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AU Scholars | An Introduction to Quantitative Social Media Research

Spring 2015

Research goals: Millions of people post to social media sites every day. Making sense of all that content is one of the great challenges of the early 21st century. The skills needed to conduct such research are prized not only by social science researchers like me, but also by companies who want to know how customers are responding to their products and nonprofits interested in measuring the efficacy of their cause campaigns. Students in this course will work on individual research projects that collect, analyze, visualize, and draw meaningful conclusions about social media data on a topic of their choice. By the end of the course they will be prepared to conduct basic quantitative social media research as well as enroll in advanced graduate programs that build on these skills.

Specific research skills: Students in this class will learn how to:

  • Harvest data from Twitter or Facebook
  • Preprocess and standardize social media data using computer programming
  • Conduct basic quantitative analysis such as keyword analysis, lexicon analysis, hyperlink analysis, and network analysis
  • Visualize their research results using open-source tools
  • Explain clearly how their findings relate to practical and/or theoretical concerns

Why should you take part in this course? If you’re interested in how and why social media matter today, you need to know how to analyze the data. This course will teach you the fundamentals of how to do so and how to explain the relevance of your research. The skills you will learn are highly prized in the private, nonprofit, government, and academic sectors. Finally, these skills are not limited to social media—they can also accommodate other kinds of data, which when combined with social media data can help you explain the connections between users’ offline and online lives.