establish a rapport.
- After your guest post has been published, reply to all the comments you receive — even if it’s only saying, “Thank you for the feedback.” In this way, you can interact with your prospective blog visitors and make a great impression on the blogger who published your guest post.
- Use all of your social media skills to share your guest post and include it as a feature in your own email newsletter.
Leveraging Your Blog to Boost Your Career
Once your blog starts gaining a following, you can leverage it to advance your career.
- Networking: The Finger Lakes STEM Blog encourages collaboration between STEM professionals in New York State.
- Reviews: STEM Friday publishes reviews of STEM books for kids. It’s a collaborative blog that publishes fresh content regularly.
- News and commentary: Passion for STEM is a blog run by two high school students in Scotland. They write about STEM news that interests them.
- Collaborative blogs: This type of blogging is a step beyond guest posting. Once you’re established as a regular STEM blogger, you can team up with others to launch projects together.
- Publish a book: A loyal and active blog following is considered a “platform” in the eyes of book publishers so it can help sweeten a book deal.
Become a Conference Speaker
In addition to using your blog to catch the attention of employers, you can apply to speak at conferences that value your specific expertise. Some conferences pay their speakers but others consider the extra exposure a blogger gets as sufficient payment. Whether paid or not, a conference is a superb way of advancing your psychology career. So, get over your stage fright and get out there!
There are many popular STEM conferences you can consider applying to, including:
The online STEM community is thriving, with blogs covering almost every niche. But there’s always room for one more viewpoint. Your blog could open doors for your future career and give you a platform to air your ideas and opinions.
- Astronaut, Marie Curie, Wrecked Jalopy photos in the public domain.