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The Social Dynamic of Academics on Twitter

Description of research project:

Twitter has become a popular forum for academics to publicly connect and communicate, yet little is known about the structure of academics’ social networks on Twitter or what they tweet about. The purpose of this project is to use Twitter data to further our understanding of social dynamics among academics across several academic disciplines, including sociology. This study aims to answer the following questions: How representative are academics on Twitter of the overall population of academics? What are the topics of their tweets? What are the dynamics of following among academics and how are they associated with individual and institutional prestige? Who are the followers of academics? To what extent are academics within certain disciplines connected with professionals within their discipline outside the academy? To answer these questions, this study will construct an initial data set of academics from information available on department websites. Then, academics’ Twitter data will be scraped. After all data are collected, data will be cleaned and organized, and methods such as network analysis and topic modeling will be used for data analysis.

Description of work that will be assigned to research assistants:

Most of the work will involve gathering information about academics on department websites, finding Twitter handles, and organizing relevant information into databases. As the project progresses, research assistants will provide assistance with literature review and preliminary data analysis. Research assistants with skills in Python or R may use either of these programming languages for certain tasks, but this is not a requirement. Research assistants are primarily supporting the project by completing non-programming tasks.

Supervising Faculty Member: Jeff Morenoff

Graduate Student: Garrett Pace

Contact information: gtpace@umich.edu

Average hours of work per week: 3-9

Range of credit hours students can earn: 1-3

Number of positions available: 10