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Citation Guide: Social Media & Apps

Social Media & Apps

If known, include both the author’s full name and (their handle in parentheses).  If the author’s name is unknown, just begin the citation with the handle and alphabetize the entry in the bibliography under the first letters.


#. Author’s firstname lastname (@handle), “Beginning of the post,” Platform, month, day, year, time, URL.


#. @handle, “Beginning of the post,” Platform, month, day, year, time, URL.

#. Cornel West (@CornelWest), "King was a product of a black prophetic tradition," Twitter, January 15, 2018, 11:29 a.m.,

#. National Geographic (@natgeo), “Photo of Bering Sea by Corey Arnold,” Instagram, April 2, 2017,

Shortened footnote

#. Author’s lastname or @handle, “Beginning of the post.”

#. West, "King product of black prophetic tradition."

#. National Geographic, “Photo of Bering Sea.”

Generally social media posts are not included in a bibliography. That said, a frequently cited account or extensive social media thread on a single subject can be included in the bibliography:

Author’s lastname, firstname (@handle).  “Beginning of post.”  Twitter, month, day, year, time.  URL.

National Geographic (@natgeo). “Photo of Bering Sea by Corey Arnold.” Instagram, April 2, 2017.

West, Cornel (@CornelWest). "King was a product of the black prophetic tradition." Twitter, January 15, 2018, 11:29 a.m .

At Meadville Lombard, if you wish to use a generative AI app like ChatGPT in your research, you must notify your instructor and receive their prior permission.  If you receive that, the Chicago Manual of Style Online recommends that you just note that the text you are quoting or paraphrasing was generated by such-and-such Generative AI app:

The following line was generated by ChatGPT:


ChatGPT, when prompted to respond to questions in the voice of an historical figure like Jesus, sometimes avoids directly answering hot button issues.

For a more formal footnote citation:

#. Text generated by App name, date, App developer, URL.

#. Text generated by ChatGPT, August 1, 2023, OpenAI,

In such a citation, make sure to include a sharable URL.  In ChatGPT, you can find a Share chat icon at the top right of the chat session.

Like social media, you typically would not include generative AI in your bibliography.  That said, as a new and emerging technology, The Chicago Manual of Style may change its guidelines for citing such content over the next few years.

Social Media, Apps, and Research

The great thing about the internet, social media, and new and emerging apps is that just about anyone can create and post just about anything; the bad thing about the internet, social media, and new and emerging apps is that just about anyone can create and post just about anything.  As there can be little to no vetting of what someone can upload on many websites and apps, such mediums can give less-commonly-heard voices an outlet, but they can also provide a platform for misinformation and outright lies.

In researching and writing in graduate school, you are encouraged to examine all sources with a critical lens.  Who created and published this information?  Does the creator/publisher have a good track record of producing reliable works?  Is the creator an authority on the topic?  What sources does the author utilize, and are they appropriate for the topic?  Was this information vetted before it was published, and if so, by whom?  What agenda or biases might this creator or publisher have and how does that affect the information being presented?  Is this information outdated for your research purposes?  Is the information accurate relative to what other relatively reliable sources say?  Works like peer-reviewed books and academic journal articles tend to (but do not always!) pass these questions more positively and therefore tend to be more reliable sources; random websites, social media, and generative AI often do not pass these tests.

That said, there are totally appropriate reasons for utilizing social media or generative AI in your coursework.  Research questions like: "how does Instagram impact UU ministry?" or "how is the Black Church represented on YouTube?" or "how should we minister to congregations who more and more are getting their information from generative AI?" would make excellent thesis topics and would naturally require using and citing such sources.

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