A Researcher’s Experience of Social Media!

Alli Coyle

Recently I attended a seminar with Inger Mewburn (@thesiswhisperer) where she talked about blogging and twitter for academics.  When I got home that evening, I set about “re-branding” my blog and twitter identity.  As a researcher, I’ve been blogging since I started my PhD; I got into twitter a bit later once I returned from fieldwork in my 2nd year (during 2012). I’ve tried to embrace social media and to use twitter and blogging as a tool for staying connected with networks both in and out of academia.

Learning (and researching) in 2013, looks a bit different from how it did when I started my undergraduate degree in 2005. This was before the days of twitter and when we still used acetates and projectors when giving presentations. Not only has technology moved on since I was printing to acetate for presentations but I also think my approach to learning (and researching) has changed along the way too. I now use Dropbox to save most of my work and Mendeley is my reference manager of choice. My tablet goes everywhere with me and I no longer carry a notepad around.

As I search journal articles for key words, use google scholar and keep an eye on twitter’s #phdchat for any hints, I wonder if I depend on technology a little too much? I still like to print chapters/articles that I am working on – scribble my edits and re-write sections. I tend to get more work done when I turn off technology but then I feel like I’m missing something.

If I try not to look at twitter (i.e. I set up pre-tweets, then ignore it) I feel a bit lost when I go back to it, or I’ve missed an opportunity.  It wasn’t till I “re-branded” my blog and twitter  that I realised how much of an impact twitter can have. My blog had more hits in 2 days when I tweeted about the new look than it normally gets in a month.

My experience of learning and researching has certainly changed during the course of my studies. I’ve become accustomed to tweeting and blogging about my research and I wouldn’t want to change that. I think as a PhD student and researcher it’s important to have a presence online – for me twitter and blogging provide a way to talk about my research and keep in touch with others.

I think the trick is to find the balance between making the best use of technology and social media and still picking up a pen and paper!

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