Facebook: A Bibliographic Analysis of the PsycINFO Database

Article excerpt

With the advent of rapidly emerging technologies, researchers need to be cognizant of developments and applications in the area of social media as a topic of investigatory interest. To date, scholarly research on the topic of Facebook, a ubiquitous social media site, is rather extensive. This study on Facebook, using a bibliographic content analysis methodology of PsycINFO, found that instructional applications, user characteristics, health management, and social dynamics were emphasized by researchers. Interestingly, topics of high visibility in the mass media (e.g., privacy, self-disclosure, legal issues) are not areas of focus in scholarly investigations. Future studies should examine comparative analyses across interdisciplinary database files.

**********

Social networking websites have become a ubiquitous feature of modern life, particularly since the meteoric rise of Facebook (Shih, 2009; Wittkower, 2010). Indeed, websites like Facebook facilitate social presence, encourage social feedback, and enhance personal inter-connectivity (Cheung, Chiu, & Lee, 2011). Despite the fact that Facebook is a recent social phenomenon and business enterprise, scholarly research on this specific social networking website has proliferated at an exceptional pace over the past 5 years. Thus, it appears worthwhile to examine the cumulative scholarly literature on Facebook and determine the major areas that researchers are emphasizing in their investigatory efforts. One approach is to gauge evolving research trends in the psychological literature via PsycINFO, both general and specific (e.g., Casio & Aguinis, 2008). To that end, the current study reports the findings of a qualitative bibliographic analysis of the extent literature in the social and behavioral sciences on prior research conducted on the topic of Facebook.

Method

The examination of research trends in the literature has served as a useful and informative exercise in addressing the popularity or shifts in attention on a host of topics of interest to both practitioners and researchers. A keyword search of the term 'Facebook' was performed in the scholarly database PsycINFO, on November 15,2011. This bibliographic file is considered a major scholarly and academic database (see Piotrowski, 2007). Only articles and reference documents that were designated 'scholarly' sources were retained for further analyses (n= 346 citations). Based on the abstract of the noted reference, the author tagged the reference with a descriptor (e.g., security, self-disclosure, communication theory, politics, organizational, health management, user profile) that best represented that main topical focus of the research. A frequency tally, across the main categories, was maintained and then tabulated for frequency counts on each descriptive category.

Results and Discussion

The current bibliographic citation analysis indicates that a sizeable minority (about 33%) of the literature on the topic of Facebook is general in scope, or reports on esoteric issues. However, it appears that there is much specific emphasis on instructional and teaching applications related to Facebook (see Table 1). Moreover, researchers have an avid interest in personality factors (Ryan & Xenos, 2011), particularly in reference to self-professed 'profile'. There also seems to be much focus in the use of Facebook as a medium in managing health maintenance regimens and treatment protocols. …