Social media: A guide for researchers (Terry Wassall case study)

Added by Catherine Gray on 07 February 2011 18:14

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Terry Wassall

I am a lecturer of Sociology at Leeds University. I completed my PhD in 1990 and I have been teaching at Leeds University ever since apart from two years where I was at Sheffield University.

These days I prefer to get information about my work and research using social media, twitter, blogs, Google, but also working with colleagues, seminars, conferences and the traditional methods. Mainly I get information online. I make extensive use of online journals and key websites for discipline specific material for writing and curriculum development. Social networking I use for information on learning and teaching issues.

I started using social media for academic purposes and forming a network beyond the University. But I had also been interested for some time in how academics and researchers might communicate better with public audiences beyond the normal specialist and conference circuits, peer reviewed journals and so on. This has always been a political issue for me

I wasn’t actively discouraged from using social media but there was very little interest amongst colleagues and the University teaching and learning community. By the early 2000s some were reluctantly using the VLE but even now there’s no real interest. None of my current colleagues go beyond using the VLE in a basic way as far as I know. Some still don’t know what a blog is or why they should want one!

I think social media made me a better researcher because I find stuff out a lot quicker. I now have a network of individuals who I respect and am confident in their work. The network discovers and filters and discusses. I have connected my research to the real world in a way that would not have been so easy before and maybe not have been possible. For curriculum development and teaching this has connected me with real issues that interest and engage students and has helped them become student researchers in their own right with a broader and more critical take on issues.

Social media in many respects have made my work-life balance worse and I have to be careful. But my work and non-work interests overlap to such an extent the work-life balance thing is hard to disaggregate.

The main project page for Social media: A guide for researchers is here.


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