Thursday, October 18, 2012

Social Media for PhD Candidates

Just to mix it up a bit, some thoughts on getting into social media for PhD candidates...

The truth is being a PhD candidate can be pretty lonely. You might be lucky enough to be working as part of a great research team, or to have on campus study space that facilitates communication and the development of friendships with others candidates, but at times, and for many of us most of the time, we spend our days working in isolation.

Social media doesn’t replace departmental seminars and morning teas, reading groups and skills sessions, but it is an alternative for those who are unable to access such things and complements them for those who can. Social media is a contested space within academia, but it deserves consideration for the advantages it offers PhD candidates and early career researchers.

I only started delving into social media forums for academic purposes a couple of months ago when I was unable to join in with a real life #shutupandwrite session held by my university due to lack of childcare. I found that a virtual #shutupandwrite with others on twitter provided great motivation for me. Social media includes many forums but blogging, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn seem the most popular amongst academics.
There are some simple rules to follow as you launch yourself into the world of social media (#socmed) in an academic capacity: 
  • ·      What you say online will live forever. Be professional
  • ·      Develop a consistent professional profile for networking
  • ·      Consider separating your ‘work’ and ‘friends & family’ personas online
  • ·      Observe a little until you understand the etiquette of #socmed.
  • ·      #Socmed is a two way street. Give and you will receive.

What might you gain from using #socmed?
  • ·      Make connections and build collaborations, learn about conferences and events
  • ·      Develop important academic skills
  • ·      Publicise your research
  • ·      Recruit research participants
  • ·      Carry out ‘netnographic’ data collection
  • ·      Obtain 24/7 support. When your lab partner has gone home for the night or your spouse is asleep #socmed is always there.

And what are the risks?
  • ·      Your thoughts are now in the public domain, be careful sharing your research
  • ·      Unprofessional conduct can come back to bite you
  • ·      Social media eats time for breakfast, lunch and dinner; before you know it it’s 2am and you want to be up at 6am to catch a live twitter chat on literature reviews
  • ·      Other academics may be wary of social media, its merit is considered unevenly between disciplines and institutions. Be aware that others may be less enthusiastic than you.

Want to start?

1) Check out a couple of blogs. There are hundreds of great blogs out there, some discipline specific, some offering advice on research techniques, writing and academic life, many of which you’ll find via twitter mentions. So as not to overload you I’m just going to suggest starting with the first couple of blogs I came across.

Thesis Whisperer (on twitter as @thesiswhisperer)
Patter (on twitter as @ThomsonPat)
PhD2Published (on twitter as @PhD2Published)

2) Sign up for Twitter. In the search box type in some of the following: #phdchat, #ecrchat, #phdadvice, if someone says something you like the sound of click on their name to check out their profile, follow them if you are interested, they may well follow you back. Search for academics in your field, check out who they follow and follow anyone who seems interesting. Then just listen for a few days until a particular topic takes your fancy and you are ready to weigh in on the conversation.

I know that there are a million resources out there, but it would be crazy to overwhelm you already with a gigantic list, just start small and each connection will lead to another, and before you know it you will be over run with information, inspiration and hopefully motivation to get on with the job.

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