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Evaluate Sources

Accuracy in Social Media

Author's network: How old is the account? Do some background research on fans and followers: Who is in their network and who follows them? Who leaves comments? 

Reliability (of author and content): Can the information be verified from other sources? Does the author have a Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, blog, or personal webpage? What kind of content is showcased on these pages? 

Contextual updates: Does the author usually post about this topic? If so, what do past or updated posts say? Do they fill in details as they occur?

Geography: If the blog features breaking news content, is the author near the location of the event?  

Using Social Media in Research

Social media is a great starting point for brief mentions of studies, breaking news, company and industry updates, or statistics that link to a primary resource. Also check the blog/Twitter/YouTube, or other account for possible keywords to help you in your follow-up research.

  • Breaking News blogs: These are usually safe. New York Times'  blog, for example, is updated by reporters on the scene. When conducting research on a specific event, wait about 24 hours before looking at the blog as any initial incorrect information will have been amended.
  • Author blogs: Author blogs refer to the researcher who wrote the blog, which might exist on a university website where the researcher is employed. They could also be written by a reporter from a news organization, implying that the author's opinions might be sanctioned by their employer. You will frequently see disclaimers that the "opinions are the author's own". Author blogs are still opinion-based, unless backed by cited facts.
  • Second-person removed blogs: These are usually written as a reaction to something. They might include links to the originally sourced material. Second-person removed authors might not be affiliated to the people, places, or things they write about. These blogs do not have to look professional. They can be current or completely outdated, so you should only use these blogs for IDEAS.
  • Personal blogs: Unless written by someone who is directly related to something of critical significance to your paper, personal blogs vary in usefulness. Someone who documented certain events as they happened on September 11 might provide good information for a paper on the psychological effects of mass media exposure or on the importance of citizen journalism in an open society. A personal blog with a good bibliography could be very helpful as a secondary resource, or one that leads you to a primary resource.

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