A couple months back I conducted a sytematized literature review of research on Reddit.
The results? I identified 211 academic works on Reddit between 2011 and May 2019
This includes published works in peer reviewed journals, submitted conference papers, chapters in edited collections and the occasional PhD dissertation.
Reddit versus Twitter: how do they compare?
Social scientists love Twitter as a platform. They’re on it tweeting about their own work, doing digital networking and following the occasional parody account. Political scientists in particular absolutely love Twitter.
Now let’s do a fun comparison between academic research on both platforms. Reddit has 211 academic works and this compares to:
- 380 papers on Twitter between 2007 and 2012 (Michael and Proferes, 2014)
- 575 on Twitter and Micro-blogging (Williams, Warwick and Melissa, 2013)
- 671 research works on social networking sites (Boyd, 2015)
- 127 works on Twitter and political election campaigning (Jungherr, 2016).
Research output by year
Reddit was founded in 2005 but it wasn’t until several years later that works started appearing in peer reviewed journals and conference papers. Minus a blip in 2012 research output has grown year on year.
This review stopped at works published in early May. Considering the trend I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this year eclipsed the last on output.¹
Research by paradigm
The majority of studies are quantitative, followed by qualitative and mixed method. Studies situated in Computer Science and Human Computer Interaction (HCI) were overwhelmingly quantitative. Mixed method studies tended to be from projects with multiple researchers who brought with them a diversity of skills to best approach the research aim. Qualitative studies were common across most disciplines. Note: this number does not add up to 211 because it excludes non-empirical studies and chapters in edited collections which were derived from empirical studies from journals.
Note: This number does not add up to 211 because it excludes non-empirical studies and chapters in edited collections.
Which disciplines study Reddit?
The overwhelming majority of studies are from Computer Science, followed by a mix from the social sciences. The most popular being Health, Communication, and Culture and Media Studies.
Excluding Computer Science helps visualise the rest of the social sciences a bit easier.
As a side note, I wasn’t expecting to find a study from Music Studies when I originally conducted this review. This study was by Kovacevich and Huron (2018) and focused on Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) music and the /r/ASMR subreddit. Interesting stuff.
Literature Review Method
This was a systematized review. It had elements of a systematic review but fell short of claiming to be as comprehensive (Grant & Booth, 2009).
Scoping of literature was done by searching the words ‘Reddit’ and ‘subreddit’ on Web of Science and Scopus databases between May and July 2019. The first 50 pages of Google Scholar was searched but no further. This was because of many false positives coming from social media share functions being picked up.²
Going on from there I conducted a snowball search from bibliographies and footnotes of highly cited articles which led to more researchers, research projects and organisations. These included research output and conference articles from the Association of Computer Machinery (ACM) library, and the non-profit CivilSevant.io
A spreadsheet was created including information on each research item. These included: publication date, name of study, research paradigm, academic discipline, second academic discipline if relevant, method(s) used, and type of publication (conference paper, journal article, book chapters).
The above information was collected by reading journal abstracts. If the information was not provided in abstracts the the article itself was searched for keywords and skim read to find the relevant information.³
If the keywords Reddit and subreddit were not included in abstracts or tags used in the databases searched they would not have appeared in this literature review.
This review was also limited to one researcher. This means that if the coding categorisation of studies were incorrect there was no second researchers to correct the mistakes. This is notable for studies which are situated in disciplines and methods outside this researcher’s knowledge and skillset. A systematic review in comparison would usually include two or more researchers either categorising studies independently or in tandem to find any mistakes and correct them.⁴
- I plan to update this review do account for further research output in the full year 2019. Call it a bit of round number bias and being a completionist.
- This resulted in 1,560,000 search hits.
- Keywords searched included: method, research method, paradigm, quantitative, qualitative. This was done to speed up analysis of articles.
- See inter-code reliability for a more in-depth explanation.
Note: This blogpost was originally posted on Medium in August 2019.