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How do you Cite a Tweet in an Academic Paper?

by on March 8, 2012

How do you cite a tweet in an academic paper?

Or, how do you do so with the approval of said authorities?

Begin the entry in the works-cited list with the author’s real name and, in parentheses, user name, if both are known and they differ. If only the user name is known, give it alone.

Next provide the entire text of the tweet in quotation marks, without changing the capitalization. Conclude the entry with the date and time of the message and the medium of publication (Tweet). For example:

Athar, Sohaib (ReallyVirtual). “Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event).” 1 May 2011, 3:58 p.m. Tweet.

The date and time of a message on Twitter reflect the reader’s time zone. Readers in different time zones see different times and, possibly, dates on the same tweet. The date and time that were in effect for the writer of the tweet when it was transmitted are normally not known. Thus, the date and time displayed on Twitter are only approximate guides to the timing of a tweet.


  1. More to the point: why would you want to do this in an academic paper? A Tweet probably ranks somewhere between Wikipedia and “Personal Communication with the author” as far as reliability is concerned.

    Comment by Joe Canner — March 8, 2012 @ 1:29 pm

  2. @Joe Eh, if you’re using it in an introduction or something to show the contemporary relevance of an issue. Still not sure I’d do it, but I wouldn’t consider it inconceivable.

    Comment by Steven Rossi — March 8, 2012 @ 1:43 pm

  3. Joe,

    If one was righting writing a paper on the controversy surrounding Rob Bell’s book Love Wins, one might need to cite a tweet mighten one?

    Comment by RJS — March 8, 2012 @ 1:48 pm

  4. Steven & RJS: I suppose I can see how it might be useful in a few situations. I was thinking more in terms of using a Tweet as authoritative support for a hypothesis rather than as background. In the case that Steven raises, I think it might be more appropriate to quote a Tweet analysis (number of tweets per unit of time about a particular subject), but RJS’s example is probably one of the few cases where citing a single, memorable Tweet would be relevant.

    Comment by Joe Canner — March 8, 2012 @ 2:30 pm

  5. Since there is nothing in the style guide, you get to make up your own rules, don’t you?

    Comment by David Himes — March 8, 2012 @ 2:33 pm

  6. Just google “turabian (or whatever style you are using) tweet citation,” or something to that effect, and you’ll find the style guides from multiple reliable sources. There are style guides to be found for EVERYTHING.

    Comment by Billy — March 8, 2012 @ 3:22 pm


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