A review of ‘Twitter for Research’

This is a round-up of the content, reaction and response to the Twitter for Research session I gave here in Cambridge last week. The session was attended by a relatively small audience of 30 (academics, researchers, students, support staff and librarians), but was followed by a much larger number of people on twitter via the hashtag #twit4res as live-tweeted by @KTLib, @meg_librarian, @lettylib, all of whom are well worth following.

My Prezi
I decided to prepare a prezi for the session which would not only be engaging for the local audience but would also contain enough content and information to make it valuable to non-attendees. Happily, judging by the fact it has now been viewed 2780 times (!) and the number of RTs and follows I received over this weekend I think I pulled that off.

My Message
The main messages I wanted the prezi to get over were that:

  • twitter is a viable and valuable platform for academics and researchers;
  • media stereotypes should be ignored, you can cut out all the noise and rubbish;
  • twitter can make you more engaged and offers opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise come your way;
  • heaps of academics, researchers and serious organisations are already on twitter;
  • risks of use are exaggerated and twitter is not hugely difference to sharing at a conference;
  • professional and personal lives are blending more and twitter is part of a movement championing a more social model of scholarly research.

Twitter Temperature
I started the session by taking the audience’s twitter temperature via a post-it notes exercise that got people out of their chairs (I always like to get people moving about) and found we had an almost exact split of non-users (12) and users (11), with just one person in the middle considering the possibility. 6 people didn’t take part (because they were too busy tweeting, were too miserable, or had no leg-bones). N.B. For those adding up, by the time I took the photo some of the post-its had fallen off the board.

As well as selecting a coloured post-it relating to their use or non-use, the audience were also asked to give reasons why. Of those who weren’t using twitter the main reason cited was that they didn’t have time to tweet. Other reasons given were: ‘Will the things I say really interest anyone?’; ‘Twitter is officially banned in my country’; ‘Couldn’t be bothered to figure it out’; and ‘I perceive there is too little space for information to be disseminated well’. Naturally I addressed all of these points in the session and on the subject of time, simply related that you make time in your working life for those activities you consider to be valuable and for me twitter definitely falls into that category.

Of those already using twitter, most cited: professional development; networking; profile-raising; sourcing relevant blogposts and articles; and keeping up with breaking news.

HootSuite Demo
I elected to demo HootSuite in the session as it’s my Twitter platform of choice, not so much for its much-publicised social media dashboard functionality, but simply because it allows you to view columns listing your mentions, DMs, RTs and saved searches and lists. I also showed a list of business school academics that I put together (I would share it here but I can only view it through HootSuite at the minute – another job for the list) as well as some example hashtag and non-hashtag searches for relevant tweets (leading to blogposts and articles) on energy data.

Simon Ruffle – Centre for Risk Studies
For those of you not at the session wondering what ‘A word from Simon’ related to in the prezi – this was a few minutes talk from an academic called Simon Ruffle from the Centre for Risk Studies. They have been looking at tweets relating to earthquakes and mining the raw twitterfeed direct from twitter.com to plot official earthquake tweets against those reported by regular tweeters. It made for a very interesting aside. Many thanks for your input Simon.

In Conclusion
By session end, several attendees either told me in person or on the feedback forms that they were converted to twitter and would give it a try. Only one wrote that they remained unconvinced. However, the conversions have not been limited to the session alone – I’ve since received email requests from academics and students who couldn’t attend, who have seen the prezi, taking up our offer both to get started on twitter and, if they already have an account, to help them make better use of it.

What would I do differently next time? Ask a few less general questions as there wasn’t quite enough discussion and debate for my liking and, secondly, bill it as an hour rather than 45 minutes – who was I kidding? Also, it would have also have been great if more academics and researchers had responded to my request to co-present/contribute to the session. Maybe next time?

– Before I close I must just credit those academics/researchers whose excellent work/efforts I drew on in the session: George VeletsianosMark Carrigan; Dorothy Bishop; Skip Via. Thank you all and, again, get following them.

– Thanks also to all those lovely people I follow on twitter whose tweets I incorporated into the prezi. I’m afraid time constraints dictated that I didn’t get the chance to clear this with you all.

– And finally thanks to Kirsty Taylor for collating this tremendously useful collection of twitter for academic articles and blogposts on our posterous blog.

Andy @PriestLib


2 thoughts on “A review of ‘Twitter for Research’

  1. @Lettylib says:

    It was an interesting session and I loved Skip Via’s presentation. In fact the session has inspired me to do something on twitter in the Brown Bag lunch in April. It may have to be George V’s article as failing to find anything about information professionals use of twitter – beyond the articles, blogs and guides onto what to do and why. I hope to run before a little twitter poll for those attending.


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