This guide is intended for early undergraduate students to introduce the topic of social media—a big topic that could potentially overlap with psychology, art, technology, political science, philosophy, sociology, medicine, and more, depending on the research question. Here you can find some ideas for key words and sub-topics, as well as a few databases to start searching, and a small sampling of materials the UMN libraries having to do with social media.
Example keywords and subtopics
These are some examples to help you get started thinking about what big concepts and key terms might be helpful to use in your search. Try to use a variety of search terms and key words as you search, which will help you figure out what searches lead to the most relevant results. Want to learn more about keywords and developing a search strategy? This video will explain in more depth.
- social media
- social network
- social media apps
- mass media
- media technologies
- online networks
Researching a big topic can be difficult and time-intensive, so it often helps to narrow the research focus towards a smaller sub-topic. Here are a few examples of potential areas a research project regarding social media might examine.
Mental health, gender, impact on politics, advertising, influence on crime, influence on education, cybercrime, personal branding, online gaming effects, interpersonal relationships, social media addiction, algorithms, information literacy, social media regulation and policy, impact on social movements, free speech on social media platforms, misinformation, "fake news," identity theft, cyberbullying, impact of COVID-19 on social media habits, child behavior, community-building or interest sharing, "going viral," impact on humor (memes), polarization or division.
Databases are a very useful tool for a researcher, because many of them specialize in offering credible, scholarly sources like academic journal articles, or more popular sources such as newspaper or magazine articles. Databases are powerful because they allow you to search through many academic journals at once, and searching the right database can yield far more relevant, helpful results than Google can. Watch this tutorial to learn more about databases.
A few databases to explore:
A great place to start your research on any topic, search multidisciplinary, scholarly research articles. This database provides access to scholarly and peer reviewed journals, popular magazines and other resources. View this tutorial to learn how to go from a general idea to a very precise set of results of journal articles and scholarly materials.
A comprehensive interdisciplinary collection of journal article citations. Articles are not limited to the sciences alone, and also includes results from arts and humanities, as well as social sciences. This resource can link you to who cited an article, as well as what papers the article is citing—very handy. View this tutorial to learn more.
CQ Researcher provides in-depth coverage of important issues of the day. Reports are written by experienced journalists, footnoted, and professionally fact-checked. Full-length articles include an overview, historical background, chronology, pro/con feature, plus resources for additional research. Shorter "Hot Topics" articles provide a solid introduction to subjects in demand.
Google Scholar (Setup connection to get to PDFs)
Use Google Scholar to find articles from academic publishers, professional societies, research institutes, and scholarly repositories from colleges and universities. If you are using from off-campus access, change the "Library Settings" to University of Minnesota Twin Cities. Look for the "FindIt@U of M Twin Cities" links in your Google Scholar search results for access to full text and PDFs.
Sample of online books
Below are a selection of online books and readings on the broad topic. We have more online books, journal articles, and sources in our Libraries Search and article databases.
- TikTok Cultures in the United States byISBN: 9781000602159Publication Date: 2022-04-03TikTok Cultures in the United States examines the role of TikTok in US popular culture, paying close attention to the app's growing body of subcultures. Featuring an array of scholars from varied disciplines and backgrounds, this book uses TikTok (sub)cultures as a point of departure from which to explore TikTok's role in US popular culture today. Engaging with the extensive and growing scholarship on TikTok from international scholars, chapters in this book create frameworks and blueprints from which to analyze TikTok within a distinctly US context, examining topics such as gender and sexuality, feminism, race and ethnicity and wellness. Shaping TikTok as an interdisciplinary field in and of itself, this insightful and timely volume will be of great interest to students and scholars of new and digital media, social media, popular culture, communication studies, sociology of media, dance, gender studies, and performance studies.
- Friendship and Social Media byISBN: 9781138629448Publication Date: 2019-02-12Friendship is regarded as crucial to living a good life. But how does friendship make our lives better? Do all friendships make our lives better? What sorts of interactions are necessary for maintaining valuable friendships? This book answers these questions via a philosophical exploration of friendship and the ways that it contributes value to our lives. Diane Jeske uses this philosophical analysis to assess the impact of our ever-growing use of social media: Do interactions via social media interfere with our ability to maintain genuine friendships? Do such interactions undermine the contribution of friendship to the value of our lives? In addressing these topics, Jeske examines the contemporary notion of a 'frenemy,' the ways in which we deliberately craft our social media personas, the role of the physical body in friendship, and the ways in which social media's exacerbation of our fear of being left out and of comparison-based envy can impact our relationships. Written in a clear and engaging style, Friendship and Social Media brings philosophical rigor and clarity to the task of determining how we can responsibly use social media in our own lives. It is essential reading for anyone interested in the ethics of interpersonal relationships and the social impact of technology.
- News Journalism and Twitter byISBN: 9781000821017Publication Date: 2022-11-21This book provides a critical account of the impact of Twitter on journalism, exploring how the news media has adapted to and normalised the use of the platform in the industry. Offering a comprehensive understanding of Twitter uses for journalistic purposes, this book explores the platform's use as a 'global village', as an ambient news environment, and as a global marketplace. Drawing on two empirical case studies (United Kingdom and Greece), Dagoula examines academic conceptualisations of Twitter, journalists' self-perceptions, and uses of the platform by a variety of media outlets and journalists. Adopting an evolutionary approach known as punctuated equilibrium, which consists of three stages of disruption, adaption, and normalisation, the author reveals the costs and benefits of Twitter's impact on both the institutional values and practices of news journalism today. News Journalism and Twitter is an invaluable resource for researchers and students of digital journalism and media studies.
- Wired Youth byISBN: 9781351227742Publication Date: 2020-05-07This fully updated new edition offers a research-based analysis of the online social world of adolescence, incorporating additional research findings that have appeared during the last decade. Talmud and Mesch take a realistic, sociological approach to online adolescents' communication, demonstrating how online sociability is embedded in the larger social structure and in technological affordances. Combining perspectives from sociology, psychology, and education with a focus on social constructionism, technological determinism, and social networking, the authors present an empirically anchored review of the field. The book covers topics such as youth sociability, relationship formation, online communication, and cyberbullying to examine how young people use the Internet to construct or maintain their inter-personal relationships. This new edition also incorporates new research findings on online adolescents' behaviour in general, and specifically in relation to social apps, providing a more updated outlook regarding various dimensions of adolescents' online interactions. Wired Youth is essential reading for advanced students of adolescent psychology, youth studies, media studies, and the psychology and sociology of interpersonal relationships, as well as undergraduate students in developmental psychology, social psychology, youth studies, media studies, and sociology.
This is an example of how to search using a database:
The important thing to remember is that searching on databases is different from searching on google. Instead of typing your question "How does social media impact teenagers?" try using your keywords to link topics together.
In this example, I used social media AND mental health AND (teenagers OR adolescents) to get 805 results. This means it is searching for sources that address social media, as well as mental health, and either the word teenager or adolescent appears.
Notice that the results automatically sort by date (NOT relevance), putting the most recent results at the top. This setting can be adjusted if you prefer.
Need more help?
Not finding what you need? Contact the University Libraries for help using the Chat 24/7 button, or make an appointment with a Peer Research Consultant for one-on-one support. You can also schedule an appointment with a university librarian.
This guide was created by Theresa Heitz in the Spring of 2023.