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Instant messaging: a novel means of facilitating the participation of hard-to-reach groups in sensitive topic research
Qualitative Research Journal, Volume: 21, Issue: 2, Pages: 206 - 216
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As society becomes ever more reliant on internet technology for everyday communications, this paper explores the use of Instant Messaging (IM) in qualitative research. Discussed within the context of sensitive topic research with potentially hidden and hard-to-reach groups, the purpose of this paper...
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As society becomes ever more reliant on internet technology for everyday communications, this paper explores the use of Instant Messaging (IM) in qualitative research. Discussed within the context of sensitive topic research with potentially hidden and hard-to-reach groups, the purpose of this paper is to discuss the value of adaptive and contemporary research approaches which facilitate participation on the terms of the participant.Reflecting on the data collection process from the primary authors PhD research, this paper critically considers some of the issues raised by IM facilitated semi-structured interviews, using a telephone interview completed as part of the same date collection process as a point of comparison.This paper raises a number of issues, including how the perceived depth of participant response is influenced by their brevity, resultant of the space between parties which allows for considered and concise communication. This disconnect, created by the use of technology, also has implications for the power relations between researcher and participant, and the ability to identify the non-verbal cues which communicate emotion and sentiment.This paper highlights that whilst limited in some respects, an IM facilitated interview provides a unique platform through which hidden and hard to reach groups may be empowered to participate in research, which they may usually avoid.
technology; sex work; hard-to-reach groups; sensitive topic
Hillary Rodham Clinton School of Law