Thing 6: Twitter

bluebirdTwitter is a micro-blogging service. It functions just like a blog, but each of your posts (“tweets”) cannot be longer than 140 characters.

Within the Twitter platform it is easy to follow other users or read and contribute to global discussions around topics of interest.

Researchers and teachers use Twitter to network and build professional contacts, share relevant information and interesting links, stay up to date in a field area, crowdsource data, and get/answer questions in the classroom.

What can you fit in 140 characters anyway?

140 characters doesn’t sound like a lot of space. However, it turns out that academics have found dozens of uses for Twitter, including the following:

  • Publicising your work, such as a new blog post or article.

  • Disseminating news about your professional activities, such as attending a conference

  • Commenting on news in your field or higher education in general

  • Sharing interesting content you find, through tweeting URLs or through retweeting (forwarding) others’ tweets

  • Getting information from the University of Auckland Twitter accounts

  • News updates (for example, from other 23 Things for Research participants, @InsideHigherEd, @TimesHigherEd, and @N4LNZ)

  • General discussion around specific topics (See #edchatnz for a great example of this; the organiser, Danielle Myburgh, is a University of Auckland education graduate)

  • Opportunities and news from professional or research bodies. These might include calls for papers, funding or jobs.

  • Activities in faculties, libraries, and other research centres. You can find out about seminars and conferences this way.

  • Livetweeting at conferences (either participating in the conference audience ‘backchannel’ or to get a flavour of discussions and speakers to look up, and participate remotely by asking questions if you can’t attend in person)

  • Asking questions, and answering those of others.

  • Crowdsourcing and finding research collaborators or participants

  • Finding and contacting individual scholars in your field who might be able to recommend readings, answer questions, or suggest opportunities that would be interesting for you.

  • Enhancing some of the more informal communication that occurs in the academic world such as networking at conferences and seminars, bumping into colleagues at your own and other institutions or moral support from peers.

  • A bit of light relief: follow @PhDcomics

So how do I use Twitter?

One of the bloggers highlighted in Thing 4 wrote a great guide through the process of setting up a Twitter account:

There’s also a step-by-step guide provided by Twitter itself:

Twitter uses some strange terminology. Here’s a quick glossary:

Tweet: a single update of no more than 140 characters

@username: a public mention of / reply to another user (more info on @). You might use someone’s @username to draw their attention to your tweet.

#topic: A hashtag, which provides a method of grouping tweets by adding a standard tag, so that all tweets on a particular event or issue can be easily searched and tracked (more info on hashtags)

(see the Twitter Glossary for more)

Twitter feeds and aggregators

You may have noticed a little Twitter icon at the bottom of this blog. This link points to the same place:

This is the Twitter feed for 23 Things for Research. It’s a collection of short updates posted (“tweeted”) by other participants.

If you add the hashtag #23research to a tweet it will automatically show up in this feed.

try-this-iconTry this

Just a short activity for this Thing: we’d like you to sign up to Twitter and post a tweet. Here are the steps to take:

1. Once you’ve signed up, click on the status box on the top right where it says ‘Compose new Tweet…’. Write something. It could be a link to your blog, or a comment about 23 Things for Research.

2. As you type you will see the number in the top right of the box decrease; this tells you how many characters you have left. Leave enough space to add the hashtag #23research at the end.

3. Once you’re done, click ‘update.’ You’ll see your tweet appear in your timeline and also in our Twitter feed.

4. If you have signed up for Twitter under a pseudonym, send us an email ( with a link to your Twitter page so that we know you have completed Thing 6.

(Incidentally, If you want to tweet me directly, add @DamonKEllis to your tweet and I’ll see it! You may also want to “follow” other 23 Things participants – keep an eye on the names that appear on the Twitter feed.)

explore-further-iconExplore further

“Whereas online availability is very important, what brings the process to fruition is engagement: the work of scholarly authorship does not end with publication: that is just the beginning.”
How Twitter will revolutionise academic research and teaching

“Building up a Twitter network of reciprocating research projects can help everyone to keep up to date more easily, improve the standard and pace of debate, and so attract more attention (and funding) into the research area.”
A guide to using Twitter in university research, teaching, and impact activities

“schools and districts are adopting what experts say are more promising ways of training teachers that involve more coaching and teacher collaboration.”
Can Twitter replace traditional professional development?

Another pair of summaries from Educause:
7 Things you should know about Twitter
7 Things you should know about microblogging

“scholars have capitalized on the ease with which they can connect with others, traverse networks and communities of interest, and engage in conversations, in order to further their work.”
Veletsianos, G. (2012). Higher education scholars’ participation and practices on Twitter. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 28(4), 336-349.


Parts of this Thing were adapted from 23 Things for Research Oxford / CC By-NC-SA 3.0 and DH23ThingsCC By-NC-SA 3.0

Header image: Rushen / Flickr / CC By-SA 2.0
Icons: Everaldo Coelho and YellowIcon / GNU Lesser General Public License

This post is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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