Blogs are a double-edged sword. These online essays can be written by anyone with access to a computer and the Internet. Authors could be knowledgeable experts with valuable information to share, or official government agencies. Some bloggers are outstanding academic authors who have published their work in accessible databases, such as Scopus, Web of Science, and Google Scholar. Others may be misinformed people simply sharing a biased opinion.
Although readers can comment on a blog, the material does not have peer-reviewed academic research status. Quality and reliability checks are not built into blogging like they are in academic journals. Previous research has discussed the role of blogging communities as reference sources in scientific manuscripts. The University of Cambridge has warned its researchers not to rely on them.
But some blogs remain attractive as sources of information and ideas for researchers because they often deal with new situations that have not yet been addressed in the traditional academic literature.
The emergence of COVID was a perfect example of a new and rapidly changing situation like this. Vast amounts of information were becoming available online – some of it in blogs that were trusted and useful to the public and scholars, some of it not.
Researchers and students need to know how to balance their data sources.
Little is known about how to identify reliable blog content in our field of study, urban planning. We set out to explore this, starting by looking at what types of blogs were already cited by academics and what criteria they used to guide their blog selection.
We found that blogs cited in academic publications were mostly published by governmental and non-governmental organizations. We analyzed how these blogs influenced public dialogue on COVID and demonstrated that they were grounded in unique insights that had not yet been peer-reviewed.
We’ve also offered three tips that scholars can use to cite blogs in their research.
Citing blogs on COVID-19
Many urban planning and design scholars and researchers have turned to blogging during the coronavirus outbreak for information. We conducted a scoping study in 2020, analyzing 31 samples from four types of blogging sources cited in 10 published publications in seven journals. We reviewed social science journals published in 2020 and searched for blogs that have been used as references in such articles on COVID-19.
We found that in 2020, academics and researchers in urban planning and design used blogs produced by four types of publishers: government agencies, non-governmental organizations, private groups and individuals.
Additionally, we found that academics and researchers cite blogs for three reasons:
collect quantitative data from statistical analyzes
highlight qualitative knowledge related to social solutions such as social distancing and confinement
face the challenges of pandemics through the principles of urban planning.
Blog Citation Criteria
This analysis was part of a larger study on the use of blogs by academics. Based on this work, we have three tips for finding blogs that publish scientific findings on vital topics like COVID-19 and can be cited in scientific articles.
It is possible for academics and researchers in urban planning and design to cite blogs in their scholarly work. This is done by selecting publications that provide relevant analysis, findings and conclusions made by government agencies and non-governmental organizations.
For blogs written by individuals or private groups such as Brookings and CityLab, it is crucial to track bloggers in scientific databases, such as Web of Science, Scopus or Google Scholar. Several metrics can help understand where bloggers stand, including citation count, h-index, and normalized citation impact.
Citation of blogs can be based on the number of views or reviews, which can indicate the possibility of open debate about the post. However, it is important to remember that while blog views may seem important, they are not necessarily a reliable metric for citing blogs. Blog views reflect the importance of the topic rather than the reliability of the information provided in the blog.
By following these tips, academics and researchers can use blogs as trusted sources of information. They may be cited in scientific publications on emerging issues such as COVID-19 in its early stages. These tips can guide scholars and researchers when addressing topics that are still in research or not covered by scientific studies.