Mike Thelwall

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Social Media and social science research: what are the key issues researchers face?

Social Media and social science research: what are the key issues researchers face?

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  • 1. Information StudiesSocial media and social scienceresearch: What are the key issuesresearchers face?Mike ThelwallStatistical Cybermetrics Research GroupUniversity of Wolverhampton, UK
  • 2. 1a. Quant: Exploiting Big Data Social media can generate big data relevant to social science research Can new types of big data methods give new insights into social media?  E.g., webometrics Can old methods from existing fields be re- purposed for social media?  E.g., variants of social network analysis for social network sites?  E.g., sentiment analysis for social media texts?
  • 3. #oscars% matching posts Proportion of tweets mentioning the Oscars 9 Feb 2010 Date and time 9 Mar 2010 Av. +ve sentimeSubj. Sentiment strength Just subj. Increase in –ve sentiment strength Av. -ve sentime Just subj. 9 Feb 2010 Date and time 9 Mar 2010
  • 4. Big Data transformation example: Large networks can sometimes beproduced and drawn with 30 minute and computer software rather than taking a small research project
  • 5. 1b. Identifying appropriatequalitative research methods What is the best way to investigate  Facebook?  YouTube? Can existing methods be repurposed?  e.g., virtual ethnography, blogs-as-diaries Are completely new methods needed?
  • 6. 2. Ethics Does the human research paradigm fit the web data – e.g., tweets? Or documentary research? Ask permission from everybody or nobody to research their public web postings? Anonymise or give credit?
  • 7. Wolverhampton Riots YouTube video commentersNames removedAges keptBoth could be discoveredRed arrows = happy replies, black = angry replies
  • 8. Trialog 3. Lack of establishedmethods to analyse new social media Increased uncertainty about methods validity  Lack of precedent to justify methods  Increased attention on methods validity Weaker data, if web content is analysed  Loss of control over sample selection, compared to surveys and interviews  Potential lack of face validity  E.g., trolls
  • 9. Network of links between university web sites 5 per countryAsian and European nations But how useful are linksas evidence of connections such as collaboration?
  • 10. Summary Qualitative and qualitative research issues  Which methods to use  How should they be used/modified?  What are their limitations? What are the key ethical issues that arise with methods? Is there a quality issue with social media research?