Reference Revolution

Books, journals, and reports are traditional sources of reference for a piece of research that is peer-reviewed and deemed credible. In a digital age, where official information from credible sources is abundantly available on social media, the research would lack dynamism if digital platforms are ruled out as part of the information source. Academia has transitioned to the acceptance and importance of grey literature. Why is there hesitation and resistance to take the fourth industrial leap to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest, among other social media?

The onus is on the information-gatherer to identify and sieve reliable and relevant literature from a mixture of substance and frivolousness. The researcher is expected and assumed to have a high standard of information literacy, which would enable shrewd discernment in the selection of source material. The end-product should reflect the author’s discretion and not the unreliability of social media. To keep up with times, to keep abreast of evolving research, digital platforms are the most effective and quickest instruments.

Conferences, speeches by leaders, documentaries, and podcasts are made available ‘live’ via digital media. It would be negligent to disregard these forms of credible reference sources as they enable the researcher to always be at the cusp of knowledge relevant to his or her research. For instance, speeches made by ASEAN leaders were broadcast ‘live’ via Channel News Asia’s Youtube channel during the 33rd ASEAN Summit held in Singapore. Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi called for more investment in her country; the Thai premiere emphasised the need for increased connectivity and the Malaysian prime minister highlighted the need to speed up ASEAN’s policy-making processes. Obtaining information of such nature, as and when it is being disseminated, without having to wait for it to be reported and analysed, is crucial for the researcher. 

There is thus a need to adapt to changing times. There is a need for credible research to incorporate multiple platforms of reference, including multimedia. This is especially relevant when obtaining data on less developed ASEAN states that have no proper mechanism to gather, record and maintain objective and accurate data.

The ILO has created the international labour migration statistics database in ASEAN (ILMS) which basically relies on government data. This is a noble initiative but does not address the issue. The fundamental flaw lies in the methods of data collection by governments and the degree of data representativeness of national populations. Apart from Singapore, Malaysia and in some instances, Thailand, the rest of the ASEAN states have difficulty in making available the latest statistical information.

Often, new research has to rely on data gathered by the World Bank, IMF, UNDP, OCHA, ILO, IOM, etc. Social media that disseminate accurate data obtained directly from leaders, their representatives, international bodies, corporate organisations and authorised independent experts mitigate the shortcomings of national and regional data.

Multimedia references are especially relevant to contemporary and dynamic research that needs to be approached in a timely fashion, in addition to traditional resources. It is noteworthy that multilateral organisations such as the World Bank, ILO, UN, IOM, WEF (World Economic Forum) and ASEAN have Youtube, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts. New information is constantly being disseminated ‘live’ via these platforms. These multilateral organisations have the objective of spreading urgent and important information to the masses as fast as possible. Most importantly, the data disseminated is accurate and credible.

Why should research be excluded from such a dynamic trend? Multimodal referencing renders robustness to contemporary research. But Sceptic academia resists acknowledging or accepting this truth. Thus, research is not able to take its natural path of evolution. Adaptation is a necessity. Acceptance is a virtue that needs to be embraced by traditional and dated mindsets. Referencing must revolutionise – the sooner the better!

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