Recently I read an article on Teach Thought about the proper way to use social media as a source when conducting research. I was intrigued to see that there was actually a format setup for both APA and MLA style formats for how to reference social media.
The chart for this:
The display of these sources seems to work in line with the associated format and publication style mentioned. The article details how APA has setup a style guide associated with using social media sources and offers it to the public for a small fee, but MLA hasn’t expressly released a style guide associated with social media sources.
I wanted to take a look at whether or not individuals who are writing scholarly articles should be considering the usage of social media within their research. I’m to understand there is no differentiation with respect to Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube, etc. and that all social media could in theory be used for research purposes, only if a few are mentioned in the chart.
I wanted to take a look at the pros and cons of using social media sources from the perspective of scholarly journal writing.
- Social media offers the most recent resources you can find. Often when conducting research this is one of the primary concerns of publications, that an article features more recent references than a collection of older literature.
- Social media is always on. You always have access to social media, as long as you have an internet connection through your phone or computer. You don’t have to worry about a database being down for maintenance in the way you might in other search situations.
- Social media offers more content than any other search tool. Every second on social media thousands of posts are being created and published. Journals on the other hand will be published, at best, once a month and only feature a handful of articles.
- Social media offers a wide range of opinions. In the internet age individuals are more able to express themselves. If you are studying a certain topic you may find a more wide array of opinions on social media than you would through journals, textbooks and more traditional norms.
- Anyone can get on social media. I know a friend’s daughter who is two and knows how to use YouTube quite well. There is nothing to stop her from publishing a comment on YouTube if her mother is logged in. What this boils down to is that the sources on social media may not be vetted as they would be through a review of a publication.
- Accuracy may not exist on social media. Since everyone is able to produce content on social media you may find that there are multiple opinions on the same topic all claiming to be factual.
- Social media offers more content than any other search tool. While this is a pro, it is also a con. It will take a keen eye and a lot of time to sift through the extensive content published on social media. Your search terms have to be perfect for everything to work for you. Too broad a search results in too many results, but too specific a search results in no results.
- Using social media as a source for research has not been studied, so it is difficult to determine how successful using social media sources might be or if there is any adverse impacts from using social media as resource when conducting research.
Overall, my view point at this time is that it may be far more productive to use social media to promote your research than it would be to conduct it.