Twitter for researchers

This Friday, on the ‘Information and Literature Searching’ course, we will be discussing ways in which the micro-blogging site Twitter can help PhD students keep abreast of research in their area.  It is for this reason that the blog post written last September has been brought back to the top on Newsam News.

This week, September 19th to 23rd, is International Social Media Week (see:  http://socialmediaweek.org/) and so it seems appropriate to write about one of the social networking technologies that I have found particularly useful in research. And apologies to those of you who are already keen academic twitterers – but I am sure you will endorse what I write below.

Twitter, the micro-blogging online social networking service has been in existence since 2006.  It allows users to send and read text-based posts of up to 140 characters, known as “tweets”. Although, the media mainly quote Twitter in the context of celebrity sleaze -idle and ignorant chit chat among the ‘Twitterati’and/or in the context of the political upheavals abroad, e.g. Egypt -it is widely being used as a communication and marketing tool among professional individuals, organisations and institutions associated with education and research.

In terms of research value, it is worth noting that the presence of research and academic institutions on Twitter is growing every day.  More often than not, these Twitter accounts are linked to websites or blogs and are used for alerting interested parties of new materials that have been posted on these sites.  Twitter can therefore be a useful tool to keep informed about your area of research.

Twitter is also very useful to get your questions answered, follow ‘conversations’ at conferences and exchange good practice.  A good example of this is #phdchat where a group of PhD students, academics and researchers  ‘meet’ weekly on Twitter for an hour on Wednesdays between 19:30 and 20:30 to discuss research-related issues.  The discussions are themed and you can suggest a topic by tweeting @NSRiazat.  These twitter conversations have been so popular that participants now include postgraduate researchers and academics from around the world.  Conferences are now increasingly publicising a ‘hashtag’ e.g. #ALT2011 and encouraging their participants to tweet.  Although this may not be ideal, it allows you to keep updated on content and get participant feedback almost instanteously.

So, if you are still mindful of experimenting with Twitter, follow these simple steps:

  1. Watch the ‘Twitter in Plain English’ video guide to get you started;
  2. Set up your Twitter Account, including your profile and adding some information about yourself – remember, this is a social networking site so be prepared to show the human side of you occasionally and that includes having a bit of personal information about yourself in your profile; and
  3. Search for like-minded individuals, similar organisations and professional bodies representing the area of research you are focusing on.  To do this, simply type in a keyword in the search box or follow the suggestions below:

You may also want to subscribe to the education list at:  http://www.twibes.com/category/education and a list of academic tweeters by subject here:  http://j.mp/pJtAmb

Well, that should get you started on microblogging and if you do decide to go down Twitter lane, do share your experience with us @ioelibrary and here:  “Academic Tweeting: your suggestions and tips collected at http://t.co/vSuIVS6G

Nazlin Bhimani

Addendum

See IOE LibGuide ‘Twitter for Researchers” for instructions on how to get started on Twitter.

About Nazlin Bhimani

Nazlin is the Research Support and Special Collections Librarian at the UCL Institute of Education in London, UK. She is also the tutor for the MPhil/PhD core module 'Information and Literature Searching'. Nazlin is interesting in using new technologies to enhance access to historical materials and in digital cultures.
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