Online Research Methods

Online Research Methods

Linda K. Kaye (Edge Hill University, UK)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4053-3.ch015

Abstract

With the advancement of technology and internet connectivity, the potential for alternative methods of research is vast. Whilst pen-and-paper questionnaires and laboratory studies still prevail within most scientific disciplines, many researchers are selecting more contemporary methods for undertaking research. This chapter provides an overview of a number of key online research methodologies to highlight their role in scientific investigation. In particular, it suggests how these may function to enhance our understanding of psychological issues, particularly within areas relating to cybersecurity.
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Introduction

With the advancement of technology and Internet connectivity, the potential for alternative methods of research is vast, with many researchers selecting more contemporary methods for undertaking research. These include; online questionnaires, Smartphone-enabled applications (Apps), and online data mining, of which many can offer alternative research paradigms to that of traditional methodology. This chapter will provide an overview of a number of key online research methodologies such as those outlined previously, to highlight their role in scientific investigation. In particular, it will be suggested how these may function to enhance our understanding of psychological issues, particularly within areas relating to cybersecurity. Indeed, based on the prevalence of deviance which takes place in online environments, this calls for a focus upon the online arena itself as a platform to undertake research of this nature. In this way, we are ensuring our methods are ecologically valid as well as developing understanding of the digital skills necessary for practitioners to target cybersecurity-related issues.

Cybersecurity concerns are multidisciplinary and whilst the processing and computation of systems primarily resides in Computing fields, many issues may be considered to be psychological in nature. As such, cyberpsychology; a sub-domain of the Psychology discipline is becoming increasingly involved in cybersecurity policy and practice. However, even though many cybersecurity issues may consist a psychological underpinning, the efficacy of traditional psychological research methods may not be entirely sufficient to meet the demands of these issues. As such, cybersecurity researchers and practitioners may be better placed to capitalising on alternative or modified methods from which to explore issues in cybersecurity. The Internet itself (comprising a multitude of domains), is therefore the central platform from which to obtain research data and opportunities. This considers the Internet both as a mediator from which to garner research data as well as the platform comprising the data itself.

Many methods described in this chapter fall under the umbrella of Internet-mediated research (IMR), in which the collection of research data is made possible by being connected through the Internet, to a functional online environment (e.g., online survey software, website, online forum, social networking site). The British Psychological Society (BPS) in their Ethical Guidelines for Internet-mediated Research define IMR as “any research involving the remote acquisition of data from or about human participants using the internet and its associated technologies.” (BPS, 2017, pp3). In this sense, these specific methods would not exist in this form, in the absence of the Internet. As such, the advancement of Internet functionality and connectivity have been fundamental for the development of research methodology. BPS (2017) go on to define IMR further by making the distinction between reactive and non-reactive methodologies, whereby a reactive approach consists participants interacting with materials (e.g., online questionnaires, interviews) and a non-reactive one whereby researcher make use of data which is collected unobtrusively (data mining, observations). Online methods have been particularly popular for communication researchers within areas such as interpersonal, organisational or mass communication (Wright, 2005), although are also widely used in a range of disciplines. The next section focuses on online questionnaires as one form of IMR, with an account of their relative strengths and drawbacks as a data collection tool.

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