Research Proposal


Literature Review



  • accessing news through hashtags
  • twitter hashtag trends
  • evolution of hashtags
  • hashtags and the media
  • social media changes
  • user generated news
  • hashtag news spread
  • hashtag trending
  • #prayforparis
  • Paris terrorist attacks and hashtags
  • hashtag purpose



Literature Review


Title: A new perspective on Twitter hashtag use: Diffusion of innovation theory

Author: Hsia Ching-Chang

Date of publishing: 3 February 2011
Keywords: twitter, hashtag, usage, changes, evolution of hashtags, user content, theory

Twitter is one of the biggest, fast growing and real-time tool of social media. With the evolution of Twitter, a growing number of people take part in sharing and tweeting about worldwide-happenings, making use of diverse Twitter applications. Using hashtags has become a particular convention of tagging in order to enable the association of Twitter messages with certain contexts and events. Linking a # symbol with a keyword, hashtags on Twitter provide a tagging practice that is not only user-proposed but also follows a bottom-up approach. Furthermore, it incorporates user interaction and participation in the process of hashtag development, especially since it refers to tasks of information organization. Diffusion of innovation (DoI) describes a theory that assists in explaining the adoption process of innovation through shaping its integrated life cycle according to communication aspects and interactions of information between people. Hence, theory of diffusion provides beneficial insights into the design of the interface supporting Twitter, as well as its use of hashtag and access. Additionally, it reinforces the evaluation of the hashtag life cycles, offering information that is needed for decision-making concerning hashtag management (Ching-Chang, A new perspective on Twitter hashtag use: Diffusion of innovation theory, 2011).


Title: Twitter extends trends to reveal breaking news in 100 more cities

Author: JVG

Date of publishing: 5 December 2012
Keywords: promoted trends, twitter, twitter trends, twitter historical data
  • the latest localized trends for 100 new cities have been added by twitter
  • people get the chance to immediately see buzziest news from around the world
  • latest inclusions: Istanbul, Frankfurt, Guadalajara, Mexico, and Incheon, South Korea
  • trends, formerly referred to as ‘trending topics’ have changed in significance and purpose
  • trend lists are less about the overall information network experience, but still serves as interesting indicator of what users are most interested in
  • with addition of trends, marketers and companies are enabled to sponsor a term or hashtag to get into trend list, which means: 100 more markets and appeal to local advertisers who want to reach certain market

(JVG, Twitter extends Trends to reveal breaking news in 100 more cities, 2012)

 Title: Online news on Twitter: Newspaper’s social media adoption on their online readership

Author: Sounman Hong

Date of publishing: 1 March 2012
Keywords: social media, twitter, online news, digital media, information cascades, information economics, online media institution, aggregator, search engine

Evaluate the connection adoption of Twitter-news and their online influx. The association estimated is dependent on the capacity of social media networks. Correlate online influx created by diverse institutions of online media.

Several news organizations have found that social media has possibilities for achievement as a journalistic tool. Social media marketing has been used to captivate online users. This study aims on understanding the connotations of social media sites with the help of (1) an investigation of the connection between news organizations’ endorsement of social media and their readership online and (2) an analogy of online traffic brought about by social media sited with that developed by other institutions of online media. Research suggests that the adoption of newspapers regarding social media is combined with a raise in their readership online, and this connection increases the portion of social media networks of newspapers (e.g. number of Twitter followers). It has also been found that the correlation between the adoption of social media newspapers and their online influx might differ compared to the relation between other media institutions online and the created traffic online. A descriptive analysis reveals that the online influx generated by sites of social media is less concentrated than that created by aggregators of news or search engines; this is caused by the fact that social media sites tend to be less inclined to cascades of information, in contrast to aggregators of news of search engines (Hong, Online news on Twitter: Newspapers’ social media adoption and their online readership, 2012).

 Title: Twitter Still The Top Source For Breaking News, According To New Study

Author: John Bonazzo

Date of publishing: February 9th 2015
Keywords: plummeted, excells, breaking news, twitter, crowded, follow, participate, tracked, daily.

The stock of Twitter has been plummeting and the experience of the user has been attacked by old and new media.

A study founded by the American Press Institute shows that of 4,700 social media users that they are not all in the world of Twitter. However, Twitter still transcends in one important area and that is in breaking news.

Twitter’s timelines can get quite busy when news breaks and the study offers practical proof of this 70 percent of those they’ve surveyed said that they have made use of Twitter in the last month in order to follow a news story as it is happening.

It seems that users are more actively participating during breakings news situation. About 80 percent of users who tracked news in the recent months have clicked through the links on the trending page as they scrolled.

