1       Prospectus for the Ph.D. in Information Studies    An analysis of social interactions in     online health social ...
2 Table of ContentsAbstract .................................................................................................
3 AbstractInternet users are becoming increasingly social in their online information behavior, as shown by agrowing trend...
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Prospectus

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  1. 1. 1  Prospectus for the Ph.D. in Information Studies An analysis of social interactions in online health social networking Drexel University College of Information Science and Technology Katherine Chuang September xx, 2010 
  2. 2. 2 Table of ContentsAbstract .................................................................................................................................................. 3 Introduction ............................................................................................................................................ 4 Motivation .............................................................................................................................................. 4  Research Question(s) .......................................................................................................................... 6  Purpose of Study................................................................................................................................. 7 Review of the Literature ........................................................................................................................ 8  Section 1: Online Social Support ....................................................................................................... 8  Social Support Types ...................................................................................................................... 9  Levels of social supports ............................................................................................................... 10  Support in Online Health Communities ........................................................................................ 12  Section 2: Features in Text-Based Online Communication Tools ................................................... 13  Summary of text-based social media communication tools .......................................................... 13  Factors in Tool Selection .............................................................................................................. 14  Characteristics of Textual Social Media ....................................................................................... 15  Section 3: Social Interaction Patterns in Health Communication .................................................... 16  Measuring with Social Network Analysis .................................................................................... 18  Patterns of Interactions ................................................................................................................. 21  . Social roles in online health community ....................................................................................... 22  Conclusion ........................................................................................................................................ 23 References ............................................................................................................................................ 23  
  3. 3. 3 AbstractInternet users are becoming increasingly social in their online information behavior, as shown by agrowing trend of social media adoption. The motivation for this research comes from an increasing needto understand the patterns of social interactions online, especially of e-patients using the internet as ahealth resource. For example, e-patients participate in online health communities that are similar to face-to-face peer support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous. Studying these websites is important for healthinformatics research because studies have demonstrated that support groups can have a positive impact onquality of life, decision making by patients, and improved health outcomes. Participation in onlinesupport groups is important for patients, as it leads to a sense of empowerment.Social networking in the health context has grown in popularity recently due to their advantage inallowing patients to play a more informed role in their own healthcare by gathering and sharing healthinformation outside of their doctor’s office (Kielstra, 2009). Patients and/or their caregivers often turn tothe internet to seek support, especially those with limited local resources. E-patients use social networkingplatforms to teach each other about conditions and treatments (Civan & Pratt, 2007). It has beenpredicted that social networking sites will increase in popularity because of the growing number of usersadopting social media and spending time to socialize online. Some tools they use for these activitiesinclude the popular text-based communication mediums Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace. In theseenvironments, people are able to work together as a group (i.e. raise breast cancer awareness), shareadvice and reviews with each other, or offer words of encouragement.Previous studies identified different types of social support (i.e. informational support, emotional support)in online support groups, looking at areas of shared patient expertise, identifying types of interactions thatfacilitate social support exchanges among group members, and comparing online empathy with offlineempathy. This study will be different from previous studies because it will seek to understand themechanism of technology that facilitates social support exchanges.The findings will be of value to those who design and evaluate online intervention programs. Thisresearch would help (1) health professionals (and their IT system analysts) who are designing andimplementing online intervention programs using social media technologies, (2) researchers studyingsocial support as a behavior change technique in a virtual environment, and (3) inform policy makers whodetermine practice guidelines. The outcome of this study can contribute to improving online interventionprograms by targeting specific functions of social network sites. 

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