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Social Research Methods

Internet-Mediated Research: Concepts, Methods, Ethics, Tools and Techniques

Communication Technologies

Social Networking / Media Sharing / Blogs

IMR Focus Groups

  • Google Hangouts - Free online meeting application that supports chat, voice, and video. Google Hangouts include tools to share visuals (emojis, stickers, and photos) and allows up to ten people on video calls. Has mobile device applications.
  • Skype - Skype is a free web-based communication tool that offers video chat, international calls, and texting via the web. Has mobile device applications.
  • TeamViewer - Use for online meetings, a bit complex to use, but good tool for online focus groups, including video chats, desktop screen sharing options, and the option to schedule meetings.

IMR Surveys

There are many online survey creators. You can choose between the free or paid route. If you are just looking to do some light audience research, you can choose the free survey makers available online.

  • SurveyMonkey: A popular online survey tool, SurveyMonkey has a drag and drop designer, a question bank with pre-made questions, and a mobile app. The free basic plan allows unlimited surveys with a maximum of 10 questions and 100 responses. The drawback is that users may not download the results in CSV, XLS and PDF formats.
  • Google Forms: Free of charge, Google Forms has a simple user interface. Users can add and edit as many questions as needed. There is no limit in number of responses. Forms can be shared among survey researchers. Data can be stored on the website or downloaded as a CSV file. However, Google Forms has only 9 question types and does not have a mobile app. It might be a good choice for a small-scale survey.
  • Typeform: Typeform is interactive and user-friendly. It displays one question at a time and uses image-driven buttons. It supports mobile app. The basic plan allows unlimited surveys with 10 fields in each survey. Data can be downloaded in XLS format. However, there is no option for importing data to the dropdown questions. Every single question needs to be entered manually.
  • Zoho Survey: Zoho Survey enables the creation of online forms using a drag-and-drop functionality. It supports mobile app. Surveys can be distributed using Facebook, QR codes. Survey takers can save a survey and finish it later. The free plan allows 15 questions for each survey and 150 responses. Responses can be stored on the website or download in CSV, XLS and PDF formats.
  • Survey Planet: This software solution offers unlimited surveys, unlimited questions per survey and unlimited survey responses. Export can be done to CSV. SurveyPlanet contains over 90 pre-written surveys. It is available for free.
  • Qualtrics: Paid by CityU for staff and students to use. Qualtrics provides many pre-written questions and 22 question types. Data import and export functions are supported. Survey reports can be downloaded as PDF, Word, PowerPoint, and CSV formats. However, Qualtrics does not support mobile app.CityU has subscription for staff and students to use.

Sources: Internet Research Methods and

VREs and VLEs


  • Second Life: Second Life is an online virtual world. Once a user has created an avatar, s/he can navigate around 3D graphical spaces. Can be used as a platform for observational research in IMR. Need to download 3D browsing software
  • ‘World of Warcraft’ (WoW): A multiplayer online role-playing game. Players control a character avatar with a game world in a 3D Warcraft universe. Players can interact with each other through their characters.

Conferencing software:

  • Php Free Chat: A free conferencing software that allows chatting using multi languages. It supports multi-rooms, private messages, moderation, customized themes based on CSS and plugins. Installation of Php Free Chat is supported by several auto installers.
  • Adobe Connect: A paid web conferencing software used for conducting online meetings. Facilitates online audio and video collaboration. It has Android and iOS apps. The free trial allows a meeting with up to 25 participants. However, there’s a steep learning curve.

Online Documentary Sources

  • The Internet Archive: The Internet Archive collects millions of free books, movies, software, music, website, etc. It aims to provide permanent access to historical collections that exist in digital format.
  • Online Newspapers: Searchable directory. It collects the URLs of the homepage of newspaper and magazines around world in various languages. Allows browsing newspapers and magazines by country and by language.
  • Census Bureau: Site of the United States Census Bureau with links to comparable sites in other countries.
  • World Internet Project: Collaborative project between 20 countries worldwide, providing reports and data on the social, economic, and political impact of the Internet and related technologies.
  • Economist Intelligence Unit: Source of international information provided by the publisher of The Economist.
  • CNN: Current events information site.

Data Mining Tools and Resources

  • Google Analytics: A commercial service available at cost, which allows users to analyze web site traffic.
  • LogAnalyzer: A tool that allows analysis of server log files, free for educational and noncommercial uses.
  • Web-Harvest: An open source web data extraction tool written in Java. It offers a way to collect desired Web pages and extract needed data from them. Web-Harvest mainly focuses on HTML/XML based web sites. Requires basic knowledge on writing Java and XML.
  • iScience Maps: A free tool for searching and analyzing Twitter content.
  • Webometrics Analyst (Windows only): A free software for analyzing the web impact of documents or web sites, creating network diagrams of collections of web sites, and retrieving information about blogs, Twitter, and YouTube videos.

IMR Experiment Software

  • WEBEXP: Online experiment delivery tool, using Java, which is free and requires installation on the user's own web server.
  • WEXTOR: A hosted web-based tool that can be used to design laboratory and web-based experiments, and is free for educational and noncommercial uses. A certain level of technical know-how and computer literacy will be required to use WEXTOR.