Social Media in Qualitative Research Final Copy


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Social Media in Qualitative Research Final Copy

  1. 1. SOCIAL MEDIA IN QUALITATIVE RESEARCH Exploring Key Points in Understanding Social Media Research Katrin A. Sawatzky University of Guelph EDRD6000 13/03/14
  2. 2. Context  The social media revolution has changed the way that researchers conduct research and the way that people communicate  Millions of people contribute to social media databases everyday (Branthwaite, A. and Patterson, S., 2011)
  3. 3. Social Media Research Support  We live in a world where SMR is heavily used. There are a multitude of organizations, companies and software that are available to assist a researcher in analyzing qualitative data harvested from social media, but many of them focus on marketing research Abbott Research & Consulting - Specializes in customer experience and service industries Campos Inc - Specializes in tracking & understanding consumer trends Doyle Research Associates -Specializes in qualitative analysis & social media analysis Retrieved on March 13, 2014 from
  4. 4. What is Social Media Research (SMR)?  It is research using naturally occurring social media conversations as your primary data source  It is not online surveys, online focus groups, or online communities  SMR mines information from existing data such as posts or blogs from Tumblr, Twitter and other online platforms  Variables are also identified based on the existing data  Researcher checks off the boxes for participants  A Facebook status update might read, “Feeling frustrated by the weather” and it is up to the researcher to translate that into useful data; i.e. code that the weather is what frustrates the individual (Branthwaite, A. and Patterson, S., 2011)
  5. 5. Who Uses Social Media Research?  SMR is used in many spheres  It is greatly utilized in marketing so that organizations and companies can understand public opinion and adjust their product and/or programs accordingly   It is used in social psychology to understand human trends, beliefs, behaviours and attitudes  It is used in every aspect of academia as a qualitative and quantitative research tool to gain insights on how the research topic is being understood by the public  NVivo10 is a mixed-methods data analysis software that allows a researcher to analyze unstructured data. NCapture, a web browser extension, allows you to import content & data mined from social media platforms and analyze the data in NVivo10 (Branthwaite, A. and Patterson, S., 2011)
  6. 6. The qualitative researcher is already equipped with many research tools. Utilizing Social Media Research introduces an additional tool to our toolkit. (Henderson, 2011)
  7. 7. Traditional Processes in Survey Research vs. Processes for SMR Retrieved on March 13, 2014 from
  8. 8. The Advantages of Social Media Research (SMR)  The researcher has the ability to jump back in time to understand a trend, reflect on an incident or remember significant events  Daily tracking; we can monitor day by day what people are talking about  Thousands of variables; you have access to millions of people and an endless amount of content areas (Henderson, 2011) ** Some of the information for this slide was retrieved from a Youtube series entitled ‘SMART Bootcamp’. Accessed from **
  9. 9. The Disadvantages of Social Media Research (SMR)  Access to minimal information about geodemographics with social media, especially in Twitter with a limited character count per post  If researchers are not able to obtain demographic data from social media, it is essentially ‘missing’ data  Certain topics have very little coverage on social media platforms due to access and/or popular interest, and this results in a limited data set for the researcher. The researcher must understand when SMR is appropriate.  If mining information about the Olympics, social media platforms would be an appropriate avenue to do so, whereas SMR might not be appropriate when gathering information about gendered activities in rural households in sub-Saharan Africa  SMR cannot measure awareness of the issue, topic or product ** Information for this slide was retrieved from a Youtube series entitled ‘SMART Bootcamp’. Accessed from **
  10. 10. When conducting SMR, remember to:  Maintain your data quality  When putting an acronym into your search engine in Facebook or Twitter, ensure you are searching the appropriate acronym to obtain your full set of data  HFCS High Fructose Corn Syrup and HFCS Hydrofluorocarbons  Double check meaning of words during the content analysis phase of your research  Has your informant used the word ‘new’ but really meant to use ‘knew’? Misinterpretation of language could skew results  Ensure that you understand and correctly interpret the sentiment behind each emoticon  :) means good; :( means bad; :-S means worried ** Information for this slide was taken from a Youtube series entitled SMART Bootcamp. Accessed from **
  11. 11. Ethical Considerations for Social Media Research  Remember that social media is a personal domain and often times people say things they may not have meant  Respect for privacy is very important  TCPS2 has some great information surrounding ethical guidelines for mining social media data when it is in the public sphere: eptc2/Default/  Ethical guidelines are very similar for social media research as with traditional research, with some additions; visit the following sites for more info:
  12. 12. Reflections  How do you feel about using social networking sites to mine data from the public?  How do you feel, knowing that very little you post online is confidential, and that the majority of what you post and engage with on social media sites is used in market research?  Do you think that Social Media Research is a viable form of primary data in qualitative research?
  13. 13. References  Branthwaite, A. and Patterson, S. (2011). The power of qualitative research in the era of social media. Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, 14(4), pp.430 – 440.  Correa, T., Hinsley, W., and Gil de Zúñiga, H. (2009). Who interacts on the web?: the intersection of users’ personality and social media use. Computers in Human Behaviour, 1186, pp. 7.  Henderson, N. (2011). Is there a role for social media in qualitative research? Qualitative Reflections, 23(3): pp. 36.  Nvivo10 (2014).  Social Media Research Foundation. (2014). Retrieved on March 10, 2014 at  Zaltzman, J. and Leichliter, B. (2013). Social media-related qualitative research. New Qualitative Research. Retrieved on March 10, 2014 at qualitative/    