An Online Forum as a Qualitative Research Method: Practical Issues

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Abstract

Background:

Despite the positive aspects of online forums as a qualitative research method, very little is known on the practical issues involved in using online forums for data collection, especially for a qualitative research project.

Objectives:

The aim of this study was to describe the practical issues encountered in implementing an online forum as a qualitative component of a larger study on cancer pain experience.

Methods:

Throughout the study process, the research staff recorded issues ranging from minor technical problems to serious ethical dilemmas as they arose and wrote memos about them. The memos and written records of the discussions were reviewed and analyzed using content analysis.

Results:

Two practical issues related to credibility were identified: (a) a high response and retention rate and (b) automatic transcripts. An issue related to dependability was the participants' forgetfulness. The issues related to confirmability were difficulties in theoretical saturation and unstandardized computer and Internet jargon. A security issue related to hacking attempts was noted as well.

Discussion:

The analysis of these issues suggests several implications for future researchers who want to use online forums as a qualitative data collection method.

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