Opportunities for business research – Global Homework Experts

e-Research (Internet Research Methods)
Opportunities for business research
using the Internet
The Internet as object of analysis;
Ethnographic study of the Internet;
Qualitative research using online focus groups;
Qualitative research using online personal interviews;
Online social surveys.
Using the Internet to collect data from individuals
Advantages over traditional methods
saves time and money
can reach larger, geographically dispersed samples
data can be collected quickly
Disadvantages over traditional methods
Internet is not accessible to everyone
loss of personal touch / lack of rapport
participants’ concerns about viruses, hackers and nuisance email
The Internet as a method of data collection
Web-based methods
data collected through the WWW
Communication-based methods
data collected by email or other medium
Synchronous communication
occurs in real time (e.g. chat rooms)
Asynchronous communication
delay between responses (e.g. mailing lists)
Virtual ethnography
‘Cyberspace’ as a new site of research
Participation, observation and interviews with members of an online community
Markham (1998)
synchronous online interviews in chat rooms and multi-user domains
participants challenged distinction between life online and ‘real life’ – online experiences are
real too!

Kozinets (2002) coined the term ‘netnography’ for a marketing
research method investigating computer-mediated
communications. His study concerned coffee and its
He began by searching for newsgroups containing the word
‘coffee’, homing in on one
-<alt.coffe>- , reading hundreds of
posted messages and narrowing them down to 179.
He followed through particular threads (e.g. those to do with
Starbucks) in terms of their connection with his research

Qualitative research using online focus groups
Synchronous focus groups
contributions seen and responded to immediately
using conferencing software
which participants must have installed
Asynchronous focus groups
use of email distribution lists
useful if participants are in different time zones
easier for people with less advanced computer skills
Comparing online interviews and face-to-face
access to more dispersed
participants have time to give
considered replies
no travel time / costs
no need for audio-recording and
helpful for sensitive issues
appeals to shy people
more egalitarian
digital divide: access to online
difficult to establish rapport
questions can be ignored
greater risk of attrition and nonresponse
less spontaneity of responses
risk of identity deception
cannot read non-verbal cues
E-mail surveys
‘Embedded’ surveys have their questions appearing as part of the e-mail
message; ‘attached’ surveys have separate questionnaires available for downloading.
Embedded questionnaires are easier to complete and return to the
Attached questionnaires can be made more attractive in appearance, can be
better organized and use more question types;
But, ‘embedded’ tends to have a higher rate of response (although the
response pattern may not vary between the two types).

Web surveys
Web surveys work by inviting respondents to a website link.
They can be made to appear much more attractive than other types of
survey, in appearance and design:
Questionnaires can be designed so that filter questions (for example, ‘if yes, go
to question 12, if no go to question 14’) can be programmed to skip
automatically to the next appropriate question,
Or so that only one question ever appears on the screen,
Or so that respondents can scroll down and look at all questions in advance.
Respondents’ answers can be automatically programmed to download into
a database, eliminating the coding chore.
The researcher needs to be skilled in the use of HTML or else use one of
the many software questionnaire design packages available
Surveymonkey is an example of this kind of software.
Combining a paper survey with a web survey
Evans et al. (2001) carried out a survey on virtual communities concerned
with consumption issues:
They issued a paper-based questionnaire, distributed at various locations at
the University of Bristol and the University of West of England, Bristol, and at
three cybercafés
Then they conducted an Internet survey, hosted by Bristol Business School and
linked via BBC Bristol Online and a cybercafé.
Invitations to respond to the on-line questionnaire were posted on
electronic lists at the Bristol universities and international discussion lists.
As a result of these two strategies, over 300 questionnaires were returned.
Sampling issues
Not everyone has Internet access
Those who do may not be able to handle questionnaires
online, in e-mail or web formats
Many people have more than one e-mail address
Many people use more than one Internet Service
Provider (ISP)
A household may have one computer but several users
Internet-users are a biased sample of the population
Few sampling frames exist of the general online

Advantages of online surveys compared to postal
questionnaire surveys
1. Low cost
2. Faster response
3. Attractive formats
4. Mixed administration
5. Unrestricted reach
6. Fewer unanswered questions
7. Better response to open questions
8. Better data accuracy, especially in web surveys

Disadvantages of online surveys compared to postal
questionnaire surveys
1. Low response rate
2. Restricted to online populations
3. Requires motivation
4. Confidentiality and anonymity issues
5. Multiple replies.

Ethical considerations in Internet research
The Association of Internet Researchers recommends thinking through
this issue early on in the research.
Different types of Internet message present varying concerns for
anonymity, confidentiality, informed consent.
Barnes (2004) identified 5 types of message: exchanged in online public
lists; exchanged in private discussions; between individuals and on private
; personal messages sent to the researcher; re-posted and passed around the
generated by computer programs.
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