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Online Research: New Challenges and Opportunities

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A presentation on online methodology and tips on how to study online phenomena.

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Online Research: New Challenges and Opportunities

  1. 1. Online Research: New Challenges & Opportunities Glen Farrelly University of Toronto
  2. 2. Outline • Definition of “online” • Online research methods  types  benefits & limitations • Studying online phenomena • Tips & caveats • In-class exercise • Bibliography
  3. 3. What Constitutes “Online”?
  4. 4. Online Research Methods
  5. 5. Online Research Methods • Using Internet or mobile tools or content to collect research data • Online methods can study online or offline phenomena
  6. 6. Types of Online Methods Common online methods: • Web-based surveys • Email & VoIP interviews • Computer-captured data • Remote observation
  7. 7. Other Online Methods • Audience response systems • Remote user testing & experiments • Autoethnography (via blogging) • Photo documentation (via mobile device)
  8. 8. Benefits of Online Methods For researchers: • Lowers costs • Increases geographical reach • Facilitates data transcription & analysis For participants: • Reduces spatial & temporal barriers • Channel preference & familiarity
  9. 9. Limits of Online Methods • Digital Divide, limits participation by:  Access (rural areas, income)  Literacy & technical familiarity  Physical abilities • Glitches & cross-platform support • Difficulty controlling research environment (e.g., participant distraction)
  10. 10. Studying Online Phenomena
  11. 11. Why Study Online Phenomena?
  12. 12. Choosing a Method Options: • Online methods • Offline methods • Both Consider: • Research objectives • Context of study • Location & familiarity of participants Eye-tracking study of how people view webpages
  13. 13. Tips & Caveats
  14. 14. Ethical Online Research • Consent not needed to research “public forum” • If you need to register for website, then get informed consent from participants • Be careful if considering deception or working with children or medically infirm
  15. 15. Beware the “Real Life” Trap “Consequently, an analysis that takes the face-to-face as its starting point is unable to explain the specificity of the online phenomenon it aims to study; it can explain what is going on online only in terms of face-to-face qualities.” (Orgad, p.48)
  16. 16. Online Is Not Ahistorical Sharing your location with friends via a mobile app Foursquare or a postcard
  17. 17. Technological Determinism Human Agency VS. • Methods lead to different assumptions So consider carefully… • Establish a theoretical framework to situate your research e.g., McLuhan’s media effects theory Maslow’s uses and gratification theory
  18. 18. Class Activity
  19. 19. Background: • Museum of Civilization changing name and focus • Campaign to hear from Canadians on the changes • CBC ran a news article on this and enabled public to comment • Result = a rich source of discourse on this issue Coding Online Discourse
  20. 20. 1. Read through CBC article and reader comments 2. As you encounter passages of interest, circle it and give it an indicative label (a “code”) 3. Codes can be one word or a few 4. Be creative – similar to brainstorming 5. Find other instances of the code Exercise Instructions
  21. 21. Identifying Themes 1. Find a partner 2. Discuss prominent or reoccurring codes you identified 3. Discuss how your findings help elucidate a theme or indicate a pattern
  22. 22. Class Discussion 1. What themes did you find? 2. What level of analysis did you use? 3. What did you learn from your experience of coding?
  23. 23. Conclusion & Questions
  24. 24. Bibliography • Bakardjieva, M. (2009). A response to Shani Orgad. Internet inquiry: Conversations about method (pp. 54–60). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. • Brown, M. C. (2012, August 16). An iPhone in the DRC. Time. Retrieved from http://lightbox.time.com/ • Fielding, N. G., Lee, R. M., & Blank, G. (Eds.). (2008). The Sage handbook of online research methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. • Hamilton, R. J., & Bowers, B. J. (2006). Internet recruitment & e-mail interviews in qualitative studies. Qualitative Health Research, 16(6), 821–835. • Markham, A., & Buchanan, E. (2012). Ethical decision-making & Internet research: Version 2.0. AoIR. Retrieved from http://aoir.org/documents/ethics-guide • Nielsen, J. (2006, April 17). F-shaped pattern for reading web content. Alertbox. Retrieved from http://www.useit.com/alertbox/reading_pattern.html • Opdenakker, R. (2006). Advantages & disadvantages of four interview techniques in qualitative research. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 7(4), 1. • Orgad, S. (2009). How can researchers make sense of the issues involved in collecting & interpreting online & offline data? In A. Markham & N. K. Baym (Eds.), Internet inquiry: Conversations about method (pp. 33–53).Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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