Blurring the boundaries: New social media, new social science?

Should social science researchers embrace social media and, if we do, what are the implications for our methods and practice? This project, led by NatCen Social ResearchSage and the Oxford Internet Institute will develop a network of those using or seeking to use social media in social science research to explore this question.

We know that social media tools are increasingly being used to as part of social science studies. The nature of these tools means that it is a fast changing environment, with new practice emerging all the time. Despite this, there is limited interaction of practitioners or synthesis of these methods; there are also few opportunities to reflect on the implications of social media tools for our subjects of study, methods and ethics. Our network of methodological innovation will bring together academics, researchers and research stakeholders from all sectors. The aim is to develop a community of practice with members drawn from the cutting-edge of academia, market research and applied social research.


The community will be launched with a 1-day conference at the end of May 2012 with four further knowledge exchange e-events and a closing event across the next 12 months. We are hoping to live stream our events to enable the participation of network members from across the UK and internationally. Using collaborative online platforms we will generate think pieces, blogs and discussion forums and practitioner guides. The community will co-create the agenda for our knowledge exchange events and we are aiming for the community to be an active hub for dynamic discussions of social media and social research. The events will disseminate and synthesise the best of current practice and explore a wide range of methodological and ethical issues with contributions from network members. We envisage the events exploring topics such as:


  • Cutting edge qualitative methods such as netnography
  • Cutting edge quantitative methods such as webometrics
  • Ensuring quality and rigour of new methods
  • Technical requirements, skills and advances
  • The ethics of social media research tools
  • Integrating new social media tools with traditional methods


Membership is open to anyone with an interest in how social media are affecting what we research, how we research and who we involve with our research. If you would like to join the network, please email Kandy Woodfield with your contact details.


For further information, please contact:
Ms Kandy Woodfield
NatCen Social Research

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