Aim To show what needs to be determined to ascertain whether an online research method (ORM) is appropriate, including ethical and validity considerations that must be assessed before beginning a study, and to detail specific issues regarding sampling for and using ORMs. The various ORMs that may be used with surveys are also discussed.
Background Using ORMs is an innovative way of collecting data. Many quantitative and qualitative research techniques, such as surveys, interviews, focus groups and ethnography, can be conducted online. An ORM can support a traditional method of data collection or data collection could be conducted entirely online.
Discussion Thought and consideration must be made regarding the most appropriate research design to answer the hypothesis in the usual manner first, before deciding whether an ORM is a valid tool for data collection.
Conclusion ORMs are an effective, economical and efficient method to collect data. ORMs can increase the publications produced from research by enabling a methodological paper to be produced, as well as a paper outlining the outcomes, as the evidence base regarding the validity and reliability of ORMs is negligible.
Implications for research/practice As more ORMs are validated, and more people using the internet, there will be an emergence of online research. Careful consideration should be taken to determine whether using an ORM is appropriate for the population or to answer the question.