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Getting the references right: Citing social media sources

Vipul Manchala | Jun 4, 2014 | 64,852 views

As a result of technological developments and the increasing importance of article-level metrics, social media have become a valid source of information. There are generally three ways you can cite social media sources:

  • with a URL
  • as a personal communication
  • as a reference entry with in-text citation

Below, we outline when to use these forms of citations:

URL: A URL can be provided to refer to a social media website in a general manner rather than to a specific piece of content from the website. For example, when you refer to Twitter or Facebook as opposed to a tweet on Twitter or a post on Facebook, you can simply provide the URL of the websites in parenthesis.

Example: “The journal PLOS Medicine maintains an active twitter account (https://twitter.com/PLOSMedicine) where latest information about the journal is posted.”

Personal communication: Content from a social media website can be cited in the style of personal communication if the content is not accessible to your readers. This may happen if the author of the cited content has restricted the access to the content via privacy settings or if the communication was made via a private message on a social networking website.

Example: “G.I. Park (personal communication, March 24, 2014) stated that the current education system in Japan offers certain advantages.”

Reference list entry: Content from social media sources can be included as a reference list entry along with corresponding in-text citation if the content being quoted or paraphrased can be retrieved.

Below, we have compiled social media citation formats from American Psychological Association and Modern Language Association:

Source

APA*

MLA

Tweet

Last name, First initial. [Twitter username]. (Year, Month Day). Write the entire tweet here [Tweet]. Retrieved from <post the link here>

Last name, First name (Twitter username). “Write the entire tweet here.” Date, time posted. Tweet.

Facebook post

Last name, First initial. [Facebook username]. (Year, Month Day). Write up to first 40 words of the post here [Facebook status update]. Retrieved from <post the link here>

Last name, First name. “Title of the Post.” Facebook. Date posted. [Date accessed. <post the link here>]

YouTube video

Last name, First initial. [YouTube username]. (Year, Month Day). Write the title of the video here [Video file]. Retrieved from <post the link here>

Last name, First name (or YouTube username). “Title of the Video.” Online video. YouTube, date of posting. Web. Date accessed

Google+ post

Last name, First initial. [YouTube username]. (Year, Month Day). Write up to first 40 words of the post here [Google+ post]. Retrieved from <post the link here>

Last name, First name. “Title of the Post.” Google+. Date posted. [Date accessed <post the link here>]

*If only the username is known, then provide it without the square brackets.

You can also read about the correct ways of citing books in your manuscript in the post Getting the references right: citing books as a source of information. 

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