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Most of us are familiar with social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Researchers, however, have specific networking needs that are supported by social media tools.  


Using appropriate social media tools may change the way you carry out your research. Social media tools for researchers are grouped into communication, collaboration and multi-media tools. Some of the tools suggested may be new to us, while others, like Facebook, are surprisingly familiar and useful. Questions may be posed through networks like Facebook and Academia. Others researching similar topics or who have the necessary knowledge may be able to respond from around the world. Researchers no longer need to feel quite so isolated. 


One can release small amounts of one's research findings more easily through self-publishing sites, blogs and micro-blogging. This again can help to link the researcher to others around the world. It also puts a time-line on what the researcher has discovered. 


Social bookmarking citation sharing sites can be a support to locate sources and correctly cite resources. A useful tool to try for finding resources, saving citations and storage of resources is Mendeley, a free online reference manager and social network for researchers. 


The concept of registering with one institution and studying exclusively with that one institution is anchored in a centuries-old model that has changed with the introduction of social media tools. One may now be registered with one institution, but take suggestions from and network with an ever-changing global group of peers. 


Submitted on 1 April 2014. First published on AfricaEducation.org.

Social media tools for researchers