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October 31, 2011

Thing 7: Create or update your own ePortfolio

As a University of Warwick PhD student, your ePortfolio is an online showcase for your academic life. It is a collection of web pages summarizing your academic projects, achievements and commitments which you can edit quickly and easily.

ePortfolio uses the University’s SiteBuilder system, an easy to use tool which lets you publish online without any technical skills (there’s additional training online for SiteBuilder on the IT Services website). As a starting point, take a few minutes to look at the different uses to which an ePortfolio can be put in this list of examples.

Phd students can apply for an ePortfolio on the Student Careers and Skills website. It can take up to 10 working days to setup an ePortfolio so, if you don’t have one, there’s a possibility you might not be able to start working on yours before the end of this week’s theme. If this happens to be the case, we suggest that you come back to this Thing once you get e-mail confirmation that your ePortfolio is online, or at least just read more about them and look at others' ePortfolios for inspiration!

Here are some pages that you could add to your ePortfolio, inspired by the ‘getting started’ page, produced by the ePortfolio team:

1. Intellectual biography and personal profile
2. Details about your research
3. Your C.V.
4. The skills you possess & training courses you’ve attended
5. Conferences you’ve attended
6. Things you’ve published and/or presentations you’ve given
7. Key texts you use in your research
8. A glossary of some of the terminology in your research area
9. Your experience of teaching
10. Other projects you’re involved in



It’s very easy for people to find your ePortfolio once it’s online because search engines rank the University’s domain name very highly. It’s also possible to apply for an short URL at the university’s Go.Warwick service, so that your ePortfolio can be go.warwick.ac.uk/yournamehere.

To get a short URL, select ‘create new redirect’ at the top of the Go.warwick page, type your name into the first box, a description of your ePortfolio into the second box, the original URL of your ePortfolio into the third box and press ‘request new redirect’. This then gives you an extremely professional web address (e.g. mine is go.warwick.ac.uk/mcarrigan/) which you can, for instance, place in the signature line on your e-mails or put on business cards.

When viewing your ePortfolio, if you select ‘edit’ and ‘view page statistics’ on the menu bar at the top of the screen, it’s possible to see how many people view your ePortfolio and how they find it. Now all you have to do is keep your ePortfolio regularly updated and you’ll rapidly start to reap the benefits of much increased visibility as a researcher.

But what does the process of ‘updating’ your ePortfolio involve? This may seem like an obvious question but it’s worth pondering. As well as simply reflecting the facts about your research, updating your ePortfolio also involves engaging with a range of important questions:

  • How do you think about your work?
  • Do you have ‘side projects’ as well as your PhD?
  • How do these fit together?
  • What are the central features of each?

The process of summarizing your work, deciding what to include/exclude and how to structure its presentation on your ePortfolio can have a radical effect on your understanding of your academic life. As one user describes their experience of creating an ePortfolio: "It has made me think about my work from the point of view of an outsider. Sometimes its quite hard to distance yourself from your work and I feel that it has made me really have to think about how other people see it."

Explore some more:

Support for creating your ePortfolio content

Getting started with your ePortfolio

Online training course for SiteBuilder

Example ePortfolios

Applying for your ePortfolio

Video about using an ePortfolio


Thing 6: Joining Academia.edu

“What’s Academia.edu?” is a question that, until fairly recently, I was regularly asked at conferences if I brought it up in conversation. Fortunately it’s not a difficult question to answer: Academia.edu is like Facebook for academics. It’s designed in the same way, has a similar interface and you can even link it your Facebook account so you can immediately connect with any Facebook friends who use the service.

The advantages it has over Facebook are two fold. Firstly it allows you to keep your professional online identity separate from your personal online identity: it allows you to keep in touch with people through social networking that you wouldn’t necessarily want to add as friends on Facebook. Secondly all the applications are specifically designed for academics: you can post papers, your CV, research interests, ask questions, post presentations and much more. All of the content you post on it can be tagged i.e. given a key word which helps others find it.

