Is there a scholarly corner of Reddit?


For those not familiar with Reddit, the website is setup in such a way that users submit a post to a forum and other users who read that forum may comment on said post. This creates a type of dialogue among those who are interested in the same kinds of topics. While the majority of the site is far from “scholarly”, the r/science section does contain scholarly articles. Although not a traditional way of evaluating information, Reddit provides its users with the opportunity to share information with others, and for users to engage in discourse over the information that is posted to the site. In this sense, r/science can be seen more as an educational resource in that it spreads information. Those who visit the r/science page can be seen as informal evaluators since they provide personal comments on the information.

Reddit has two means by which it determines the authority of its scholars. First is via the users themselves. Since it is an open format in which users can comment on posts, if enough users decide that a post is not useful they can essentially discredit it. With enough negative comments on a post, other users will not read it or take it seriously. Further, there is an option to report a post, or fellow user, to Reddit. If this happens, those that run the site will evaluate the post/user in question and may choose to remove the post/user from the site. Many times a warning will be issued before a removal or a ban but, depending on the specific case, an immediate ban or removal is possible.

The second way by which authority is determined is via the rules of the community. There are both submission requirements and comment rules that are clearly posted in the right-hand margin of the page. There is also a link to a guide which helps a user to meet these requirements in order to submit a post to the page. These rules serve as standards by which information can be judged. Further, if the proposed post does not meet the submission requirements, Reddit will not allow it to be posted to the page. Included in said requirements are direct links to peer-reviewed research, no summaries or reviews, and links to the published article(s). These rules also help users to monitor the page. For example, if a user is not following the comment rules, or a post has slipped through the cracks, the user and/or post can be reported to Reddit and then removed.

Although I was pleasantly surprised by the type of content that I found on r/science, it is still not a source of information that I would consider to be formal or greatly reliable. While the vast majority of posts seemed credible, the users who read the page did not seem to be scholarly. Despite the rules, the comments of many users were similar to other pages within Reddit; therefore being comedic, satirical, or vulgar in nature. Further, even among those comments that were on topic, very few were helpful for those seeking to learn and/or research. Also, while the majority of posts seemed accurate, they were not organized in any obvious manner. Therefore, if one was searching for a particular topic to research, it would be difficult to locate a relevant post. In sum, while r/science may be the most scholarly corner of Reddit, it is still far from a useful source of information.

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