Hinchcliffe, Vanessa (2009) Internet Mediated Research: Synchronous Online Interviewing and Web-Based Diaries As Opportunities for Data Collection with Participants with Disabilities. In: Fourth International Conference on Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, University of Athens, Greece 8-11 July 2009, 8-11 July 2009, University of Athens, Greece. (Unpublished)

Internet Mediated Research (IMR) is, compared to more established methods, still in its infancy and techniques and technologies to support it are advancing rapidly. As the pace of 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 disabilities. 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 IMR and web-based diaries are discussed and evaluated, along with how the ethical issues were addressed. Lack of non-verbal cues proved problematic for some online interviewees, however IMR proved a particularly effective communication platform for data collection, provided flexibility in time and location, increased anonymity through secure password protected environments, gave access to relatively unselfconscious accounts and they were cost effective. For participants with visual, aural, verbal, physical, 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.

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