How Do You Cite a Tweet in an Academic Paper?

Last Updated: 31 August 2021

Citing a tweet in academic paper - a guide

The referencing conventions keep evolving. For instance, we had MLA 7 and APA 6 but now we have MLA 8 and APA 7, respectively. With the introduction of social media and the realization of its importance as a communication tool, the referencing conventions now allow you to cite tweets in your academic papers such as essays, term papers, research papers, dissertation, thesis, or white papers. However, not everybody is conversant with how to cite a tweet in an academic paper.

If you fall within this band, worry not for we have compiled this guide that covers the aspects of a tweet (visual example), citing tweets in APA, MLA, and Harvard formats, and examples of how to go about the process.

We hope that in the end, you will comfortably cite your paper, improve your arguments, and make meaningful conclusions that will garner you the best grades. Without wasting more words, let us dive into the whole thing.

How to Find the Tweet Information to Cite in Your Paper

When writing a reflection essay, research paper, report, dissertation, thesis, or any other academic paper, chances are that you might want to cite a tweet. To do so, you have to understand the different parts of a tweet that can go into your citation depending on your selected citation format (APA, MLA, Harvard, of Chicago). Here is a visual illustration of the parts of a tweet to include when citing a Tweet in an academic essay:

 Parts of a tweet you use when citing

With the parts of a tweet well-elaborated, we now have to delve into how to cite a tweet using different formats.

How to cite a Tweet in MLA Paper

The Modern Language Association noted that Twitter update (Tweet) can as well be an academic/scholarly writer’s best source. The motivation is that news breaks quickly and sometimes first on Twitter. Although a tweet cannot take place in a scholarly journal or full research publication, in terms of its academic value or rigor, it offers value when writing an essay, research paper, dissertation, or any other academic paper.

It is a rich platform that provides businesses and academics access to public opinion on diverse topics, news bits, and updates on scenarios faster compared to traditional media.

It is now possible to add tweets to your papers as a source, the same way you do with images and PowerPoint presentations in academic papers.

To cite a tweet in MLA:

The Format is:

Last Name, First Name (Username). “Full text of the tweet.” Date, time. Tweet.

Example:

President Biden. “The 13 service members that we lost were heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of our highest American ideals and while saving the lives of others. Our sacred obligation to the families of these heroes will last forever. 29 Aug 2021, 11:32 PM. Tweet.

In this case, the in-text citation will be the Username or the Last Name of the author of the Tweet.

You can also use the Twitter Handle (usually begins with @) in place of the author's name and follow the same procedure as outlined above.

The reference list format:

Twitter Handle. “Entire Tweet Content verbatim. Twitter, Day Month Year of Tweet, Time of Tweet. URL.

Sample reference list:

@Tombrokaw. “SC demonstrated why all the debates are the engines of this campaign.” Twitter, 22 Jan. 2012, 3:06 a.m., twitter.com/tombrokaw/status/160996868971704320.

@PurdueWLab. “Spring break is around the corner, and all our locations will be open next week.” Twitter, 5 Mar. 2012, 12:58 p.m., twitter.com/PurdueWLab/status/176728308736737282.


In this case, the in-text citation will be the Twitter Handle.

How to Cite a Tweet in Harvard or APA Format

In Harvard format, your Twitter citation will comprise of:

Example of Tweet citation in Harvard

Kenny, S. (2020) 13 January. Available at http://www.twitter.com/kennyyeo (Accessed: 18 December 2012)

Elements of the citation (citing a tweet in Harvard Format):

Author of post - last name, initial(s) Year, Name of the page or the content or caption of the post - up to the first 40 words and in italics, Type of post, Date of post - Day Month, viewed Date, . 

Example:

UQ Library 2017, Turtles down by UQ St Lucia Lakes today. Air-conditioned library or enjoying the sun and the view - tough choice! Tweet, 4 October, viewed 12 October 2017, <https://twitter.com/uqlibrary/status/915782138905034752>.

In this case, the in-text citation will be (UQ Library 2017).

Citing Tweets that are protected or Direct Messages

 The protected tweets or private messages are treated as personal communication and rules apply in APA, MLA, or Harvard format. The rationale is that they are protected from accounts that do not have access. This means that the reader/audience might not as well have access to these tweets.

Note that personal communications do not eventually appear on your works cited, references, or reference list. Rather, you can only refer them in parentheses in the text that you are writing. Besides, you have to give the date of the communication.

For instance, you could specify them as “direct message,” “protected tweet” or “personal communication.”

Erickson intimated that he had further plans to expand his social work career by pursuing personal and professional development courses (direct message, February 26, 2021)

How to Cite a Twitter Profile

You might want to cite an entire Twitter profile. If this is the case, you will use a slightly different format. Since you do not know the date when the profile was created you will list the year as (n.d) meaning no date and you will as well include a retrieval date as the contents change through time. Here is an example in APA:

Reference list                                                                            

Pinker, S. [@sapinker]. (n.d.). Tweets [Twitter profile]. Twitter. Retrieved September 29, 2020, from https://twitter.com/sapinker

In-text citation: (Pinker, n.d.)

Citing Tweets with Multimedia

If a tweet contains multimedia such as images, video, GIF, links, or polls, you must state separately using square brackets before the [Tweet]. Here is an example to elaborate the point:

American Psychological Association [@APA]. (2020, September 29). Do you know how to cite a book chapter in your work? Do you know when you should cite an [Thumbnail with link attached]. [Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/APA/status/1310928070283493376

The above example is where the tweet had a link to an article

The tweet below is an example of a reference list entry when the tweet has an image

American Psychological Association [@APA]. (2020, September 29). Do you know how to cite a book chapter in your work? Do you know when you should cite an [Thumbnail with link attached]. [Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/APA/status/1310928070283493376