Just use the right methods

Orgad’s topic, “How Can Researchers Make Sense of the Issues Involved in Collecting and Interpreting Online and Offline Data?”, is important to look at, as more research is beginning to take place online.  (On a side note, when I was looking for sources for my research proposal I noticed that there is a lot of interesting research online that is happening in Turkey.)     As Orgad mentions the distinction never had to be made before now in communications media.  This is because the Internet is seen as a space, and “often been seen as distinct and separate from offline, or “real” social life, encompassing relations and practices of their own” (Orgad, 2009).  In order to determine whether or not you need to use online and offline data you need to look at your research question.  Trying to mix online and offline research poses a lot of problems, including the authenticity of the identity of the people you are researching, and the sample of the respondents.  Formulating a method of collecting information from both online and offline sources takes a lot of planning, when I take a look at my research question I believe I can answer it just by conducting online research, and that saves me from having to make a complicated method for researching. When you used both you need to consider a lot more factors.  Even in Orgad had to justify using both online and offline methods, stating, “Fundamentally, in reading and analyzing women’s accounts, my aim was not to evaluate whether they were “truthful” or not.  Rather. The aim was to obtain an enhanced understanding of women’s experiences of using the Internet in relation to their illness” (Orgad, 2009). Orgad concludes that choosing the right method for data collection is important in order to collect high quality data, and that it is important to use the right methods based on your question.   

To name, or not to name..

I can’t help but feel the same way as mmbruno, when thinking about how research pursuits are compromised in order to comply with research ethics guidelines,  especially in regards to my research with children/young people. Last week, Dean Sharpe spoke about the allowances in the research protocol for justification as to why you’d want to publish a participant’s name in your thesis/writeup. I’ve always wondered about this in terms of how childrens’ right to recognition for their participation might clash with our responsibilities as researchers to protect their identities. For my specific research project, revealing the identity of the participants wouldn’t really be that useful, but I could see a situation where, if I was using more participatory methods, like having the young people do and publish journalism online, I might want to give them individual credit for their work. I think in that situation I might come up against some conflict about whether or not that was ethically “OK”. This is certainly a topic for further exploration on my part!

Reflexive Methods

Luker is excited about Charles Ragin’s Boolen analysis as a potentially paradigm changing method. “To the extent that canonical methods aspire to be neutral, to simply measure what is “out there,” it looks as if social reality is revealing itself to the social analyst, shyly taking off its clothes to show the inner essence. With Boolean analysis, however, the analyst has to be much more up-front about what theories are being generated in a study, and about how his or her treatment of the data may be affecting the emerging theory.” (pp. 213-214). The way that Ragin’s Boolean analysis forces researchers to think about the way that their approach is affecting the results should lead to more thoughtful methodologies, and perhaps even new perspectives on research itself. This class has made it clear that not only do we need to be selective in ensuring that our methods are appropriate for answering the research question, but that the way that research is conducted also has an affect on the results. We must think about our research reflexively in order to question if there is an “out there” at all.

Compromising Ethics

When talking about research ethics, I cannot help but think about the flip side of the situation: how many research pursuits have been compromised in order to comply with research ethic guidelines. I imagine that there have been many instances where the parameters of one’s area of inquiry, research questions, and/or methodology have had to be reconceptualised in order to correlate to what is considered to be acceptable practices. As such, the findings of such research may not reach the ideal conclusions. While I am not opposed to adherences to ethical practices, and very much believe that they need to be in place to protect the best interest of participants, I am left asking whether, for certain kinds of experimental/controversial/cutting edge research practices, safeguarding the parties involved have, perhaps, thwarted serious breakthroughs. On a more utilitarian/Machiavellian note, might potentially compromising a few be worthwhile if the benefits to the whole cannot be otherwise surmountable? This is a very scary line insofar as humanity is then viewed and treated as a means, which begs the larger question: to what end?