There is a ripple effect to this trend:

  • 55 percent of the breaking news are retweeted by users.
  • 53 percent of users use hashtags to find more information.
  • 40 percent of users tweet their own reactions of the story.
  • 30 percent of users would follow someone new.

Once the breaking news event has passed, many users continue to follow with the news:

  • 74 percent of use Twitter daily.
  • 64 percent of users say they both read and share the news.

Breaking stories are not the only ones that make Twitter go crazy—people who follow the Super Bowl or the Oscars on social media know that twitter users bring useful information to the table:

  • 79 percent of users scroll the timeline through such events.
  • 60 percent of users participate in tweeting or retweeting.
  • 45 percent of users click through stories or hashtags.
    (Bonazzo, 2015)



 Title: The History of Hashtags in Social Media Marketing

Author: Shea Bennet

Date of publishing: September 2nd 2014
Keywords: hashtag, populair, categorise, twitter, group, conversations, everywhere, social media.

Twitter officially did not invent the use of hashtags but it has certainly made it popular. Hashtag were used in order to categorize items into different groups. The designer Chris Messina has asked his followers on August 2007 how they feel about using the pound symbol which is now known as the hashtag to group together conversations on the micro-blogging platform and therefor he has become the first person to use the now popular hashtag on Twitter.

After that happened the micro-blogging platform has never looked back at the use of hashtag and the hashtag was eventually taken up on different social media platform such as Facebook, Instagram etc. The hashtag trend has become very popular and is now everywhere and is an important part part of every modern marketing strategy. (Bennet, 2014)



Title: The year when breaking tweets replaced breaking news

Author: Sagarika Ghose

Date of publishing: December 28th 2015
Keywords: headline, develops, story, hashtag, mainstream, trends, breaking news.

Headlines are formed by top trends and a hashtags helps develops the story. We have become so shackled to mainstream media outlets to Twitter trends that because of high good prices or agrarian distress rarely is included on the ‘trend’ list. These issues have hardly made it to prime-time bulletins or on the front For example when the Prime Minister stated in Shanghai that earlier Indians used to think it was a sin to be born in India, the trend #modiinsultsIndia went viral showing that social media could also on occasion turn against him.

In 2015 Twitter became a platform where politicians and public figures stated their views and opinions as if they were putting 140 character press releases. Furthermore, it has seemed that breaking news was replaced by the breaking tweets. (Ghose, 2015)


After deciding to conduct research on a trend concerning hashtags and the way users learn about news with the help of it, we had a closer look at existing literature and the involved findings of secondary research. This was not only to determine whether or not this trend provides a rich basis to start with but also to see if it has reasonable chances to further develop in the future. Within the course of this research, it was found that social media platforms making use of hashtags like Twitter and Instagram are also growing markets for businesses and advertising activities. With the help of hashtags, private users and companies are enabled to revolutionize their interaction online. Furthermore, secondary research described the possibilities to use social media and hashtags as a journalistic tool. The literature also provided more detailed information on Twitter and how its area of breaking news coverage is the biggest one in overall social media. Those aspects assisted in setting the focus for our own research. Apart from that, useful information on the history of hashtags needed for the eventual trend analysis was found. All in all the outcomes of the literature review supported our initial thesis regarding hashtag usage when informing oneself about breaking news. In the course of our investigative work, the findings of secondary research will be used to back up new findings in order to eventually provide a profound and well-researched recommendation.

Online Research

Following up the literature research, conducted online research enhanced the previous findings through more prevailing findings, adding new aspects to the matter. Using advanced search engines like Google scholar, Sage and Lucas. With the help of advanced Boolean operators, findings were narrowed down to access the most topic-related and specific information.

Among others, the used operators include:

  • hashtag trends, “hashtag trends”, hashtag and trends, hashtag near trends
  • hashtag definition, “hashtag definition”
  • news through hashtags, “news through hasthags”, hashtags and news
  • evolution of hashtags, “evolution of hashtags”
  • hashtags and millennials, “hashtags and millennials”
  • hashtag purpose, “hashtag purpose”
  • hashtags and the media, “hashtag and the media”
  • hashtag content, “hashtag content”, hashtag and content creation
  • hashtags and social networks, “hashtags and social networks”

Setting up a Twitter list


Since the focus mainly lies on the online platform Twitter, the research includes creating a Twitter list involving accounts that are frequently posting about the latest news to further analyse and monitor the ways of hashtag usage whilst reporting:

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The first, perfunctory impressions of news feeds within the list show that hashtags are rather used by private users or news accounts, rather than by governmental or corporate news giants like for example CNN. Those findings will be analysed more thoroughly throughout the research.


Google Trends


When searching for hashtags on Google trends, it can be found that the timeline of interest regarding it was tremendously increasing in 2013, suffering a deacrease in 2014. From 2014 until today, it remained rather averaged, not showing any significant changes.

