Are doctoral candidates switched on to the impact of social media?

Early in 2015 I conducted a bit of research about social media use at my institution (the University of Aberdeen). It was presented at the UK Council for Graduate Education, 2nd International Conference on Developments in Doctoral Education & Training Conference in 2015.

I wrote up the findings and they were recently published in the proceedings. There are interesting papers covering all different areas of graduate training. The abstract for my paper is below and you can download the proceedings (my paper is on page 93).

Texting by Jhaymesisviphotography, on Flickr

Are doctoral candidates switched on to the impact of social media? 

Dr Heather Doran* and Dr Kenneth D. Skeldon *Corresponding author, University of Aberdeen, King’s College, Regent Walk, Old Aberdeen, AB24 3FX

It might be assumed that today’s doctoral students are aware of and active in the use of social media tools in the course of their work. Here we question whether doctoral students are really utilising these tools to effectively and responsibly strengthen and progress their work and careers.

In the rapidly evolving area of social media, support and advice is often sporadic, presented with different foci depending on whether training is delivered by individuals, institutions or funding bodies. Differing policy between these groups also causes confusion around how researchers can best use digital tools. Coupled with this, there are different approaches and guidelines on what is appropriate to be discussed online. Individual social media accounts have come under scrutiny for being ‘self-promoting’ with many opting for a research group output rather than individual accounts. However, this latter approach presents its own difficulties in building attributable voices and a corresponding audience. This landscape can be daunting for those navigating a doctorate and wishing to benefit from these digital tools.

In this paper we address some specific questions, such as whether doctoral candidates have the confidence, knowledge and responsibility to use social digital networks in the context of their work, and whether those that do not might be disadvantaged. We will present conclusions based on a local survey of social media use at the University of Aberdeen and compare these with general surveys of digital use and attitudes by researchers conducted by others across the globe (Lupton, 2014).

The local survey highlighted that uptake of social media was higher amongst research staff and Principal Investigators than early career researchers and doctoral candidates. The findings suggest that the uptake was lower in the latter group as they are unsure how to use social media effectively for their own personal development.

We will explore the value of social media to researchers and doctoral candidates and share how our analysis and evaluation has informed knowledge to steer effective engagement with the research community about social media.



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