Using Twitter Search for Student Investigation


Twitter is a remarkably popular tool with educators the world over for a number of very good reasons. But while it is truly loved by many, its incredibly powerful Advanced Search feature remains underutilized and somewhat underappreciated. With access to torrents of current ‘up to the moment’ streaming data, thoughts, links, images and videos, the power and versatility of Twitter’s Advanced Search feature really is incredible.

Twitter SearchNameTwitter Advanced Search
Pricing: Free
Compatibility: Browser
Access: No signup required
Privacy: Private (privacy policy)


A Quick Look

Twitter Advanced Search offers a selection of additional search criteria that are not available in Twitter’s default search field and no login or account is required for access.

Twitter Advanced Search


In Practice

1. Breaking news

One of the huge benefits Twitter has over other search engines is its direct access to ‘as it happens’ information. If your students are researching breaking news, current affairs or events in progress try having them use specific keywords or phrases in an advanced Twitter search. They can then go on to further refine results using the exact time period of Tweets using the date field at the bottom of the form.

2. Hashtags and events

Whether it is a real world conference, a trending topic or live event, there is no doubt that there will be a hashtag associated with it in this day and age. Encourage your students find the relevant hashtags for a specific topic or event and have them use Twitter Advanced Search to stream the live results. Students can use resources such as Trendsmap and to help find the relevant tags as well as use tools like Tagboard and Visible Tweets to display results visually.

3. Localized results

Another unique feature of Twitter’s Advanced Search is the ability to filter Tweets by the location they were Tweeted from. This can be particularly useful if students are looking into specific information from their local community. I have seen this used very well to get to the bottom of community emergencies such as flooding, fires and even criminal activity.

4. Quotes and opinions

Twitter’s Advanced Search also gives the ability to search for Tweets from, to and mentioning specific users. This can be extremely useful for students to search if they are looking for particular opinions, thoughts or quotes from reputable or well known individuals. The Tweet can then be embedded directly into a website or student blog to further acknowledge the source.

5. Emotion and sentiment

It may sound like a bit of strange one, but Twitter is able to gauge the sentiment of Tweets for positive or negative emotions as well as define if a Tweet is asking a question. This can be immensely useful for students who are researching a particular topic and want to understand just what the public opinion and feeling towards an issues is. Not only does this return fascinating results, it can also trigger a whole number of discussions and debate on particular topics.


Links and Next Steps


Feature image adapted from image courtesy of Flickr, rodneykeeling.

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