At the end of this module, you will able to:
- assess the importance of academic networking in relation to your studies
- locate other researchers in your field
- join an academic email list
- contribute to discussions on an academic list
- assess the value of blogs and blogging for your research.
Networking within the wider research community is an important part of postgraduate study. Many law postgraduates feel the lack of a friend or colleague who can provide advice and assistance in their area of specialisation.
Networking also provides opportunities for the following:
- career development
- increasing your awareness of your field
- access to the latest research
- socialising with other researchers.
Becoming part of the research community
Marie desJardins, Networking, How to be a Good Graduate Student, University of Indiana, March 1994.
Take a few minutes to read this page: it provides some valuable advice. Consider how you might put these recommendations in practice.
Finding a particular researcher
The ALPN site includes ALPN Academic Directory. This directory provides contact details for legal academics at 27 instititutions across Australia.
What if the person you need to contact works at an academic institution not included in the Academic Directory? The Universities Australia site includes links to the Web sites of all 38 recognised Australian institutions. Once at the site of the academic's home institution, its usually simple enough to find the university's staff directory or online telephone book.
If you don't know the academic's home institution, Google will usually find the person you need.
Using Google to find people
How do you find someone if you have no more than the author's name and no indication of where he or she is employed? Let's assume that you want to find contact details for Professor Adrian Bradbrook. Try this search in Google: Adrian Bradbrook (email OR e-mail) (phone OR tel OR telephone)
If the researcher you are looking for is in practice, one approach is to use the FindLaw Australian Legal Directory. This database includes over 8,000 law firms and over 7,000 legal practitioners in Australia.
If all else fails, contact the library staff at your institution and ask for assistance.
Another method of networking is to become a member of an email discussion list. There are thousands of email-based academic discussion lists, covering a wide range of disciplines. As a postgraduate student, you will probably find membership in an academic discussion list very rewarding. Membership gives you access to the latest research and ideas, and connects you to other experts in your field.
In addition, list members are usually happy to provide advice or answers to quick questions, and to point you towards the latest research. In most cases, academic lists also have online archives which contain the records of past discussions. These can be useful sources of ideas and information.
Most academic discussion groups are two-way lists. Each message you send to the discussion group is sent to every other member. You receive a copy of every message sent by every other subscriber. The best lists have a moderator, who manages the list and ensures that discussion remains on-topic.
Joining or subscribing to a discussion list is usually easy, involving no more than sending an email to a specified address, such as firstname.lastname@example.org, with a command in the body of your email along the lines of subscribe <name of list> <your name>.
After sending this message, you typically receive an email message from the moderator confirming your membership. This message contains information on trouble-shooting, how to temporarily suspend your membership when you are away, and how to unsubscribe. Unsubscribing is usually as easy as subscribing.
Finding the right list
Why don't you start now by finding the right list for you.
There are a number of Web sites which provide guidance regarding the range of academic and professional discussion groups available in the broad area of law. These include:
Unfortunately, these Web sites are all overseas. For Australian lists, consult your supervisor and other academic staff at your institution. Most universities have email list software installed for the use of staff and students. It is possible that there are one or more appropriate lists at your instiution.
Many legal associations have email lists. For example, the NSW Young Lawyers have a number of committees focusing on different aspects of law. Each committee has its own email list and law students are usually welcome to join. Although not strictly speaking, academic lists, such lists can be a valuable source of information.
When joining an email discussion group it is usual to introduce yourself by giving your name, location and a short summary of your research interests. After introducing yourself, "lurk"on the list for a while until you become familiar with the list's "netiquette".
Netiquette for beginners
Brian Edmonds, Mailing List Etiquette FAQ, 8 December 2004
Before you start contributing to a list, it's a good idea to sharpen your awareness of what constitutes acceptable online behaviour. Read the page above and consider how these general rules might apply to an academic list. Most academic lists are considerably more formal than discussion lists with undergraduate subscribers.
Blogs and Blogging
Blogs are an increasingly important aspect of academic networking. Blog is short for weblog and a blog is an online diary which expresses ideas and opinions. Most blogs invite comments from readers, and can be used to build a sustained online conversation. The value of such involvement depends on the author. Some postgraduate bloggers would be better advised to spend more time on their research, whereas others have something to say.
To find a list of blogs on your topic, run a Google search using a broad heading and the word blogs (eg international law blogs).
This will usually find a site or sites that collect links to blogs in your topic. There is also a partial list of law-related blogs at Australian Australian Law Blogs.
Google Blog Search
You can search the content of the expanding blogosphere using Google Blog Search. Not surprisingly, Google Blog uses the same search terms as Google. In addition, it supports special operators to allow you to focus your search. These are:
- inblogtitle: finds blogs with your keywords in the name of the blog
- inposttitle: finds posts to blogs with your keywords in the title of the posting
- inpostauthor: finds posts by a the name of the individual author.
Should you become a blogger?
Sites such as blogger allow you to create your own blog in a few seconds. Contributing thoughtful, well-argued comments to the blogs of others, or creating a widely read blog can raise your profile among other blog readers. But both activities will involve a considerable amount of effort. Consider whether this effort is worthwhile.
Another consideration is that blogging is very public. You should never include in your blog anything that you would not want other students, a supervisor or a potential employer to read. Some postgraduates have found their career prospects damaged by ill-considered blogging.
This module covered the following:
- locating researchers in your field
- email and academic lists
blogs and blogging.