A "NETIQUETTE" guide to discussing independence on social media has been drawn up by researchers in a bid to help raise the standard of debate on the referendum.

An analysis of more than 5000 comments left on major independence stories published on the BBC website found nearly eight out of 10 comments failed to engage with others in the debate by failing to refer to other posts and only proffering their own opinion.

The majority of posts - 95% - also failed to support their arguments with figures or linking to other sources which would back up their claims.

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Other findings suggested it is predominantly men who turn to social media to discuss independence.

Only 5% of posts were derogatory towards different nationalities and only 3% of comments had to be removed.

The research, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council's Future Of The UK and Scotland programme will be presented at the TEDxGlasgow 2014 conference next Sunday by Dr Mark Shephard, a senior lecturer in department of government and public policy at the University of Strathclyde.

He said the responses to the BBC stories had been analysed rather than Twitter, for example, because it was anticipated there would be more serious discussion taking place on the moderated site.

Shephard said: "The reason why it is important to think about what you are posting is that it can wind people up and that doesn't contribute to the debate.

"Ideally, what web users are trying to do is get enough information so that they can make a decision at the polls."


l 'False' posts: It can be difficult to get across nuance in an online discussion ... but avoid false claims by only putting out partial truths, advising readers to cross-check facts.

l 'Salacious' posts: Avoid generalised comments such as "the English could not care about us leaving" or "in Scotland, we think this".

l 'Flaming' comments: These use lots of question marks, exclamation marks or upper-case letters. An example of this would be: "There are more pandas in Scotland than Tory MPs!!!!! LOL.''

l 'Foul' posts: These include rude digs about political leaders - for example: "Clown Prince Cameron, Slimeball Salmond."

l 'Foggy' posts: Where the meaning isn't clear all. A reference to "Wee Eck" might be understood to refer to Alex Salmond in Scotland, but not south of the Border.