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Social media are now part of our everyday lives. But some areas have been more hesitant to engage and palliative care research, which potentially could benefit hugely from the data that social media generate on a daily basis, stands to lose out. In my time as an associate editor at BMJ Supportive and Palliative Care, I have often struggled to get social media research and education pieces peer reviewed. There is still a lack of researchers who are willing or perhaps able to critique articles that have used metrics involving social media, for instance, sentiment analysis. Perhaps this highlights the fact that this is an emerging field and that perhaps medicine has been slow to adapt, and that there is a lack of a firm knowledge base. In my conversations with researchers who wish to analyse social media trends in medicine, there is often mention of ethics and research committees baffled by social media proposals and how such research should be properly conducted.
It is worth exploring the many potential uses. When I speak to prospective researchers, I am often asked how they might use social media to inform research. As a starting point, I generally tell them that the first part to a dissertation or any other research project is to define the exact research question from the outset. If they struggle to define that question, or if they fear it has already been asked elsewhere, and comprehensively answered, then social media can be a great pointer, together with …
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