This was a presentation given to the Researching the Romance conference in 2018 at Bowling Green State University. Here's the abstract:
On Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr, on blogs and Pinterest and Twitter, romance writers have embraced social media as a way to engage with their readers; they also use these platforms to foster community among romance authors, encouraging and promoting each other. This public presence provides a unique opportunity for scholars to witness the dynamics of the romance writing community in action. In Heather’s first-year writing class, Love and American Culture, in the primary goal is to introduce students to academic writing and research. Part of this entails helping students experience the excitement of writing a research paper when the topic is new and the questions are motivated by genuine interest. Heather has been collaborating with Ann, a research librarian, to develop an assignment sequence around original research on romance authors’ public social networks. The project uses Social Feed Manager and textual analysis tools to give students the opportunity to shape their own research questions and study the Twitter feed of the romance author of their choice. In-class activities will help students track down supplemental research and think through the ethical questions raised by studying individuals’ social media accounts. We are excited to be introducing a project the breaks free from the traditional writing program practice of privileging literary analysis (a quite distinctive research genre) as the prototype of academic research. In our presentation, we will discuss the successes and failures of our first semester’s efforts and, we hope, get good ideas on improving the project.