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Internet Mediated Research: The Viability of Synchronous Online Interviewing and Web-Based Diaries for Data Collection with Participants with Social Communication Difficulties

Hinchcliffe, Vanessa (2009) Internet Mediated Research: The Viability of Synchronous Online Interviewing and Web-Based Diaries for Data Collection with Participants with Social Communication Difficulties. International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, 4 (1). pp. 181-198. ISSN 1833-1882

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Internet Mediated Research (IMR) is, compared to more established methods, still in its infancy
but nevertheless techniques and technologies to support it are advancing rapidly. As the pace of
technological change increases, there is ever more need to understand not just the practicalities but
the challenges and opportunities that IMR presents. This paper presents a practical guide to using
synchronous online interviewing and web-based diaries for data collection with participants with social
communication difficulties. Included here are detail of the participant and researcher interfaces, and
description of their use whilst carrying out two forms of data collection. Synchronous online interviews
provide rich qualitative data from real-time interaction between participant and researcher, whereas
web-based diaries provide Internet-based access to non-retrospective qualitative accounts over an
extended period. The challenges and opportunities these techniques offer are subsequently explored
in this paper, as the researcher sets out a critical reflection of her use of these techniques, from the
viewpoint of both respondent and researcher. The quality and utility of both online interviewing and
web-based diaries are discussed and evaluated, along with how the ethical issues were addressed.
Lack of non-verbal encouragement proved problematic for some online participants. IMR, however,
proved a particularly effective communication platform for data collection, by providing flexibility in
time and location, increasing anonymity through secure password protected environments, giving
access to relatively unselfconscious accounts and by being cost effective. For participants with social
communication and/or specific learning difficulties, the computer environment was adaptable, making
it less stressful than face-to-face human interaction. For the researcher, events could be captured
close to when they happened, and traced over time. Data completion could be monitored, archived
and easily entered into a computer assisted qualitative data analysis program. Transcription was unnecessary,
making a considerable saving in terms of time and potential transcription errors.

Keywords: Internet Mediated Research, Synchronous Online Interviewing, Instant Messenger, Web-
Based Diaries, Disabilities

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Permissions:
Subjects: T Technology > T Technology (General)
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
L Education > LC Special aspects of education
Schools: School of Human and Health Sciences
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Vanessa Hinchcliffe
Date Deposited: 30 Jun 2009 08:25
Last Modified: 22 Aug 2015 16:01


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