When you use my data, please say thank you!

I’m working on a systematic literature review based upon researchers that use breast cancer blogs. This particular review was inspired by a comment written by Caroline on my blog post about the Usage guidelines for researchers who use blogs. In the comment Caroline mentions that “I would never have thought my blog could be used in research.” This has inspired me to look at how researchers are using breast cancer blogs, so that I could better highlight the different uses of the data. On June 16, 2016 I did a Google Scholar search for articles that mention “breast cancer” and mention “blog” or “weblog”. I listed the results from the first 20 pages of articles in a spreadsheet. I’m wading through them now alphabetically. Many are false positive hits (e.g. the articles don’t mention breast cancer blogs in any way). There are, however, some very interesting articles and I’ll be posting some of my reflections on the articles as I go through them. I’m particularly intrigued by the variety of fields of study that use breast cancer blogs in their research (e.g. feminist studies, communication, public health, nursing, computer science). I’m also interested in the different approaches to the ethics used in by the different fields of study.

I was further inspired by a comment left by JF on my post about citing versus anonymizing blogs, where she highlights the importance of recognizing the labor that goes into writing blogs. I think this is a point I feel the need to emphasize. In many cases there is a space in the publication to acknowledge and thank people who helped with the article. Often researchers use this to acknowledge those who provided peer reviews or other academic guidance in the research. For students or new career scholars they recognize the guidance of their supervisors. I have yet to see an article (I’m going through alphabetically and I’m only on D, so there is hope yet) where the researcher acknowledges the work of the bloggers. To researchers, public blogs are seen as a free data source that they can use for their research. They seem to miss that this “free” data source is the result of 1000s of hours of labor on the part of the bloggers they are studying. They should at least add a “thank you to the bloggers who contributed their lived experiences that provided a source of data for this study”.

And so, I put this out there for anyone who uses any of my blogs for research purposes. I don’t feel the need for you to necessarily ask my permission, as I am posting publicly. I do, however, ask that you in some way acknowledge that the “free” data source you are using is the result of many hours of my time. I give to you willingly my experiences, all I ask is that you say thank-you.

Feature image: By Ashashyou (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


4 responses

  1. […] I mentioned in my previous post, I’m doing a systematic review of how researchers are using breast cancer blogs. I’ve […]

  2. Melanie Avatar

    Wow, this seems like a true millennial development because, even just six years ago, I never would have used a blog as a source. Of course, you’re so right, the topic and major/minor would determine whether or not data from blog posts would be relevant.
    My dad started an experimental drug on June 3rd – I was not made aware of it, but he was informed that there might be some severe side effects.
    And some of those side effects may include feeling like you’re dying.
    They kicked in June 13th.
    So I’m likely to do some research and start a blog about elder care, or his life story. One of my goals while staying with him after my mom’s passing was to write his story.
    We started having interviews for about an hour and a half, not recorded, but I type fast, so he would speak and I’d type.
    Now I think I need to do that but record both of us, him speaking, me typing.

    He was one of the first people to be inducted into the secret service before we even had the CIA. He was drafted during the Korean War and posted in Austria as a security guard. So there’s some fun stuff to write about if tomorrow’s transfusion makes a difference in his ability to be cognizant.

    But back to you, I’m very pleased to hear that there are specific ways to cite blogs now in the different disciplines. There just seems to be so little credentialing for being a blogger. I mean I know YOUR credentials. Because you were my professor. Who is to say about other people’s blogs.

    You remember when I asked you about how to post your bio? It’s the same question. I don’t care much about status as much as other people do – a lot of people I know are kind of stuck on the idea of status and hierarchy and being a Citizen of the United States of America I feel like, status is a moving target.

    You can be a superstar with zero privacy or you can be a known expert in your field, or you can be a revered mentor in your community or you can be a good friend, helpful stranger, appreciative observer of a cute dog, or a wild bird.

    Sorry if this is obtuse, but I’m trying to say – how does one really identify oneself in the blogging world in a serious way? I can’t figure out how it matters to anyone what I’m thinking, or talking about. I just don’t envision, and maybe that’s part of the problem, I don’t envision anyone caring about what I have to say. I can’t figure out what the best platform would be to start.

    And to think anyone would cite my work. I mean you – YOU gave me the inspiration to even think about it and now I’m writing with you about it.

    I have to be up at 6am to get my dad to an appointment because last Tuesday he fell asleep while driving and if he doesn’t snap out of it, my worst semester ever is going to turn into my worst year ever.

    He’s going to snap out of it. sorry I’m a bit off topic. But seriously, if he doesn’t snap out of it, it’s going to have to be a blog. And any encouragement you could share would be helpful.

  3. Melanie Avatar

    Well, it’s nice that you only ask for a “Thank You” but depending on the depth and scope of how they might be using the information they get from your blog, do you want an emailed “Thank You” or do you want a citation in MLA or APA or ASA? Do blogs have their own citation style in all the different – feh. you know what I’m saying right?
    Is the way you want your credit right up front and easy to access?
    I personally don’t use blogs as a reference and can’t see myself doing that, though, you never know.
    Hope you get the credit you deserve.


    1. Rebecca - @rjhogue Avatar
      Rebecca – @rjhogue

      Hi Melanie,
      Great comment, thanks for asking the question! It really depends on the field of study. If someone quotes a blog then they should cite it properly. All the different formats (e.g. APA) now have guidelines on exactly how to cite a blog. I also recommend that you tag the post in the Way Back Machine in case the blogger goes back and edits it, as that is something the blogger can do at any time and it is a unique characteristic of the media format. However, if someone is using my blog for aggregate data to do a social media analysis or some other hermeneutic analysis and not quoting or directly referencing any blog, then they are just using the blog text as a pure data source. In that case, they don’t typically cite any of the specific blogs they just say things like “was drawn from 30 blogs based upon x criteria”. It might not make sense to list the actual blogs in the article. I’ve seen thing and then the researcher goes on to thank their supervisor in an acknowledgement but does not thank the bloggers that provided the data – and I think that is inconsiderate. The bloggers providing the data provided just as much if not more than the supervisor! I actually prefer if researchers send me a thank you and a link to the article so I can see what they learned from my blog and others like it.

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