More and more researchers are using the Internet as tools for conducting social and behavioral research. This guide highlights books and articles on the concepts, methods, ethics, tools and techniques related to Internet-based research. It also recommends some software tools that can be used for implementing Internet-Mediated Research (IMR) for social studies. Most of the online tools introduced here are free or offered for a low cost.
The term “internet-mediated research” covers a wide range of quantitative and qualitative approaches to research involving human participants. IMR can be broadly defined as any research involving the remote acquisition of data from or about human participants using the internet and its associated technologies.
Interviews and Focus Groups
An interview is a verbal interaction usually between two or more people where one person implicitly directs the flow of the conversation, while a focus group is a group of people brought together to participate in the discussion of an area of interest. In a focus group, discussion is guided by a moderator/facilitator. Focus group method is often used for qualitative research.
Surveys and Questionnaires
A survey is a very commonly used method in research (both academic and commercial) which gathers data from people using a structured instrument in the form of a questionnaire.
Observation and Document Analysis
Observational approaches in IMR can draw upon various sources containing traces of and ongoing live interactions between people. It involves looking at behaviors and interactions, while document analysis involves looking at static, published documents and media placed on the Internet as an authored, final product.
An experiment is a deliberate attempt to manipulate a situation, in order to test a hypothesis that a particular cause creates a particular effect. An experimental design requires several factors: a setting where the real world can be simulated, one or more independent variables that can be varied, and resultant effects on dependent variables which can be observed.