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Tracing Digital Impact

Explore how social scientists from around the world try to understand the links between digital traces and people’s behaviour, attitudes and motivations. Get an insider’s view through case studies across sectors from politics to media industries, to assess the strengths and weaknesses of using social media for research.

About this course

In this course, you will discover how social scientists from industry and academics around the world are analysing the digital traces embedded in social media posts.

Beginning with a survey of the digital traces used to understand audiences, citizens and consumers on social media, you will then examine the use of common metrics and automated tools for analysing social media conversations. Next, you will work through the strengths and weaknesses of quantitative approaches using current examples from industry and academic research, before having the opportunity to explore a range of innovative mixed method approaches designed to overcome some of the inherent weaknesses of purely quantitative methods.

You will gain an understanding of the meaning, benefits and limits of common metrics for evaluating digital media messages and a toolbox of innovative social science methods for avoiding risks and embracing the challenges of social media data for research.

Course structure

The course comprises three modules and is delivered over four weeks. The course is part facilitated and part self-paced.

The three modules are:

1.  Understanding digital traces

  • Describe what is meant by a data trace in the context of social media platforms
  • Understand the roots of social media research
  • Recognise how social media research differs from other social research venues and methods.

2.  Social media metrics

  • Evaluate methods and meanings underlying social media metrics applications
  • Identify gaps in the knowledge/results produced by social media metrics applications.

3.  Digital methods

  • Define digital methods and explain their key features
  • Understand and apply the concept of “born digital” methods
  • Apply digital methods used by social science researchers to study a particular group, issue, story or event.

Over the short course, you will be immersed in UTS’ innovative learning experience with:

  • A live, online one-hour orientation session to get to know your facilitator and your peers through course-specific social activities.
  • A live, online two-hour interactive workshop where you will develop practical skills to assess key social media metrics.
  • Ongoing expert academic support with collaborative online activities throughout the course.
  • A live, online two-hour intensive workshop at the end of the course to discuss how innovative digital methods can be used in your social media analysis projects.

Learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, you should be able to:

  • Understand how social media traces are being used to comprehend audiences, consumers and citizens
  • Recognise the weaknesses of social media metrics by applying common social media metrics to research problems
  • Apply digital methods in order to avoid the risks and embrace the opportunities associated with social media research.

Participant requirements and equipment

To complete this online course you will need access to a computer or device with a reliable internet connection and Zoom for online classes.


A discount of 10% is available to UTS Alumni or UTS Staff enrolling in this short course. If you’re eligible for this discount, please ensure you have provided your UTS Student or Staff ID number in your UTS Open Profile (under ‘a bit about you’).

When signing up for the session, use the relevant voucher code to apply the discount to your cart:

  • UTS Student / Alumni:FASSalumni
  • UTS Staff: FASSstaff

Please note, only one discount can be applied per person per course.

Who is this course for?

This course would suit a broad range of professionals who wish to engage in effective social media research. It is suitable for:

  • Public opinion researchers
  • Market researchers
  • Data analysts
  • Business analysts
  • Marketers
  • Communication practitioners
  • Public relations professionals across industries, including the not-for-profit sector.

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