Typically, for a research project, you start with lots of reading, then move to collecting and analysing data, then writing up results. The problem with this is that, in the time it takes to do your research, your field may have seen a whole lot of action and you may not have had time to catch up.
Staying current can be really tricky, but fortunately social media can help even the laziest among us *coughs, raises hand* to keep up-to-date.
My PhD was on genetic engineering in fiction. I’m not a genetic engineer myself, but I had to stay informed on what was happening in that fast-moving and highly technical field. Cue social media! I followed accounts from sources like Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News and Genetics in Life Science. I also followed the authors whose books I was analysing, plus some other scholars in my field.
Following is no substitute for reading, of course, and whenever I spotted something relevant in my social media trawling, I would go to the source material. But social media definitely cut down the amount of time I spent identifying the relevant news in my fields. All of this was incredibly doable because it was effortless. I didn’t have to strive to stay up-to-date; I was able to keep an eye out for the latest research news merely as a fruitful side-benefit of browsing social media on the bus.
If you want to do the same, spend an hour looking at some social media accounts on your favourite platform. Take care to only follow accounts that are credible – i.e. that post real research news rather than clickbait. It helps if the account is curated by actual working researchers in the field. Once you’ve found some quality sources, click that follow button and your work is done!
You can also use social media to immerse yourself in the world of research more generally. Here are some accounts that you might like to follow, regardless of your field:
https://twitter.com/Write4Research for writing resources
https://twitter.com/PhDForum for dialogue about modern academia
https://twitter.com/thesiswhisperer for news from blog The Thesis Whisperer
https://twitter.com/WriteThatPhD for even more writing resources
https://www.facebook.com/academicssay/ for funny/sad/true witticisms
https://www.facebook.com/phdcomics/ for painfully true comics about PG life
https://www.facebook.com/AcademiaObscura/ for academic jokes
https://www.facebook.com/sketchingscience.atgc/ for witty science comics
https://www.youtube.com/user/1veritasium for science & engineering videos
https://www.youtube.com/user/khanacademy for educational videos on almost any topic
https://www.youtube.com/user/MIT for thousands of filmed lectures from MIT