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The Use of Facebook and Other Social Media Platforms in Social Science Research

Case
By: Published: 2020 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 1
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Abstract

This research methods case explores issues encountered, and considerations necessary, in pursuing academic research employing social media platforms. I will discuss the overarching concept of social media use in academe, which includes data mining, promoting research records, broadening audiences, and pursuing independent research. I will then discuss the use of social media for the purpose of conducting independent research and deriving primary data from that undertaking. Social media present potentially powerful tools in the conduct of academic research, especially for reaching groups with common interests solely or primarily bound by virtual bonds. It enables a researcher to greatly expand the reach of their study, and to do so in a very cost-effective manner. As discussed in this research case, the use of social media does present unique challenges that must be considered and addressed prior to engaging in a study. Unlike a traditional approach to research, your study population is often at a distance which makes interfacing with them much more challenging. In addition, in preparation to conduct your study, it is important to meet with your institution’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) well in advance to clarify expectations regarding the necessary documentation needed to receive approval of your research. Once IRB officials are clear on your purpose and the methodology you intend to use, the guidance they provide will be quite helpful in fulfilling the administrative requirements necessary for the institution to sanction your study. Along with potential issues associated with the IRB, this research methods case also discusses some other complications of the use of social media, including difficulties in establishing population sizes and reporting response rates.

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