Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Using Twitter in my PhD research

I felt I needed to come on here and write about my experiences of using the online social media platform "Twitter" where some definite learning has occurred, but for most of it, it has been a joyous experience. I set up a Twitter account to connect with injured veteran/ex-service personnel and from the outset I was not positive at all as I feared that keeping the account up to date would be time consuming and laborious. However some benefits I have seen in persevering with it are:

1) The ability to freely follow relevant people, groups, associations and charities which could be of interest to your research. Given time they may follow you back and this can lead to recruitment
2) If suitable users follow you back you can "direct message" them which cuts out the concern over confidentiality issues and ethically inappropriate recruitment.
3) On your Twitter page you have the opportunity to put a small description about yourself so that other users can immediately find out what you are about i.e. in my case I have put my PhD research title in this area and put a link to my website.
4) Another benefit I have recently seen is the ability to receive recommendations of people to follow through my registered email address. Initially this annoyed me as it felt like a form of junk mail, but as I scrolled through the emails there have been some really good recommendations. You will also find some good recommendations on your direct Twitter page which can also be helpful
5) Getting to know some useful hashtags can make you part of some good conversations i.e in my case #veterans and #beyondinjury

Please bear in mind though that the dreaded 140 character allowance per Tweet/message can be infuriating but research is all about being succinct so it's good for research development #addedbonus  sorry could not help it! As you can see, using hashtags becomes a natural part of your life when you begin to use Twitter! 

So having described all these benefits, how have they impacted on my research?

1) I have been fortunate to recruit participants for interviews
2) I am beginning to increase my followers
3) I have been able to keep in contact with people I have met from conferences and seminars. The benefit of this is that I stand a good chance of being visual to other relevant users which could result in more followers

Therefore, having a Twitter account has the potential to make you more visual to others. However, it will require self-motivation on the researcher's part to make Twitter part of their normal routine, keep send regular tweets and building followers.

Remember to plan your recruitment strategy with sensitivity and thought!

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