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How To Keep Up With News In Your Academic Discipline

Whether you are interested in sociology or public relations, staying on top of news and research in your discipline is crucial. Today I am going to be sharing five things you can do right now to make keeping up with news in your discipline a million times easier.

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I. Get On Social Media

A lot of people use social media to look at cat videos and funny memes, but social media is increasingly used by academics in your field. I am a member of the American Sociological Association, and recently, there has been a big push to get academics on social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn. Social media allows you to quickly close the gap between you and academics in your discipline all over the country. A few things you need to know about your social media accounts, though:

  1. Spelling and grammar are critical: If you are interacting with academics, you need to pay utmost attention to detail. While this is Twitter, you are using Twitter in an educational capacity. I would suggest creating a separate account for communicating with academics if your personal account is riddled with spelling/grammar errors. If not, tweet away. If you are horrible at spelling and grammar, I highly suggest downloading the Grammarly plugin for your browser. I use this plugin all the time, and it can check my grammar on the spot, even if I am just sending a simple tweet from my computer.
  2. Keep it professional: Now that you are writing to professionals, you need to keep your social media sites professional. I am not asking you to get rid of your stash of memes because even academics enjoy memes. I am asking you to cut back on as much profanity as possible, to have a name that suits your interests or yourself, and to do your research when discussing issues online.

Having a professional online presence is more important than anything now. People actively look you up online when they are in the hiring process. You can have a background check easily at your fingers now, without even paying for one, if you are sleuth-y enough. Just remember to represent yourself well.

As far as keeping up with news in your discipline, nothing is better than that, honestly. It’s so easy to use hashtags and searches on all social media sites to get excellent news stories. According to a Pew Research poll, about 6-in-10 Americans get their news from social media in some capacity, with about 2-in-10 people getting their news from social media often. With that statistic, it is no wonder people are posting their studies and research on social media sites more.

II. Join An Academic Organization/Honor Society

I am personally a member of Alpha Kappa Delta (Sociology’s Honor Society), the American Sociological Association, and recently the Southern Sociological Society. While these all cost money, they don’t cost all that much (especially as a student.) What you get with these organizations is pretty priceless.

As a member of the American Sociological Association, for example, I get access to all the journals that they put out and one in print. I also get access to their monthly printed newsletter Footnotes. Inside Footnotes, there are all sorts of important news in the sociology world, from upcoming committees they are planning to significant research coming out of sociology departments across the country.

Joining academic organizations also adds to your prestige as an up and coming scholar in your field. It’s good to be a part of organizations that help your discipline move forward. If you can afford to support them, I say do it, especially now as a student when most academic organizations will offer you a discounted membership.

III. Become Familiar With Research Databases

Research databases are scary. They can be quite difficult to navigate, but as a college student, you are in such an incredible position. You likely have access to hundreds of databases at your fingertips. You are in a unique space to be able to have access to that much information all at once. I have written a great post on my blog all about research databases because I know how important research databases are to college students. You can’t treat research databases like a Google search if you want to get great information about your topic. You have to be as succinct as possible, and you have to identify great keywords to search.

Research databases are great because they are vast collections of the latest research in your field. Yes, watching for all these other things are great, but this is the information in the purest form you can get it besides doing the research yourself. With research articles, you can do the interpreting, and you can have access to all the information provided (not just what a journalist or scholar thought was important.)

On the same vein, get familiar with your school’s library as a whole. I like research databases because they allow you to have access to the latest information, but knowledge on your school’s library can help you supplement the knowledge given in research articles. If you see a particular book mentioned in an article you read, it’s always great to be able to find that book and read it without the interpretation of the scholar who wrote the article.

IV. Set Up A Google Alert

Google Alerts are my favorite way to get to know what is going on in my discipline and in areas that I am intrigued by. Setting up a Google Alert is so easy. You just go to the Google Alert website and follow the very easy prompts there. There will be a box that says “Create an alert about…” and you just enter the word you want to follow. I currently follow the words sociology and protest. Each day Google Alert sends me a daily digest featuring news from across the web on those subjects. I can browse these emails at my leisure and click on any of the content in the email to see more information.

Google Alerts isn’t always the best way to keep up with news as it doesn’t get filtered and sometimes with the words you choose you get unrelated news or job openings. It’s a great first start, though, especially depending on the keyword you track. For example, “sociology” is kind of a mixed bag for me but the keyword “protest” usually does an excellent job at bringing me the latest news about protests to my inbox.

Play around with Google Alerts to see if you can find keywords that work for you and your needs as a student. Get a couple of the daily digests for each keyword you want to track before you decide if that keyword is right for you.

V. Attend Conferences

Attending conferences is of course very expensive, and I don’t expect you to be able to attend them all the time, but they can be beneficial for you. Conferences can be as small as a one day get together with another university in your state or as big as international conferences. If you have a few hours to burn, I say go out there and get to know what people in your discipline are working on. You would be very surprised, intrigued, and maybe even interested in the work they are doing.

Conferences allow something that reading research articles at home doesn’t afford you. Conferences allow you to get potential one-on-one interaction with the academics behind the work being discussed. You get to hear the tone in their voice, talk with them about the issues in the articles, and just have a more robust understanding of the research.

Even if you can’t attend conferences, keep up with conference hashtags on social media or watch recorded presentations if the conference offers any. For example, the American Sociological Association often records the plenaries of their yearly meetings so people who cannot attend can watch them live or after the date. If you know a conference in your discipline will be partially or entirely live streamed, be sure to catch some of the streams.

Final Thoughts

Keeping up with news in your discipline is important. Keeping up with current events helps you become a more informed student in and out of the classroom. Keeping up with current events in your field will help set you apart from your classmates and helps propel you in your discipline. I hope that this post has given you a great place to start so that you can connect with people in your discipline and keep up with the work that others are doing.

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Amanda Cross is a college lifestyle blogger from eastern Arkansas. She is currently getting her Master’s in Sociology while writing and giving advice on her blog The Happy Arkansan. Amanda enjoys reading, watching The Mindy Project, and hanging out with her friends and family in between running her blog and working towards her Masters.