Find Social Media Sources

What are social media sources?

Social media sources are any resources found on social media sites that are used for research. Social media helps people share information, opinions, ideas, and stories with one another, and facilitates the creation of online communities. Examples of social media sources include tweets, posts or stories from Instagram or Facebook, YouTube videos or comments, TikTok videos, and Reddit threads. 

Why should you use social media sources?

  1. Find lived experiences: On social media, people can share personal narratives and stories of how they have been impacted by a certain topic. Activists and advocates for change also often use social media to promote their message. These lived experiences can give you interesting new ways of thinking about your research topic.
  2. Find different perspectives: It takes privilege to publish in a scholarly journal, newspaper, or magazine. Some people who experience being marginalized or shut out of traditional sources may find a voice on social media.

Using Social Media Sources: Considerations

  1. Only One Perspective: A single social media source will only give one person’s perspective or experience on a certain topic. Do not assume that one person’s social media source is representative of an entire community, movement, or narrative. Search for information about the person or organization to learn more.
  2. No Fact-Check or Peer Review: Social media sources usually do not go through any process of peer review or fact check where experts would verify if a statement is factual. It is important to investigate any social media source to ensure it is presenting truthful information.

Research Methods for Social Media

There are several sources that offer an overview of social media channels as well as guidelines to get started with your research. 

The Sage Handbook to Social Media Research provides an overview of social media research and covers topics that range from conceptualizing your research to guiding you through qualitative and quantitative approaches to social media research. It also provides a thorough examination of different social media platforms including Instagram, Twitter, Weibo, and Facebook.   

The Ethics of Online Research offers an introduction to the ethics of internet and social networking research and explores the ethical challenges faced by researchers focused on this topic.

How to Search for Information on Social Media


The best method of searching through twitter is using Twitter’s advanced search option. 

You can use it to search twitter using phrases, words, language, and hashtags. You can get help with this feature here. 

  You can also check out twitter curated datasets that focus on particular topics: 

 DocNow Tweet Catalog 

 The DocNow Catalog is a curated listing of Twitter datasets.  

How to search on Instagram 

How to search on TikTok 

Reddit search help 

How to Cite Social Media Sources

Any social media source you use in research must be cited appropriately. Below are some resources for citing social media sources: 

Citing Social Media (Carleton College): The Gould Library at Carleton College has compiled a list of different citation examples for social media sources, including Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok. 

 Online Media (APA Style): The APA Style Guide gives updated (7th edition) examples on creating citations for social media sources. 

 Citing Material Posted on Social Media Platforms (MLA Style Center): The MLA Style Center has guidelines and explanations for citing social media sources using MLA citation.