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London Metropolitan University

Can you use this in your coursework?: Social media

Can you use this in your coursework?

Social media

Websites and apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and other social media platforms can be useful tools for maintaining your current awareness and engagement in your subject. Researchers, academics and other well-known figures in your area of study may use personal blogs to share ideas, expert opinions, or snapshots of something that they're working on, and trade publications, newspapers and, often, academic journals, will have social media channels where they share new articles or hot topics of the day.
Diagram of different types of social media
However, when it comes to deciding whether you can use social media posts in your coursework, you need to consider what this particular assignment is asking you to do, and whether this type of source can help you to achieve that. 
Some points to bear in mind about social media:
  • Anyone can present themselves as an expert on something on social media - it doesn't mean that they actually are
  • "Fake news" is rife on social media platforms, because it spreads so easily (to learn more about how to identify "fake news", take a look at this infographic produced during the COVID-19 pandemic by the International Federation of Library Associations): Infographic on how to spot fake news IFLA infographic based on’s 2016 article "How to Spot Fake News" in JPG format. Available at: Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence (CC BY 4.0)
  • Social media platforms are frequently used by those who hold very strong opinions and wish to spread their message, or to push an agenda, meaning that there is a lot of bias (or just plain lies) flying around on these apps
  • There is no kind of quality control - as with any online platform, anyone can publish anything 
Social media is not an academic source. Posts on these platforms cannot be presumed to be trustworthy or scholarly. Therefore, if your assignment requires you to find research and evidence to support and compare arguments, then social media is not the place to find this. However, in some cases it may be considered as a primary source in itself. Some examples of how you may be able to use social media could be:
  • Analysing how world leaders responded to a specific major event
  • Analysing how social media was used to organise an event or movement, such as a protest
  • Analysing how political parties use their social media channels to try to gain support
  • Analysing how companies or organisations use social media to communicate with customers
If you need help with deciding whether you can use social media in your coursework, get in touch with your Academic Liaison Librarian.
Remember too that the ideas and opinions that you express yourself on social media can be far-reaching, even if you have your privacy settings ramped up or you are posting in a closed group. Once something is out there on the web, it is very difficult to get rid of - and it's not uncommon for employers to look potential new hires up online.