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Posted on 29 Jun '20

6 Useful Social Media Sites for Prospective PhD Students

Social media – it’s not just for sharing cat videos and memes. It’s also a useful career tool, especially for postgraduate students. There are loads of social media platforms out there. Used correctly, they can be harnessed for creating an effective online CV, networking, communicating your research, and keeping up-to-date with other researchers and their research. If you’re looking for a PhD, or have already started one, here are six social media platforms that you should sign up for.

1. ResearchGate

It’s important for a researcher to communicate their research. After all, what’s the point if not to spread the knowledge? Effective research communication is central to increasing your reputation and forwarding your career. It may even help with funding applications down the line. And it’s never too early to get sharing your work.

ResearchGate is a great place to start. It’s a more research-based platform (as the name suggests) where you can upload papers and other research materials such as posters or presentations (even unpublished results or experimental data!). These can be assembled into projects, so everybody has the chance to see what you’re investigating. And you can update these projects as you progress. Although you’re only sharing between researchers, this is often the first place to get disseminating your work.

It’s also useful for networking. You can follow the work of colleagues and friends and receive updates on their projects. There are also stats and scores associated with each profile. So, you can stroke your ego by watching your score go up or have a bit of fun by comparing the scores of academics at your institution.

A key part of ResearchGate is the ‘questions’ feature. This allows users to share any research-related questions they have, and anyone can provide a useful answer. As an early career researcher, this is a handy tool to use if you’re stuck for solutions. It’s well-worth setting up a profile in preparation.

2. ORCID

Not technically a social media platform, but an online tool that a prospective PhD student should sign up for nonetheless. ORCID gives you a unique number identifier (ORCID ID) that distinguishes you from any other researcher. This allows you to confirm your authorship on your work and assembles everything you publish in one place. This is particularly useful if you have a common name – people can find the right John Smith using ORCID.

ORCID also enables you create a record of your projects, publications and funding. So, you can use your profile in the future whenever you submit a publication or apply for grants.

Importantly, the ORCID ID allows you to link between many other social media platforms. You can use it on anything like, and it ensures everything links back to you. Again, this is all about building your online presence and CV. There’s no reason why you can’t start doing this now.

3. Academia.edu

Academia.edu is mainly for uploading research publications. It’s reportedly great for increasing the exposure of your published research (uploaded papers receive a 69% boost in citations over five years, according to their website). It does pretty much the same job as ResearchGate, and some of the more useful features require premium subscription.

The key difference is that Academia.edu has a ‘sessions’ feature that allows users to participate in an online forum to discuss a manuscript. It’s a decent feature, but not used that often.

In general, ResearchGate is better for assembling your research publications, and ORCID provides the ability to take ownership over your own work (without spam emails whenever a paper containing your name is published). Nonetheless, it still has a lot of users, and it’s easy enough to upload any research materials you want. It’s worth signing up for, even just as another online medium for publishing your work.

4. LinkedIn

As a budding PhD student, you’ll be starting to develop into an effective and specialist researcher. You will be maturing skills and expertise that only a small number of people in the world have: you may even be unique in what you can offer! In your career, you’ll effectively be offering your specialised services, and like any other service-based business, you need to advertise these skills to potential employers. Even before you start your programme, you can use social media to assemble a portfolio of your skills, experience, work and publications.

The best platform for creating this online CV is LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is great for uploading a variety of assets, but it’s most effective for work experience, skills and accomplishments. It’s used by lots of different types of people, not just researchers – it’s a bit like professional Facebook. Be selective in what you include though; use only the best to represent yourself.

An important part of postgraduate life is developing your own professional network, and that’s something that LinkedIn is tailored for. You can gather connections and follow the pages of institutions and businesses that interest you. This works well in conjunction with the job search aspects of LinkedIn. You can see what job offers are out there, and if you have any connections associated with those employers.

This isn’t a social media platform that needs constant tending to. So long as you keep your profile up-to-date, it can be a valuable tool for developing your online presence and your network throughout your degree. Just make sure that all the information matches up to any CV or job application you use.

5. Blogger

A staple of social media is the blog. In your postgraduate studies, you will be going through an interesting and perhaps even unique experience that’s worth sharing with others.

Blogger is great for this and easy to use, but there are plenty of other ways of putting your thoughts out there and reading what others have to say. In fact, the FindAMasters blog and FindAPhD blog want your help to share your postgraduate experiences and advice. It’s an enjoyable way of getting people interested in you and your research, and it gives you a chance to be a bit more fun or unusual with your work. Blogging is also a worthy experience (looks good on a CV!) and offers the opportunity to connect with new audiences.

Another thing to consider is that universities and research funding bodies are more and more concerned about outreach. Writing a blog is probably the easiest way of communicating your research and your experience. And it all combines to build up your online profile.

6. Twitter

You may have a personal Twitter account, but it can also be useful to set up a professional profile, too. This is another online tool that can be utilised for communicating your research and drawing attention to what you’re working on.

One of the most popular social networking sites, Twitter gives you access to a large and diverse number of people. Convenient not just for interacting with fellow researchers, but engaging with the public, too. This makes it ideal for research outreach. You may think the snappy and rapid nature of Twitter makes it easy, but see if you can explain your research topic in 280 characters. Not so easy! It can be challenging to use effectively, but this platform has plenty of potential. Just don’t get involved in any trolling or Twitter spats.

It’s really easy to create these social media profiles, and you can set them up even before you start your postgraduate study. Taken together, they can be used to share your work and develop your professional online profile.

Do you know good examples of uses of social media in postgraduate study? Are there any social media tools for prospective researchers we’ve missed? Share your own thoughts and experiences with us by emailing editor@findaphd.com!




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