Searching with social media

Academic searches with social media – while this might sound like an odd idea at first, selected tools support the search process in a simple way and thus complement the “classic” search. The process of searching for literature is certainly no longer an individual sport: besides machine-based searches for suitable platforms, the human element is more important than ever. People who are connected to the internet often learn about new academic publications sooner than via the conventional route (e.g. library catalogues). In this blog entry, we aim to introduce a selection of social media tools and possibilities based on the search process.


The search process, infographics

Using social media to finding publications

Document platforms, blogs and even social networks are a good springboard for launching an academic search:

  • Scribd – the document portal is a public publishing platform that offers more than 60 million documents, a large number of which can’t be found on general search engines. Documents can only be downloaded via the subscription model.
  • SlideShare – current slides on academic topics can be found via the standard service for presentations. SlideShare belongs to LinkedIn and can be used without your own account. Incidentally, ETH-Bibliothek publishes many of its employees’ presentations on SlideShare.
  • Blog platforms such as Twingly or Meltwater IceRocket enable several blogs to be perused comfortably at the same time.
  • Monitoring tools such as Hootsuite or TweetDeck enable several social media channels to be followed at the same time. Anyone who subscribes to the corresponding hashtags as a feed receives all the new contributions conveniently on one platform and thus sees where which research results are published.
  • Last but not least, social bookmarking platforms such as diigo, delicious or Tagpacker offer a good search option. In the case of social bookmarking, bookmarks are saved on a platform instead of the browser. These can be public or private so users can find new articles and websites.

finding publications on social media

Quality criteria for websites and platforms

What makes a quality website? One of the greatest risks when searching with social media is the heterogeneity of the websites, blogs and articles found. The following checklist will help evaluate them:

  • Accuracy/quality: is the text structured in a logical way? Has it been edited by anyone and even subjected to a peer review?
  • Author/copyright holder: who is the author and what are his or her merits?
  • Purpose/objectivity: is the information impartial? Have different interests and approaches been taken into consideration?
  • Content: are the arguments well-founded, the facts backed up?
  • Topicality: when was the website or text created? Does it reflect the current state of research?
  • Relevance: is the information found pertinent to the issue at hand?
Evaluation criteria for websites and platforms

Evaluation criteria for websites and platforms

Managing sources

Besides familiar reference management programmes such as Endnote, Citavi or Mendeley, content found on social media can also be saved and processed in tools such as Evernote or OneNote. All kinds of information can be collected, organized and grouped with these two so-called data collectors. This might be the minutes of a meeting, web clippings, articles, images, videos or hand-written notes.

Data collectors: Evernote and OneNote

Data collectors: Evernote and OneNote

Keeping in the loop with social media

Needless to say, searching on social media is not a complete process. The name of the game is to keep up to date constantly. This can happen via social networks for researchers, for instance. Networks such as ResearchGate or facilitate the interaction, exchange, publication and propagation of new research results (watch out for usage rights!), as well as enabling you to showcase yourself (keyword: reputation).

Keeping up to date with social media

Keeping up to date with social media

Tips for further reading

German National Library of Economics (2015): Guidelines für WirtschaftswissenschaftlerInnen auf Twitter.

Müller, Ragnar (2013): Recherche 2.0. Finden und Weiterverarbeiten in Studium und Beruf. Wiesbaden: Springer.

Kyburz, Deborah (2016): Recherche mit Social Media. Course slides.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Public License.

DOI Link: 10.16911/ethz-ib-2642-en