It is interesting to note that there is a significant difference in hashtag usage in different countries. The trend analysis considering the regional interest indicates that Lebanon and the Philippines are most involved with hashtags. Since within the two aforementioned regions media regulations and proper coverage are rather strict and involving limited freedom of speech, a correlation between the political situation and the heightened interest in hashtags can be drawn (Article19, 2005) (BRD, 2012).

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 5.21.57 PM


Recent Phenomenon – The Paris Terrorist Attacks


Investigating recent world affairs and case studies related to hashtag usage and news coverage, the Paris terrorist attacks of 13 November 2015, serve as a paragon. Whenever referring to the incident and its process on Twitter, users included the same hashtags not only to group the information, but also to express their empathy. Hashtags that were frequently used included: #prayforparis #portouverte #notafraid #jesuisparis #vivelafrance #noussommesunis #prayfortheworld #franceunderattack (Mills, 2015). With the help of those hashtags, the news spread like wildfire on social media platforms and managed to report on the matter before media giants like CNN got to report about it. Therefore, this example provides useful evidence on how hashtag usage influences local as well as international news coverage and reporting.


Research Questions & Sub-Questions


Research Questions


The research question for this research report is ‘How are Hashtags replacing the way we learn about breaking news?’

 We want to focus on researching how come more people are opting to go on Twitter to follow breaking news rather than waiting or going on news media sites or follow it on television.




  1. How was the trend Hashtag invented?


  1. How are people using Hashtags on Twitter?


  1. Why have Hashtags become so popular?


  1. How do news and media outlets use Hashtags?


At the end of our research report we hope to provide a recommendation to news media outlets such as The Guardian, The Telegraph, CNN and more on how they should really invest and take advantage of the Hashtag trend to get users to follow their breaking news report and how it is a more effective way of informing people rather than only posting an updates on their site and waiting for readers.

Research Design & Methodology

In the following, a trend analysis, a social network analysis, a visualization with the help of Gephi, as well as netnographical findings are presented. We have been looking into keywords on related articles and Twitter searches that were compatible with our research report. Using online libraries such as Lucas, Picarta, Google Scholar and more allowed us to find our academic articles, helping us broaden our research and data collection. We looked into Twitter’s breaking news trending list and how many people are generally tweeting or re-tweeting breaking news stories, we have also taken into account how fast they generated.


We used a collection keywords for gathering online research as mentioned in the literature review:

  • accessing news through hashtags
  • twitter hashtag trends
  • evolution of hashtags
  • hashtags and the media
  • social media changes
  • user generated news
  • hashtag news spread
  • hashtag trending


Primarily, we looked into the keywords such as hashtags, twitter trends, hashtag news, breaking news twitter etc that would directly send us to the sources that would discuss our general topic of hashtags providing breaking news.


We would gather our collected and base them on what is the most important for our research and what could be used as secondary information for whenever we might need it.


Below you will find our research strategy that we used for this research report.

Research Strategy

Step 1

 Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 5.24.34 PM

Step 2


Research Statement:

How are hashtag replacing the way we learn about important breaking news?


Step 3

(Keyword 1) (Keyword 2) (Keyword 3)
Hashtag Replacing News

Step 4


1) statement – one liner – emphasizing – symbolize – attention

2) change – take over – succeed – reinstate – shit


3) announcement – broadcast – report – story – message

Step 5




OR “Statement” OR “Emphasizing”





OR “ Change”


OR “Take Over”






OR “Broadcast”



OR “Report”


Step 6


Hashtag – hashtags – hashtagging – hashtagged

Statement- statements – stated

Emphasizing – emphasis – emphasize – emphasized

Replacing – replacement – replace – replaced

Change – changing – changed – changement

Take over – taken over – took over


Broadcast – broadcasting – broadcasted

Repot – reportage – reporting – reported – reports

Step 7


  1. Your library catalogue search tool (LUCAS)
  2. An electronic bibliographical database such as SAGE or Science Direct
  3. An Internet search engine such as Google Scholar.
  4. Try narrowing down your search by filtering by / selecting ‘journal articles’ or ‘scholarly journals’.
  5. Track how each of your search techniques reduced number of hits.



