Hot Topics in Research Methods: Social Media Research

Welcome to an archived edition of the Sage Research Methods Hot Topics page. The material below is available to current customers and to visitors starting a free trial of the platform. Be sure to visit the current Hot Topics page to gain access to examples of our various content types, tied each quarter to a new theme. More past editions can be found at the  Hot Topics archive page.

What Is Social Media and What Questions Can Social Media Research Help Us Answer?

Social media is a term with many meanings and few formal definitions. This chapter of SAGE's popular Handbook of Social Media Research Methods presents a history of social media research, searches for consensus among scholars, and concludes with a proposal for a broad definition.

The authors also look at new research questions prompted by social media—questions of methodology, ethics, and scale .

Analysing Online Postings: Television Fandom and Identity

This dataset provides an opportunity to think about the practicalities and ethics of online data collection and analysis. The data exemplar includes twenty postings by fans reacting to the end of their favorite television shows. Eight of the fan comments are left unanalyzed, to be used for student practice.

Social Media Research & Ethics

Social media research lets scholars access potentially large sets of rich, naturally occurring data in order to understand social interactions and identities. Yet these new avenues of research come with significant ethical considerations. 

Watch as social scientist Leanne Townsend addresses these challenges and provides a framework for ethical research with social media.

Portion of ethical framework for social media research by Dr. Leanne Townsend

Read one researcher's reflections on using social media and big data analytics to understand the Arab Spring as it unfolded. Ahmed K. Al-Rawi employed a webometric tool to retrieve and analyze nearly 115,000 posts and comments from the popular Facebook page of a Syrian opposition group. Here he shares the challenges of studying online political activism and the importance of contextualizing social media data.

Figure 1. The most frequent phrases and their associated terms in the Facebook page posts.

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