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...the overall process of conducting evaluation research in eHealth requires careful and detailed planning ... and a combination of tenacity and creativity to address the inevitable thorny methodological challenges...
Several issues that are problematic in more conventional research still apply, albeit in a different guise, but these must be situated in the context of who or what is being researched, and why, and can be largely overcome with more creative methodologies and considered preparation.
Sensitivity is required in internet research for legal, practical and ethical reasons.
Balancing the possibilities and pitfalls of internet data collection is neither simple nor straightforward. Scholars cannot merely adopt the practices of traditional communication modes, but must approach the internet as a unique medium that necessitates its own conventions..
Attempting to undertake online data collection is far easier than successfully accomplishing it. For those who chose to perform it, they must do so deliberately and cautiously.
...just as the Internet continues to expand its global reach, and as Internet research follows close behind, becoming an ever-more international and interdisciplinary enterprise, international perspectives on the myriad ethical issues that inevitably emerge when we seek to study human beings will continually grow urgent.
New technologies not only offer fresh opportunities for research but also impose new limitations.
Privacy is a more sensitive issue for internet surveys than for conventional survey media. The intimate relationship between respondents and their personal computers and between respondents and the online communities in which they participate create new privacy boundaries that are easily transgressed by researchers
Internet technologies (such as instant messaging) and cultural artifacts (such as blogs) have recently become more popular... ; ethnographers will need to be alert to such shifts as they search for topics for research, define their research setting, choose and adjust methods of data collection, and use appropriate strategies for gaining access.
There are several areas where we are likely to see more research attention. ... One ... is increased attention to the inferential challenges facing all survey methods in a changing society. Another is that the Web itself is changing. ...we need to figure out what this will mean for traditional surveys and how we can use the increased interactivity of the Web to improve measurement.
1998 may well be remembered as the year web surveying 'took off!'. The yet to be answered question is how effectively future web surveys will be conducted and whether they will gain scientific acceptance.
We must ensure that cheap entry costs and glowing attractiveness of internet fieldwork do not result in shoddy 'cowboy' research.
...the unique linguistic characteristics of synchronous online chat might constitute an important new domain for communication broadly, with implications for qualitative research specifically.
...given today's pace of innovation, the internet and how we use it is likely to be quite different even just a few years from now. How this effects sampling for internet-based surveys remains to be seen.
...significant gender differences were found in use of many of the stylistic variables and the supercode analysis showed overall gender-related patterns in interaction styles. The results suggest that gendered power differentials may carry over into online contexts, which has implications for the use of CMC in education.
Our final advice to the researcher who wants to implement an internet-based study is to engage in thorough planning and piloting.
While we believe that internet-mediated primary research has great potential, it is still in its infancy. The technologies and procedures need researching further.
New media seem to offer the hope of reaching different populations of research subjects in new ways, but their promise is tinged with anxiety.
Online research is marked as a special category in which the institutionalised understandings of the ethics of research must be re-examined.
In the moments of innovation and anxiety which surround the research methods there are opportunities for reflexivity. Seizing these moments for reflexivity depends, however, on not taking the radical capacities of the new technologies for granted, nor treating them as poor substitutes for a face-to-face gold standard.
...it is worth refining our methodological framework to strengthen the trustworthiness and credibility of future research studies that use email.
Educational researchers have a responsibility to ensure that in whatever research paradigm they work, the research that is conducted is done so within an 'ethic of respect' to those who participate... When research uses the Internet as the medium of investigation, these ethical responsibilities become more complex for the educational researcher.
...most research on the internet is centred in Anglo-American cultural contexts.
At present for most internet researchers it is likely that gaining access is the least difficult aspect of the research process... What has become more difficult is determining how to ensure ethical use is made of texts, sounds and pictures that are accessed for study.
Researchers must take care to note that there is no such thing as ‘the internet’, no single common experience of its use. Indeed, there is little that is convergent about the internet as a medium.
The online environment has created a new space for discussion, with the potential of involving people who may not otherwise be able to participate in research.
It is hardly an exaggeration to observe that the Internet has had, is having, and will have a major impact on research methods at every stage of the research process.
Any discussion of internet surveys should always be made in the context of their type and function, because there exist a wide variety of Internet survey methods with different technological approaches, purposes, populations, and methodologies.
Although online research holds promise, its potential should not be exaggerated: many of the issues and problems of conventional research still apply in the virtual venue.
While online methodological frameworks are in constant flux, change is not necessarily always progressive: there is a need for online researchers to practice their 'craft' with reflexivity.
Web-based survey research has reached a level of maturity such that it can be considered an essential part of the sociological tool kit. In addition to advances with this method, however, it should also be noted that Web survey research has reached a level of crisis, particularly as a tool of public opinion research.