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Five ways in which Twitter can be useful in academic contexts

I can’t believe I had to spend some of my time (that I so jealously guard to do academic writing) to write an actual defense of a social media site and its use in academia, but it surprises me how many times I have had to explain why I am on Twitter, as a busy academic.

1. To consume current knowledge in a timely fashion.

We are academics. We want to be on top of things. We want to stay current, and hear when the latest journal article on the fanciest quantitative technique. We want to read the most articulate defense of a particular methodology or theoretical view. I use Twitter to follow trends in water governance, sanitation, climate politics, research methods, etc.

2. To build scholarly networks.

Even though I’m very well connected because of all the travel I do and all the emails I sent when I was in graduate school, and all the meetings I’ve attended and workshops I’ve presented (I used to do networking the old fashioned way), Twitter enables network building in a much faster, dynamic way. I now have a network of trusted scholars whom I can fire quick questions on ideas I’ve been mulling around, share tips on academic writing productivity, etc. That’s also the philosophy underlying #ScholarSunday.

3. To refine research ideas.

Because I follow scholars in specific areas (and I follow in a broad variety of disciplines), I am always able to point out and ask questions on a specific paper, an idea I’m developing, request suggestions for specific authors, etc.

4. To obtain and provide emotional support.

Anybody who doesn’t realize academia is a lonely activity sometimes, where the increased pressure of publishing and shrinking budgets and dwindling resources make academia much harder, is fooling him/herself. Emotions are part of research, teaching and mentoring. And they are part of our every day life. I use Twitter to receive and provide emotional support. It’s like a large network of positive energy all around. And we are all nerds, so we are always able to relate to what other scholars are feeling at least in some way.

5. To share resources in an environment of scarcity

One of the ways in which Twitter has helped me is sharing resources. There are times when it’s practically impossible to find a journal article or a book chapter, and I can ask for help to get me those resources. Even when my institution has paid access, sometimes I’m unable to remotely connect, and I can always ask around on Twitter if anybody can send me a journal article that I’m missing. My requests are very often granted, luckily.

So, there you have it. There are many ways in which a social media site that is often criticized for inanity and enabling people to post what they had for breakfast actually have helped me refine arguments, learn more and build networks of knowledge and support. These were just five of them.

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3 Responses

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  1. Huw Jarvis says

    This is a brilliant summary. Thanks for sharing. I work inTESOL (language education) and host In recent years Twitter has become our primary channel for disseminating and discussing.

  2. Kyle Maloney says

    Interesting post, we are always looking for creative ways to help academics and always looking for creative posts to help out academic researchers. We share our resources through our blog, , if you are interested in sharing any with your students.

  3. paul says

    It genuinely surprises me that you have to explain the benefits of or express support for a globally enabled communication vehicle. Stating the obvious I would have thought.

    But I am learning more and more how often many academics seem to lead an introverted, intellectually incestuous, sheltered life.

    Anything that helps bring academics and their work into the ‘real world’, away from the sterile disconnect of their labs or computers, for example, is a good thing in my opinion.

    Generally speaking.

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