A student blog as part of the Doctoral Exchange series organised by the Doctoral College.
In light of the current restrictions imposed by Covid-19, many researchers had to modify their research plans and switch from in-person to online data collection. This session aimed to discuss how PhD. students can benefit from social media platforms to advertise their research and find potential participants. The attendees identified potential challenges related to online data collection and the ethical considerations that need to be taken into account.
During the discussion, the following challenges were identified:
- Finding and recruiting enough participants, particularly if the target participants are considered vulnerable, or if the sample is too large (e.g. surveys).
- Ensuring confidentiality and anonymity of participants on social media platforms
- Obtaining consent from gatekeepers or parents
- Poor internet connection
To face these challenges, the tips below were proposed:
- Creating new social media accounts for data collection purposes
- Searching for pages and groups dedicated to the participants you want to reach so that you can advertise your research on social media by contacting the admins of these pages/groups and asking them to post about your research on their news feed and story timelines
- Using paid social media advertisement
- Using the researcher’s network and snowball sampling to find more potential participants: you can ask participants to create chat rooms and add their contacts that can take part in the study so that you can introduce your research in the chat and invite those who are interested to contact you in private
- Asking participants to contact the researcher in private instead of commenting on public posts to maintain anonymity
- Deleting conversational exchanging with participants and deactivating the social media accounts used for data collection purposes at the end of the study to ensure confidentiality
- Using the researcher’s network to reach gatekeepers and obtain their consent or contacting people on social media and soliciting their help for reaching gatekeepers
- Giving participants the choice between voice call or video call to make them feel more at ease in online interviews
- Switching to telephone interviews in case the interviewees have a poor internet connection that keeps interrupting the flow of the conversation
- Making sure to get consent forms from all the participants
The session concluded by suggesting that researchers should start online data collection early as the process of finding participants online can be time-consuming. However, by using the tips outlined above, researchers can successfully manage to overcome difficulties and protect participants’ rights during online data collection.
About Doctoral Exchange
This blog was written as part of the Doctoral Exchange series, a round-table discussion series for doctoral researchers to share experiences and ideas in a peer-to-peer environment. All topics are student-led. The programme can be found online on the Doctoral Exchange webpage. If you are interested in facilitating a session then please email firstname.lastname@example.org.