NSMNSS Workshop 1 – qualitative methods

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    What are the key questions for qualitative researchers using social media? Big data doesn’t sound very qual. But there are lots of opportunities for qualitative approaches to help apply meaning to big data, and understand how people interact with these platforms. The challenges appear to arise from the loss of face to face interaction with participant and the fact that big data creates qualitative data on a quantitative scale.


    In our workshop at the NSMNSS launch event, we tackled some of these issues and came up with five key questions for the network to take forward:

    • What are qualitative researchers doing with social media? Can the network map or audit the full range of approaches and techniques being applied?
    • How does more anonymous persona of the online participant affect the relationship between the researcher and the participant? Looking at online communities, does it also affect the relationship between participant and participant? What are the implications of this?
    • Can a social media sample ever be inclusive or representative of the full diversity of views – if not, does this matter?
    • How do we deal with the issue of data quality and authenticity? We know people behave differently online, but does this represent a barrier or an opportunity?


    What do you think about this list? Which issues are most important? Have we missed anything off? Is it useful to make a distinction for qual methods?

    Katie Metzler


    It would have been great to have more on netnography at the launch event, as I know there is a lot of interest in the method. Rob Kozinets unfortunately couldn’t join us on the day, but we have a great video of Rob on ‘What is Netnography’ available on SAGE Research Methods. http://www.srmo.sagepub.com/view/what-is-netnography/SAGE.xml?rskey=UNLfTi&row=8


    Chareen Snelson

    Katie, does access to this video require a paid subscription? I cannot seem to gain access to it from here. I did just get a copy of the Netnography book though. 

    Janet Salmons

    Hello everyone,

    While I was not able to participate in-person, I am excited about this launch and future discussions about new opportunities for researchers.I do think qual methods are distinct from quant, and allow for a different kind of data collection– and data– that is closer to participants as individuals. We learn different things from each methodology, which I honor, while respectfully positioning myself on the qual side.

    I am interested in both synchronous and asynchronous ways to collect qualitative data with interviews and focus groups that allow for real, in-depth interactions between researcher and participant. I am intrigued by the potential of multi-media technologies to allow for visual and verbal data collection. Do questions need to be posed– or answered– with words? Or can images be central to the communication? I believe so.  As well, I am interested in observations and participant observations, and use of field/posted data– especially in conjunction with interviews that allow for greater context and sense-making. 

    What are qualitative researchers doing with social media? In Online Interviews in Real Time I explored four types of communication modes for synchronous interviews: text, video conference, multi-channel meeting spaces (i.e. Adobe Connect, Web Ex) and virtual environments (i.e. Second Life). In Cases in Online Interview Research I invited researchers to create case studies of the online data collection methods they used and to discuss their studies: 2 in Facebook and blogs, 4 in Second Life and 4 using a combination of technologies. I also introduced the “E-Interview Research Framework” and used it to analyze each case.

    The E-Interview Research Framework offers an inter-related set of questions and models that can be used to think through a research design, or to analyze a completed study.Some of the questions identified above are discussed in the Framework and the above books.

    For example, a primary question I’d pose to a researcher considering online interviews is: what is your motivation? Are you interested in studying online phenomena or are you interested in communicating with participants online due to convenience and access across geographic boundaries? If the first, then sampling is less of a concern– we know the population is online and we can choose to conduct the interviews using the same/similar technologies or settings as we are studying.

    If we are meeting online to discuss other phenomena, not related to online behaviors, then the sampling issues are relevant. Will the story be skewed because the only elementary school teachers I interviewed are those who are willing and able to meet online? This researcher may also need to be flexible about technology choice for the interview, and create a research design that can accommodate having some interviews text-based and others in Skype. 

    Lots of questions and issues– which we’ll explore as we design studies and get them approved, conduct research, write and talk about it! This collaboration is a great venue for such exchange.

    Janet Salmons

    #einterview and http://www.vision2lead.com
    On Methodspace: Qualitative E-Research

    Zoe Gaylard

    Hi all, very excited to be a part of this group all the way from Australia! I work for QSR – we develop NVivo software for qual analysis. I wanted to let you all know that our new release, NVivo 10, will be out very soon and will offer up some new ways to work with web and social media data. The key new feature – NCapture – is a browser extension that will allow you to capture content from any web page and bring it in to NVivo for analysis. Further, you’ll be able to use NCapture to collect data from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and import as dataset(s). Thought this may be of interest to everyone here! You can see more information on NVivo 10 – including videos demo-ing how NCapture will work at http://www.nvivo10.com. We’d love to hear what you think. Zoe

    Katie Metzler

    Hi Chareen, SRM is a product intended for library subscription, so unless your library subscribes, you may not be able to view it. Apologies.



    Rob is hopefully going to take part in some of the network events, if a lot of people would like to hear more we xould see mif he will do an online seminsr for the network? What do others think?

    Chareen Snelson

    Online is fabulous. Thanks for considering that. There is no way for me to attend otherwise.

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