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Principles for Doing Digital Research

10 Critical Considerations When Conducting Digital Research*:

(1) Be aware that “Digital Research Methods” means different things to different researchers and disciplines, especially in terms of the tools and techniques used, and environments studied.

(2) Digital research may include both aspects of online and offline content and techniques, or the study of digital and non-digital environments.

(3) Digital research may require translating or framing your work in distinct ways depending on what discipline or research perspectives (Digital Humanities vs. Internet studies, Qualitative vs. Quantitative, etc.) you are speaking to.

(4) It is useful to immerse yourself in and explore a new digital environment before launching into an investigation of that space. The structure, culture, system of knowledge, and patterns of communication you discover in this pilot study work will influence how you design and conduct your research.

(5) Digital Research Methods raise many unique ethical issues and challenges to consider. These may include how to obtain informed consent for your research subject and how to address their anonymity in your writing and reporting.

(6) Carefully consider what might be understood as "Public” verses “Private” in various research contexts and online environments while doing research and how this may differ between researcher and subject.

(7) Be aware that the online-offline distinction is largely a social construct. The perception of the online-offline relationship may be different for researcher and subject.

(8) It is important to understand the expectations and specific rules of your Institutional Review Board (IRB) in relation to different forms of digital research.


(9) Remember offline data is neither more valid, nor more truthful than online data.


(10) Be self-reflexive in your research. Check in with yourself frequently over the course of your research on how the process is developing. Reflect on how your work and approach will be perceived by your subjects, in local and global, and online and offline arenas.


*These principles were drafted by graduate students at Texas A&M University in the Fall 2015 COMM 663-Digital Research Methods class: Fei Fei Chen, Steven Dezort, Vicki Heath, Rhema Linder, Nesrine Mansour, Forrest Rule, Victoria Stiegel & Yikai David Zhao.

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