Is Tweeting the New Research Paper?

Over the years, writing has changed immensely. Not only in words, but in structure as well. When I was in school, regular 4-6 page essays and stories were common. Go back a few hundred years and plays were more in style (ex: Shakespeare). Quite a few more centuries and you see epic (read: really long) poems (ex: Odyssey). The fact is that types of writing can also go in and out of style just as clogs do.

With the emerging world of social media, a new form of writing is beginning to rise. Rather than essays, English teachers are beginning to change their chosen method of writing. Teenagers are becoming so adept at turning long stories into short stories because of character limits that writing long essays is a mystery. In order to keep students interested and the classes modern, teachers are choosing to teach with social media.

While some litterateurs will forever scoff at these changes, there are also ways in which it makes a lot more sense than traditional rules and essays. One professor points out that when students are required to meet a certain page or word length, they resort to plagiarism, text that is too large, unnecessary spaces, long, drawn-out sentences, and repetition. The result is that the students are not necessarily better writers, but they can indeed write long papers, whether most of it is empty words or not.

An assignment that does not have a set length or has a short minimum requirement helps the student to write concisely and more creatively. And the best part? Students are doing homework every day without even realizing it, when posting new information on their chosen social media platform.

I’ve read stories of classrooms using social media to answer questions instead of raising hands. Students tweet their answer. Other classes give writing assignments with a word limit of 140; abbreviations are allowed, punctuation is optional. While some of it can go a little far, set limits are looking to be a great tool in producing great writers.

One interesting plan that I have seen is for the students to choose a short status update, tweet, or ad from the paper, usually one that is 10 words or less. Then have a discussion about what they mean, maybe imagine the story behind it. In turn, their assignment is to take a popular story like Cinderella or Harry Potter and make it into a 6-10 word story:

Unappreciated, abused stepdaughter, maid finds glass slipper with Prince.

In today’s world of limited patience and fast-paced workers, no one wants to sit down and read a long paper, essay, press release, or article anymore. As these factors change, it only makes sense that writing styles change, too. While I am all for a good long book, I like articles to be short and concise. If the students of today are leaning these new styles of writing, it seems that they may be more successful in a world of 140-character limits.


Megan Campbell has a degree from Clemson University in Graphic Communications, and is currently living in Germany during a Gap Year abroad, working as an au pair and freelance writer. Her degree set her up for a great interest and knowledge of social media. You can find her on her blog, balancewithadashofcrazy, or contact her via email at meganecamp at gmail dot com.



  1. Reblogged this on txwikinger's blog.

  2. I’m all for short and concise but I’m thinking 140 characters might be a little too short. What we need is for students to be reflective about what they want to say, formulate an opinion or idea, and then synthesize evidence gathered from a wide variety of sources to support their opinion. Students who possess these skills fit in perfectly to our information saturated world.

    • I agree, Kim, that in most instances, 140 characters is too short, and that was just an example of length that many teachers are using because of twitter’s limit. The best part of these exercises is that it is making students think and helping them to learn the concept of when “less is more”, making them more reflective, informative and knowledgeable, as you said.

  3. I say that I am a big fan of the short concise thoughts, having attained one of the highest education degrees and nearly the highest I can tell you first hand that if education was taught to operate inside a 140 characters it would save us all a lot of time and make the learning process far more efficient… That said, it is true that no one is going to do a thesis or cure cancer inside 140 characters… Ultimately, the really cool thing is the challenge this is creating

    • The challenge of these assignments is definitely one of the best things. In my opinion, it is harder to constrict a paper or story than to expand it into a 4-page paper. It’s making students learn to think outside the box, which is one of the most useful lessons that students can learn in order to be successful in an extremely competitive job market.

  4. If only this was the way to write when I was in school. I can write blog length, tweeting is like Latin or code to me, it forces me to be concise. Forget term papers and a full length thesis, I cannot organize that much information.

    I like these new ways of writing much better. Besides, I personally am not much of a fan of Shakespeare and I never could sit through a three hour opera. Thanks, Megan.

    • One can wish, right? I would so have loved being able to write with these parameters rather than the long essays. I also believe that it would have been better experience. When you have to write a long paper or thesis, it becomes more about how you can stretch it out with not-so-relevant information rather than the actual subject.

      And I agree on the Shakespeare front. 🙂 Oh, how I’ve tried to love him. I just don’t have the patience for it. I guess I’m afflicted with the impatience of my generation.

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