Exploring online research methods - Incorporating TRI-ORM

Web 2.0 as a Social Science Research Tool

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'Web 2.0 as a Social Science Research Tool'.



Open/close headingCase study details

Title: Web 2.0 as a Social Science Research Tool

Author: Helene Snee

Affiliation: University of Manchester

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[Open/close heading]Overview

Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, social network sites and wikis have been increasingly utilised for social research. This project aimed to explore the methodological implications of employing these tools for data collection and considered issues such as how relevant 'offline' evaluation criteria continue to be in an online context and what the ethical issues around use of Web 2.0 tools might be.

The aims of the research were:

  • To publicise the benefits and issues of new technologies for the social science research community;
  • To report on current practice and thinking in the use of Web 2.0 technologies as a social science research tool.

A literature review was conducted to examine methodological and ethical issues identified in online research literature. This informed a series of qualitative interviews with fifteen researchers.

The project was conducted as part of a joint initiative between the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the British Library. The initiative enables the ESRC-funded research students to work with various organisations on short Fellowships.


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[Open/close heading]The project report

The full report from the project can be downloaded from the link below. An overview of the contents is as follows:

The first section of the report outlines the objectives of the study and the data collection method. It then goes on to cover:

  • Defining Web 2.0
    Definitions of Web 2.0 in the literature reviewed and interviews conducted
  • Web 2.0 Research
    Current and emerging research in the field
  • Methodological Issues
    Challenges of Web 2.0 methods
    Criteria used for evaluating social research
  • Ethical Issues: Privacy in Web 2.0
    The problem of defining what is public and what is private
    The impacts of privacy issues upon ethical decision-making
  • Ethical Approaches to Web 2.0 Research
    Formalised ethical procedures
    Wider implications for social research ethics
  • Other implications of Web 2.0
    Social science and Web 2.0 beyond data collection
  • Future research
    Interviewees' reflections on moving Web 2.0 research forward
  • Conclusion
    Areas for exploration
  • Appendices
    Participant details, interview topic guide and consent form, and glossary of Web 2.0 terms

The report is available from the following link (Requires Adobe Acrobat, [External Link - opens in a new window]link to Adobe Reader)

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Project report: Web 2.0 as a Social Science Research Tool (pdf, 216 KB)


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Author of this page: Helene Snee - Year of publication: 2009 - Affiliation: University of Manchester
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