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Network for PhD students: #phdchat on Twitter

There’s a meme saying that “on Facebook you tell lies to your friends, on Twitter you tell the truth to strangers”. However one-dimensional and untrue this might be, Twitter has become a powerful social platform where you can connect with people you share an interest with, but with whom you not necessarily “know”. If your Facebook friends make up your “social graph”, your Twitter connections make up your “interest graph”.

Recently, I stumbled upon tweets ending with the hashtag PhDChat (Search on Twitter for #phdchat). I thought that this was a rather informal channel where PhD students discuss the nitty-gritties of being a PhD student. Then I contacted Liz Thackray (@lizith on Twitter), with whom I had the following correspondence with (read from bottom-up):


It turned out that this hashtag – this discussion thread – has a moderator, Nasima Riazat (@NSRiazat on Twitter), who every week posts a poll where participants can vote on what topic they want to discuss.

The topics for tonight, April 6th, are:

• Defining conceptual frameworks. :-)))
• Writing up findings for a non academic audience.
• Research design/methodology.
• PhD and work/life balance.
• Effectively using the expertise of supervisors/academics in the field.
• Strategies for analysing data.
• Being relexive – avoiding bias.

See the poll where currently “Writing up findings for a non academic audience” is in the lead with five votes.

This is in deed a very interesting example of how a collaborative media platform can be used for planning and hosting discussions among people who have no or little social connection, but only are connected through a shared interest. Since all discussions are 100 percent public, anyone can follow and join in on the discussion.

Do you have first-hand experience of participating in the #phdchat thread? Please let us know what it’s like!

Update: read Liz Thackray’s reflection on #phdchat or Martin Paul Eve’s post On #PhDchat: Call for Collaboration/History, Overview, Themes and Response.

Image credit: joelaz CC:BY-NC-ND

13 thoughts on “Network for PhD students: #phdchat on Twitter”

  1. Interesting to see your responses to #phdchat. I too find it a fascinating phenomena and am quite amazed by the number of people who have contributed in some way or another over the 5 months since it started.
    There have been some blogs on the phenomena, including a lengthy one describing the history of its formation hosted, I think, by @martin_eve – my own short blog posting was
    I think it would make a fascinating study, for anybody who had the time, of community formation.
    Looking forward to tweeting with you!

  2. It is also amazing how informal #phdchat is, while having so much activity by a core / extended core over a long period. It does make for a fascinating study indeed, but an even more fascinating community!


  3. Jeffrey, I followed the #phdchat flow last night and was fascinated by the number of people that participated and that you managed to stay on topic. Do you have any idea what will happen when there are 500 PhD students using #phdchat? Is it scalable? Can you continue to use Twitter then?

  4. I think you may find that there already are nearly that number! Interestingly, there seems to be somewhat of a core group that expands and contracts, while indeed many stop by for a few comments or so, never to return. I think this is a fascinating example of Wenger’s community of practice, in that some people start at the periphery and then become more active due to need or community or something else, and then engage others, etc. In this way, there are a lot of comment streams that get picked up and layed aside, depending on time and need and interest. I do find it fascinating that some of the more active people have tended to remain in that way, while some of those have turned over. This makes it quite an interesting mix, and I find I then begin to follow (or unfollow) an ever-changing group of people, with some of those now remaining constant over these several months.

  5. what jeffrey said.
    and yes… I’m doing some research ;)

    I’ve been looking at how academics use social networking tools to create their communities online, and this is a great example of it. as jeffrey said, it’s amazing to see the folks who are on there more often and then the ones that come in and out and “lurk”, if you will. I do a bit of both =)

    and there is also the potential of an online social connection turning into one IRL…

  6. @richard: no not yet. am still gathering some data, looking at theoretical frameworks, etc. but I hope to. I have a couple of blogposts that I really should put out there =) how about you?

  7. I just wanted to add this is real life :) I get real just in time help here as well as support and affirmations. The twitter feed and synchronous chat is a central connection that then provides further connection to longer conversations via skype, email and blogs. Cant do everything in 140 characters or less.

  8. i am a phdchatter and i am the managing editor of the site I have also worked on developing courses on how to use social media for research and researcher development for King’s College London. I am also editing a book on the same topic. You maybe interested in my work in that area. I think #phdchat is a fantastic community and i am contributing post-phd in order to continue to share my experiences with others

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