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Can Tweets by Academics Be Considered Publications?

A tablet with Twitter and coffee
Image CC0 public domain

Twitter is a conversation tool and is often the place where people share personal information and their interests or positions on current issues. Scientists are also human beings and citizens, and their tweets are not necessarily based on their research work.

It is also a way to promote and share expertise or generate academic outreach. In that space, the debate between experts can take place informally (rather than writing lengthy article responses).

This does not mean that it is the place for the actual publication of research. Usually, academics on Twitter will summarise their research there but direct to a different source (academic publication, preprint, blog or other) which would preferably be used for citations.

Get further:

Who's who on science Twitter and who counts? (2017, April 28). Absolutely Maybe.

Are Tweets Ever Worth Using as a Reference?

Even the most notable tweets are fairly uninteresting for any academic writing usage:

There are still cases where Twitter is an appropriate primary (not secondary) source:

  • Evidence of a specific person’s opinion or position on an issue.
  • Public discourse studies (via scraping or text mining for example).
  • Visual or verbal testimony on an event as it is unfolding.

The APA style includes rules if you ever need to cite a single tweet in your work:

Twitter Advanced Search

Did you know Twitter has an advanced search tool allowing you to find tweets based on author, date, and more?