Information StudiesSocial media and social scienceresearch: What are the key issuesresearchers face?Mike ThelwallStatistical Cybermetrics Research GroupUniversity of Wolverhampton, UK
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?
#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
Big Data transformation example: Large networks can sometimes beproduced and drawn with 30 minute and computer software rather than taking a small research project
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?
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?
Wolverhampton Riots YouTube video commentersNames removedAges keptBoth could be discoveredRed arrows = happy replies, black = angry replies
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
Network of links between university web sites 5 per countryAsian and European nations But how useful are linksas evidence of connections such as collaboration?
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?