See how Academia.edu can look:

screen shot of academi.edu

The only disadvantage to Academia.edu is that, until recently, the question “what is it?” was a fairly common one. People simply didn’t know it existed. In my experience this seems to be changing quite rapidly, though there’s still some way to go. It is important for a social networking site like this one to have a large enough population for it to take off, for participants to really get the best value from it.

Download the step by step instructions on how to set up an account on Academia.edu.

Explore online profiles further

Thing 7 is all about ePortfolios at Warwick, so have a look at those too!

Read about using Facebook as a researcher, on the ResearchExchange website.

LinkedIn is a very popular professional networking site, although it is not designed for academic researchers. Read about LinkedIn on the ResearchExchange website.

There are plenty of other profile hosting websites that you can investigate for yourself, although not all of them will have the same functions as Academia.edu. Below is a list of some other sites that you may want to explore for yourself: you could use more than one of these to link to your favourite profile site, and boost the Google ranking of your favourite online profile.


Online Identity

The author of the blog posts for this week’s theme is Mark Carrigan. Mark is a postgraduate researcher in the Sociology department. He is a prolific blogger and can be found on a number of social networking sites online. As a 23 Things course tutor tutor, Mark can support registered participants through your blogs, so be sure to write about your experience of all the Things!

Although it can feel like the internet has been around for a long time, it really hasn’t. E-mail and mailing lists may have been part of academic life for many years but social media is only now starting to have much of an impact on academia. Established norms have built up around academic identity over many decades. In fact some are so established that they just seem to be ‘common sense’ and we tend not to think about them. However because the digital tools covered by 23 Things are so new, particularly within academia, they pose all sorts of new questions about how you present yourself and your work when using them.


In one way, questions of online identity for researchers are much simpler than those relating to ‘offline’ identity, in so far as that it’s much easier to exercise reflective control over your internet presence than it is over other aspects of your identity as a researcher. In another way though it’s more complex: the novelty of the tools, as well as the expansion of communication facilitated by them, means that online identity is relatively uncharted territory for researchers. To a certain extent these are personal matters, determined by an individual’s own sense of comfort with different approaches to online identity. However there are some key questions and suggestions which you might like to consider. Watch the video clip and read below to consider some of these.

1. What do you want to achieve through your online activity?

For instance, do you want to keep in contact with people you meet at conferences, connect to other researchers in your field, find opportunities to collaborate, promote your work or participate in debates about academic life? There are many reasons why researchers might want to cultivate an online identity but unless you’re clear about what your reasons are, your activity in this area is unlikely to be particularly rewarding or successful.

2. Given what you want to achieve, what would be the best platforms and tools for you to use?

Not all social media platforms are the same and this is reflected in who uses them and how they’re used. If you want to keep informed about new developments and participate in debates then twitter is for you. In contrast if your main concern is to connect with people in your area then you’d probably be more suited to academia.edu. Beware of the possibilities for procrastination which too many social media accounts can create - be strategic!

(Keep up with this 23 Things course to explore the platforms and tools.)

3. How should you behave online? How much of yourself do you want to express in your activity?

Do you want to keep a ‘professional’ identity which is clearly separate from your ‘personal’ identity? This depends on your personality, comfort in using online spaces and your academic aims. Some people make no attempt to separate personal & professional while others clearly demarcate where one ends and the other begins. These are two extremes with most people falling somewhere between them on the spectrum. However you choose to answer these questions don’t forget that all mediums are public to at least some degree!

Meet others interested in this theme: Tuesday 1 November, 12-1pm

This week's peer support event in the Research Exchange will be on "Improving your online presence & impact". Anna Sloan will be very glad to meet and talk to you and introduce you to some of these sites in the sofa area of the Wolfson Research Exchange on Tuesday 1 November, 12-1pm.


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