Lucas Database (Sage) Database (Science Direct) Google Scholar
Date 24.02.2016 24.02.2016 24.02.2016 24.02.2016
hashtag trends


330 results

Article names:

– Trends in Twitter hashtag applications

– Political hashtag trends

– How Instagram spots a trend

– Perils and pleasures of prediction

167 results

Article names:

– A social way to experience a scientific event: Twitter use at the 7th European Public Health Conference

– The Multiple Facets of Influence: Identifying Political Influentials and Opinion Leaders on Twitter

– Twitter as “a journalistic substitute”? Examining #wiunion tweeters’ behavior and self-perception

414 results

Article names:

– The pragmatics of hashtags: Inference and conversational style on Twitter

– Predicting the topic influence trends in social media with multiple models


8630 results

Article names:

– Political hashtag trends

– Secular vs. islamist polarization in egypt on twitter

– Political hashtag hijacking in the US

“hashtag trends” 27 results

Article names:

– Political Hashtag trends

– What Tweets tell us about MOOG participation

– I am not censoring myself anymore

2 results

Article names:

– Studying Normal, Everyday Social Media

– Mapping Controversies with Social Media: The Case for Symmetry



2 results

Article names:

not useful

68 results

Article names:

– # WorldSeries: An Empirical Examination of a Twitter Hashtag During a Major Sporting Event.

– On predicting twitter trend: Factors and models

– Data-driven political science

hashtag and trends 6046 results

Article names:

– Social searching with hashtags

– Trends in Twitter hashtag applications

– Political Hashtag Trends

167 results

(for results see ‘hashtag trends’ above)

414 results

Article names:

(repetition of findings)


(for results see ‘hashtag trends’ above)

hashtag near trends 0 results 51 results

Article names:

– Tweets, Tweeps, and Signifyin’: Communication and Cultural Performance on “Black Twitter”

– Mediated gesture: Paralinguistic communication and phatic text


– Investigating the Community of Practice of World Language Educators on Twitter



119 results

Article names:

– A Rule Dynamics Approach to Event Detection in Twitter with Its Application to Sports and Politics


2780 results

Article names:

– Will this# hashtag be popular tomorrow?

– Near-Future Trends in Interactive Media Convergence Using Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches

news through hashtags 17 results

not useful

246 results

Article names:

– The linguistics of self-branding and micro-celebrity in Twitter: The role of hashtags

– Agenda setting in the twenty-first century

476 results

Article names:

– Neanderthals drew first: #hashtags

– Twitter hashtags predict rising tension in Egypt

18.500 results

Article names:

– Twitter as a reporting tool for breaking news: Journalists tweeting the 2011 UK riots

– What is Twitter, a social network or a news media?

– The use of Twitter hashtags in the formation of ad hoc publics

“news through hasthags” 2 results

Article names:

– A Volatile Public: A Whole Foods Boycott on Facebook

0 results 0 results 2 results

Article names:

– Google and the Culture of Search

hashtags and news 13006 results

Article names:

– Hurricane and Hashtags: How the Media and NGO’s treat Citizens’ Voices Online

– Hashtags.

– The Hashtag: New Word or New Rule?

264 results

Article names:

– Hypertextuality and Social Media: A Study of the Constitutive and Paradoxical Implications of Organizational Twitter Use

476 results

Article names:

– In the mood for sharing contents: Emotions, personality and interaction styles in the diffusion of news

– Small stories and extended narratives on Twitter

– Triggering participation: Exploring the effects of third-person and hostile media perceptions on online participation

20.600 results

Article names:

– Twitterstand: news in tweets

– Analyzing user modeling on twitter for personalized news recommendations

– Researching news discussion on Twitter: New methodologies

– News-Topic oriented hashtag recommendation in twitter based on characteristic co-occurrence word detection

hashtags and the media 19316 results

Article names:

– Hashtags and How to Use Them

– Social Media and Free Access Medical Education

316 results

not useful

710 results

Article names:

– Nursing and Twitter: Creating an online community using hashtags

– Social media and crisis management: CERC, search strategies, and Twitter content

24.600 results

not useful

“hashtags and the media” 82 results

Article names:

– Social Media Rules

– Hashtag: Friend or Foe?


0 results 0 results 1 result

Article names:

– The social multimedia experience

hashtags and social networks


7033 results

not useful

282 results

Article names:

– Candidate Networks, Citizen Clusters, and Political Expression: Strategic Hashtag Use in the 2010 Midterms


– Switching in Twitter’s Hashtagged Exchanges


615 results

repetition of previous findings

21.000 results

Article names:

– Virality prediction and community structure in social networks

– User-level sentiment analysis incorporating social networks

“hashtags and social networks” 4 results

Article names:

– Semi-automatic Detection of Sentiment in Hashtags in Social Networks

– Tag: Meme or Event?

0 results 0 results 0 results
“hashtag usage per country” 0 results 0 results 0 results 0 results
hashtags and countries 7824 results

Article names:

– When countries become the talking point in Microblogs

– Online social networks and offline protest

177 results

Article names:

– Serial activists: Political Twitter beyond influentials and the twittertariat




314 results

Article names:

– Time, place, technology: Twitter as an information source in the Wisconsin labor protests


10.400 results

repetition of previous findings