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Online Qualitative Methods and Virtual Ethnography

Bojana Lobe
bojana.lobe@fdv.uni-lj.si

University of Ljubljana

Bojana Lobe is an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana, where she teaches various methods courses, including Social Science Data Collection and Digital Technologies.

Her research interests include online qualitative research methods, integration of qualitative and quantitative methods online, qualitative comparative analysis, and researching children’s experiences online with mixed methods.

She is the author of the book Integration of Online Research Methods and of several chapters and articles on conducting online focus groups and interviews. She is a member of the research programme Social Science Methodology, Statistics and Informatics at the University of Ljubljana.

Since 2006, Bojana has been actively involved in researching the experiences of children and young people with internet and digital technologies through various projects:


Course Dates and Times

Monday 5 to Friday 9 March 2018
14:00 - 17:30
15 hours over 5 days

Prerequisite Knowledge

No particular prerequisite knowledge is required. Some general familiarity with qualitative and ethnographic methods is useful.


Short Outline

The course deals with concrete ways of using digital technologies for qualitative data collection purposes, which have become essential for empirical research across many disciplines. It is targeted at participants who seek to gain the knowledge and skills to apply qualitative online research methods in their studies. Online research methods are essentially facilitators of ‘traditional’ methods modified in such a way that can be used in a number of online venues, such as email, chat rooms, web pages, various forms of instant messaging and other applications provided by internet. The course starts off with the introduction of basic characteristics of qualitative online research methods and their temporal structure. It provides an overview of advantages and disadvantages of online research methods. The course continues with the examination of different forms of online qualitative data collection. Methods and techniques such as online focus groups, online interviews and virtual ethnography are examined in details. Methodological as well as practical questions of using online research methods are addressed.

The course also provides possibilities of combined use of various online methods. Finally, ethical issues, which require a thorough consideration on how to be dealt with while doing online research, are tackled.

 

Tasks for ECTS Credits

  • Participants attending the course: 2 credits (pass/fail grade). The workload for the calculation of ECTS credits is based on the assumption that students attend classes and carry out the necessary reading and/or other work prior to, and after, classes.
  • Participants attending the course and completing one task (to be confirmed): 3 credits (to be graded)
  • Participants attending the course, and completing two tasks (to be confirmed): 4 credits (to be graded

 

  1. In order to obtain 2 credits: read in advance the daily readings (see reading list), actively take part in the 5 course sessions, and deliver the 4 daily assignments that will be given from Monday to Thursday (to be delivered at the latest the next day before the session starts).
  2. In order to obtain 2 additional credits (hence a total of 4 credits): write up a thorough take-home research paper that will be evaluated by the instructor. The format, focus, evaluation criteria, submission deadline etc. of the paper will be explained on days 1 and 5 of the course. There is some flexibility in terms of focus (more details will be discussed on day 5 of the course).

Long Course Outline

The course focuses on the usage of digital technologies for qualitative data collection, from a conceptual and applied perspective. Digital technologies are mostly referred to as a research tool, especially as a tool to collect data. The goal of this course is to acquaint participants with the basics of online qualitative research methods, and then to provide training on methodological and practical issues of online focus groups, online in-depth interviews and virtual ethnography (online fieldwork).

 

The course includes a detailed examination of:

  • Temporal dimensions of online qualitative research (synchronous, asynchronous);
  • Pro‘s and con‘s of online qualitative research;
  • Different online qualitative methods (online focus groups, online interviews, online fieldwork)
  • Sampling strategies in online qualitative studies;
  • Specific principles of qualitative data collection with digital technologies;
  • Technological, ethical and methodological issues of online methods.

 

After having completed the course, participants will have acquired in the following skills:

  • Knowing and understanding concepts and assumptions of social science methodology using digital technologies;
  • Using digital technologies to collect qualitative data;
  • Knowing how to collect, analyse and integrate (merge) data collected by digital technologies with various online qualitative methods;
  • Solving issues (technological, ethical) with the usage of digital technologies in social science research.

 

The course consists of lectures and daily assignments. In order to facilitate discussions during the lectures, participants will be expected to read selected texts about methodological issues, critically analyse online methods studies focussing on the use of online research methods, and do some practical exercises by collecting data online. As a take-home assignment, participants will be expected to compose and submit a methodological plan for an online qualitative study, which may be their actual research project or an imaginary project envisioned only for educative purposes.  

Software Requirements

None.

Hardware Requirements

Nothing specific. NB each participant should bring a laptop.

Literature

Hewson, Claire, Vogle, Carl, Laurent, Dianna (2016): Internet Research Methods. Second Edition. Sage Publicatios.

Fielding, N., Lee, R.M., Blank, G. (ur.) (2016): The Sage Handbook of Online Research Methods. Second Edition. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

Hesse-Biber, Sharlene Janice (Eds.). (2011):  The handbook of emergent technologies in social research. New York: Oxford University Press.

Lobe, B. (2008): Integration of Online Research Methods. Ljubljana: FDV.


Additional Information

Disclaimer

This course description may be subject to subsequent adaptations (e.g. taking into account new developments in the field, participant demands, group size, etc). Registered participants will be informed at the time of change.

By registering for this course, you confirm that you possess the knowledge required to follow it. The instructor will not teach these prerequisite items. If in doubt, please contact us before registering.