Archival Researcher Survey

Summary of Results: 

  • 67% of respondents agreed (45%) or strongly agreed (22%) that serious discussion occurs on social media. 
  • 71% of respondents agreed (34%) or strongly agreed (37%) that there would be value in using social media as a source for research. 
  • Of the researchers who responded 82% use Facebook and 60% use blogs to read content posted by others. 42% of researchers use Instagram and 37% use Twitter for the same reason.
  • 63% of respondents believed that blogs, and 58% believed that Facebook, would be the most important platforms to future and current researchers.
  • Facebook, Instagram, and blogs were the most popular sites for posting content created by the respondents. 

Project staff conducted a survey with archival researchers to gain an understanding of their perceptions about the research value of social media. Researchers that have conducted research in the NCSU Libraries Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) in the last two years were asked to participate in the survey. Excluding Libraries staff and student workers, two hundred seventy-eight researchers were contacted, and of those, seventy completed the survey.

We asked participants about their social media habits, if they believed there was value in collecting social media, and if they would use social media in their own research. Of the respondents, 82% use Facebook and 60% use blogs to read content posted by others. Forty-two percent of researchers used Instagram and 37% used Twitter. Facebook, Instagram, and blogs were the most popular sites for posting content created by the respondents. LinkedIn was not included as an option to the survey questions but was commonly cited as a social media site where people look at content created by others and share their own content. Of the various social media platforms, 63% believed that blogs, and 58% believed Facebook, to be the most important platforms to future and current researchers.

Sixty-seven percent of respondents either agreed (45%) or strongly agreed (22%) that serious discussion occurs on social media. Seventy-one percent of respondents either agreed (34%) or strongly agreed (37%) that there would be value in using social media as a source for research. One researcher commented that social media data is relevant “because it is the front lines of movement development—this is where the important ideas and debates are happening.”

When asked for general comments about the potential of archiving social media, respondents had a variety of answers. Some thought that social media will become a common source for future research and that it provided insight into current events and users’ opinions. One respondent noted two ways social media content was valuable, as a “real-time archival record of reactions to events and as a tool for big data analysis to spot large-scale trends in public conversation.” However respondents commented that the majority of social media content, especially personal Facebook pages, did not have archival value and that searching through this could be difficult. One researcher pointed out that social media collections could exclude certain groups due to the platforms being collected, based on what demographic groups are likely to use what platforms. When harvesting social media, according to the responses, archivists need to have a targeted plan for the selection and appraisal of accounts. Respondents generally concluded that if archivists had a process to figure out what content has research value and if social media data is easily navigable, then social media content will become a valuable resource for future scholars.

Researcher Survey Questions