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Succeeding in postgraduate study
Succeeding in postgraduate study

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1.1 Internet forums

Internet forums are formal or informal discussion spaces/sites where people can take part in conversations by posting messages, comments and questions. Forums are sometimes called message boards or discussion boards. A group of responses to a particular question or commentary form ‘threads’ in a discussion. Usually you need to subscribe to the forum to be able to post a message. Some forums have a moderator who monitors the discussions and may not allow certain messages or may delete inappropriate ones. Forum discussions may also have RSS feeds so you can be alerted to new messages on a relevant topic or replies to a question you have posted.

Box 4 Evaluating forums

The following set of questions are useful for evaluating forums:

  • Are the messages current?
  • Are they relevant to your research (if this is your topic or interest)?
  • Is the forum moderated?
  • Are there replies to questions?
  • Do you feel that the information given in the replies is correct?
  • Is there any advertising in replies (however subtle)? This could be an example of ‘astroturfing’ where users promote their own products and services.
  • Is the language acceptable? Some forums may have messages that are intentionally argumentative or inflammatory. This is known as ‘trolling’.

Activity 1 Evaluating forums

Timing: Allow approximately 10 minutes

Postgrad forum [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] ‘aims to bring together students, postdocs and lecturers to discuss issues relating to postgraduate study’.

  • Go to the site and take a look at some of the threads and latest messages posted to the forum.
  • You can refine your search by category (e.g. Master’s study), forum or specific keywords.
  • Take a look at the ‘rules’ page.
  • Use the questions from Box 4 to evaluate the forum.