Thing 6: LinkedIn, and ResearchGate


photo credit: Jun: CC BY-SA 2.0

Where Facebook is explicitly geared towards personal use, LinkedIn focusses on professional connections. LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network, and it allows you to build an online profile that features your experience and skills. It also allows you to network with other users in a professional environment, so it provides a great way to connect with contacts from your current work world, and connect with people from worlds you’d like to work in. LinkedIn profiles tend to feature highly in Google searches (not as high as profile pages with suffixes), however a well-constructed LinkedIn profile can be a great way to develop your online brand and you employability.

You’re not required to set up an account on LinkedIn for this Thing, but we strongly recommend that you do. You’ll need an account to explore many of the tool’s features, and it’s a good way to improve your professional presence online.

Getting an account on LinkedIn is simple, and you can register from the home page. Make sure you fill in your profile fully. The wizard will help you with this. Remember that these are professional networks, so your photo, taglines and activities should be those you’d be happy with employers and colleagues seeing. LinkedIn allows you to upload your CV straight into your account (with a chance to edit and format, of course!), which offers an easy way to get all your job information in.

Once you’ve signed up, try adding colleagues or other contacts. Successful social media use requires that you actively connect with people and give them something to interact with, rather than just setting up an account and leaving it. If you already have a profile but haven’t used it very much, you might think about these aspects next. You can use your email accounts to find ‘connections’. Don’t be worried about sending requests to contacts; it’s considered fairly normal. Try taking this a step further; rather than just sending a request to connect, send a message with a question or a comment.

Specific functionality:
LinkedIn offers groups, which allow you to join others based around a sector, place of work or other interest – for example, the University of Surrey, or the Researcher Development Programme or those in this list of great groups for academics. You can also search for groups. LinkedIn also allows you to see who has viewed your profile, send private messages and give and ask for recommendations and skill endorsements.

Exploring further

  • Many people find LinkedIn useful as a tool for job searching. Employers can post jobs but, more importantly, your profile can give you the opportunity to ‘sell’ yourself to potential employers. Having endorsements and recommendations can help. Try asking for a recommendation for your current or previous position.
  • Research from Elsevier suggests that 65% of academics are on LinkedIn. Have a look at this blog post on how to create an effective academic LinkedIn profile.

Now we’re going to discuss a couple more online networks for professionals, however these ones have a specific research focus. and ResearchGate are two of the most popular networks for academic researchers. They aren’t the only ones, however these are two of the most established networks (both founded in 2008). Both services offer you a profile, and allow you to share your published articles, monitor their statistics and connect with other researchers in your field, however advanced functionality differs between the two. It is useful to note that both and ResearchGate profiles feature highly in Google searches.

 Specific functionality:

  • allows you to write update posts on your activities, upload papers and other documents which might include ‘grey’ literature such as conference papers, as well as link to your journal articles. It can also tell you how many people have viewed your profile, what keywords they used to find you, and who is following your work. You can also follow the profiles of other scholars, which is useful to keep up to date with people’s publications.
  • ResearchGate does most of the things that does, but also creates opportunities for research collaboration between users. For example, users can post messages that can be public or private. It also supports conversation strings between users which focus on a research interest or paper, and you can ‘follow’ a research interest, in addition to following individual users. It has a blogging feature for users to write short reviews on peer-reviewed articles. ResearchGate also suggests connections, based on mutual research interests. Users can also post questions which get sent to users with relevant expertise. It also has private chat rooms where researchers can share data, edit shared documents, or discuss confidential topics. Participants can get a higher “score” which ranks their “reputation” by providing popular answers to questions and other metrics.

You’re not required to set up an account on either network to finish this Thing, but as with LinkedIn, we recommend that you do. This is especially recommended if you are considering continuing a career in research, either inside or outside academia. You’ll need an account to explore many of the tools’ features, and it’s a good way to improve your professional research presence online.

Before you pick one, you may wish to spend some time working out which will be most relevant for you. Different research disciplines may have different preferences for one network or the other. Remember that extra functionality may not make either of these networks better for you!

Why not ask some of your colleagues which network they use. Alternatively, you could try Googling the names of some of the prominent researchers in your field to see which network pops up as the most popular.

Once you’ve worked out which network is best, create an account. Getting an account on either tool is simple, and you can register from each tool’s home page. Make sure you fill in your profile fully. Upload/register your academic papers to your profile. Once you’ve signed up, try adding colleagues or other contacts. If you already have a profile but haven’t used it very much, you might think about these aspects next.

Exploring further
Try using the network to search for and connect with other researchers in your field. The papers and authors you have cited in your literature review are a good place to start. If you’re using ResearchGate, why not have a look for any active discussions over your research topic?

Week 3 blog post
We’d like to hear what you have to say about some of the networking tools we’ve discussed. Feel free to talk about all of the tools in one post, as they lend themselves to comparison and discussion. Did you choose to use one tool over the other? Do you think these tools offer a good way to present your professional profile, or do you prefer something else (a website, blog, etc.)?

If you use Facebook, do you feel that LinkedIn, and ResearchGate are a suitable alternative space for professional activities, or do you find Facebook works just as well if not better for what you want to do?


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