Why I Published My Dissertation Findings on Buzzfeed

dissertation comic
                  Source: Fresh Spectrum

By the end of my time writing my dissertation, my goals for my work included:

  • Not having it sit on a (digital & actual) shelf, never to be seen again
  • For people to actually read it, or to at least read some version of it
  • To release it relatively quickly

If you know me, you probably know that my research is on college student use of social media and how that use relates to their civic learning and participation.  As you might imagine, this topic changes very quickly.  In fact, over the course of my work, I came to find out that Facebook adjusts its news feed algorithm on a weekly basis (h/t @Zeynep for that).  This is just one example of the speed of variance we are up against when approaching this sort of study.  To a social scientist, this is incredibly frustrating, because we know that it takes months, or years(!) for our finished research work to ever reach others.  Meanwhile, trying to account for the variation in something that changes constantly can feel like a Sisyphean task.  One of the few things that we can do, then, is to try and get our results out as quickly as possible to at least maintain some level of relevancy.

Taking the above into account, the traditional book/peer review article/chapter route didn’t seem right for me.  I think that for several reasons — furthering the academic knowledge base by allowing others to cite your work, long-term contributions to the literature, traditional norms among faculty, etc. — it may still be important for me to publish in traditional formats.  However, right now I want people to have easy access to this work, and I’d like to provide it in a format that is appealing to the average reader.

The power of social media to start and amplify discussions around political and social topics is a constant source of amazement for me.  As I developed my work, I came to realize that I wanted to practice what I preach and use these tools to advance what I see as an important topic.  Still, as the first person to publish their dissertation on Buzzfeed, this is experimental and a bit unpredictable, so I’ll just have to adapt as it goes.

If you’re interested in reading my work as it comes out, I’ll be adding to the below links to reflect new pieces as they are published.  Title/Topic:

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