developing relationships online- research method

Image source: ‘online dating’ by Thomas8047 via Flickr

When considering my method and approach towards researching relationships, it’s evident from the onset that this can be considered a private subject. It’s definitely not something I can research through public observation, as considering the nature of online digital communication, it would require completely immoral and criminal hacking of text messages or Facebook accounts. And even so, relationships are such a constant, lengthy and complex human experience that basic observation won’t be enough to extract useful findings. Because of this, my best approach to researching this topic is through interviews, in order to discuss memories and emotional responses to people experiences of developing a relationship online.

Because my topic is based on the digitally networked society we live in, it’s important I consider this in my research method. In a study of ethnographic approaches to the internet and computer-mediated communication, it’s identified that researchers must incorporate digital technology into their project in order to “adequately understand social life in contemporary society.” (Garcia et al. 2009)

I think it would be best appropriate to conduct interviews online through either email, message or anonymous survey correspondence. This would allow interviewees to take their time answering questions in order to properly recollect certain memories and emotions based on the questions without the discomfort or pressure of in-person interviews. This method will also pose convenience for the time constraints of my research and lifts pressure off me being unable to conduct a good interview as “the quality of data you receive will often depend on the ability of the interviewer.” (DeFranzo 2014) However, I will also the idea of in-person interviews as they can offer a certain interpersonal quality through the flow of a one-on-one or group conversation, which can bring out more useful information apart from set questions.  This information can improve as it goes beyond text, “A face-to-face interview is no doubt going to capture verbal and non-verbal ques, but this method also affords the capture of non-verbal ques including body language, which can indicate a level of discomfort with the questions.” (DeFranzo 2014) Doing in-person interviews could also assist in maintaining a level of trust when discussing private topics, and the sharing of thoughts and items can occur in a controlled environment that allows elaboration to understand the significance toward the research.

Considering I am making my research findings publicly available and presenting information about private aspects of other people’s lives, it is crucial I follow the MEAA ethics guidelines to ensure I’m not harming anyone during my research and publication. This means I must be honest to both my participants and audience in using “Use fair, responsible and honest means to obtain material.” and by aiming to “Report and interpret honestly, striving for accuracy, fairness and disclosure of all essential facts.”  (MEAA 1999) This will involve me fully disclosing to my participants what I intend on doing with the information, how I’m presenting it and most importantly offering to present their identity as anonymous. It’s also my responsibility to present the responses with only grammatical edits, to ensure I’m presenting findings as accurately and honestly as possible for my audience.


Garcia A.C , Standlee A.I , Bechkoff J, Cui Y 2009 ‘Ethnographic Approaches to the Internet and Computer-Mediated Communication’ in Journal of Contemporary Ethnography Vol. 38 No. 1 p.52-84

DeFranzo S.E 2014 ‘Advantages and Disadvantages of Face-to-Face Data Collection’ in SnapSurveys

Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, MEAA Journalism Code of Ethics, 1999

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