The Research Methodology, like other human activities, does not escape the reality of the irruption that has meant the availability of vast amounts of information through the Internet. In this way, it gives way to the digital research methodology. Here we present some possibilities of digital research that could be useful to students, teachers, and researchers in general.
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What is the Digital Research Methodology
The research methodology, according to Herrera (2007), refers to those procedures or techniques used to identify, select, process and analyze information on a specific topic. The methodology section explains what the thesis writer did and how he did it, allowing readers to evaluate the reliability and validity of the research. It involves techniques that are adopted in the research process to collect, gather, and evaluate the collected data. It also defines the tools used to collect relevant information in a thesis.
In this regard, the Digital Research Methodology, refers to the ways and ways in which researchers can collect data over the Internet. It is also known as Internet Research, Internet Science, iScience, or Web-Based Methods. Many of these Research Methods are related to existing methodologies, but reinvented and reimagined in light of new technologies and conditions associated with the Internet. The field is rather new and constantly evolving.
Also, the growth of Social Networks has meant a new level of complexity and opportunity. The inclusion of the same, provides new perceptions in the social and consumer segments, as well as facilitates both an emotional and sociological measure of a given population in certain topics of interest.
In this regard, in the chapter dedicated to the Research Methodology, according to Jurado (2009), it should be established: the type of research you did, how you collected the data, its analysis, any tool or material you have used in the research and the basis for choosing these methods. It should be noted that the methodology section should be written in the past tense.
Steps in the Description of Methodology in Digital Research
Step 1: Explanation of the Methodological Approach in Digital Research
You should start by presenting the general approach to your research: what research problem or question you investigated and what kind of data you need to answer.
According to Sampieri (2008), quantitative methods are suitable for measuring, classifying, classifying and identifying patterns. Qualitative ones are the best for describing, interpreting, contextualizing and gaining deep insight into specific concepts or phenomena. Mixed methods allow for a combination of numerical and analytical measurement.
Step 2: Understanding Data Collection Methods
Once you have introduced the methodological approach, you should provide full details of the methods you used. Describe the tools, procedures, and materials you used to collect data and the criteria used to select participants or sources.
In this regard, you must answer the following questions:
How did you design the questions and in what form are they presented?
What sampling method did you use to select participants?
What was the sample size?
In this regard, the complete questionnaire should be included as an appendix so that the reader can see exactly how the data was collected.
Step 3: Description of the analysis methods
Next, you need to indicate how you processed and analyzed the data.
How the data was prepared before it was analyzed.
What software you used to analyze the data.
What statistical methods did you use.
How the content analysis was performed.
How the thematic analysis was carried out.
Step 4: Evaluation and justification of methodological choices
The methodology should justify the choice of these particular methods, especially if the most standard approach to their topic was not adopted. It should discuss why other methods were not suitable for their goals and show how this approach brings new insights. You can recognize the limitations or weaknesses in the approach you chose, but justify why these were overcome by the strengths.
Digital Research Methods
The main Digital Research Methods, due to their specificity, are:
Also commonly known as Online Ethnography, it is a Research Method that adapts ethnographic methods to the study of communities and cultures. It is created through computer-mediated social interaction. There is no universal unanimity approach to Cyber Ethnography that prescribes how it adapts to the online or virtual environment. It then happens that individual researchers specify their own adaptations. Netnography would be a form of Cyber Ethnography with a series of more specific rules and a common multidisciplinary base of bibliography and researchers.
Online Content Analysis
Also called Online Textual Analysis, it refers to a collection of research techniques used to describe and make inferences about online material through systematic coding and interpretation. It is a form of Content Analysis for communication via the Internet. With the rise of digital communication, this type of technique is increasingly used.
These are five basic techniques:
1. The formulation of a research question focused on identifying hypotheses that can be tested and that can lead to theoretical advances.
2. The definition of a sampling frame from which a sample will be obtained and build from there a sample of content to be analyzed.
3. Develop and implement a coding scheme that can be used to categorize content in order to answer the question in step 1. This needs to specify a time period, a context, and a categorize encoding of the content.
4. Keep track of the implemented code schema and ensure its reliability.
5 Analyze and interpret the data. Test hypotheses, and draw conclusions about the content represented in the data.
Focus Group (Grupo de Foco) Online
It is used for consumer research, business-to-business research and policy research. Interacting online saves the expense of travel time and money. Usually participants open more online than in person, which is valuable for topics of some sensitivity. They are limited to 10 participants and simulate many of the characteristics of face-to-face focus groups. A conference software is used which is then connected via online. The interaction is in real time, between the participants and the moderator.
Online Interview in Digital Methodology
It is done through instant messaging, email or video call. It requires relationships, sampling, and ethical considerations distinct from traditional face-to-face practices. Some advantages are conducting interviews with a geographically dispersed population, interviewing individuals with reduced mobility. It also has the advantage that the interviewee responds from home, anonymity, cost savings, as well as the collection of data quickly and accurately.
Online Qualitative Research Methods
They include journals, blogs, Online Marketing Research Communities and Cyber Ethnography. In journals and blogs, participants write down information over a period of time specified by the researcher. This method is also often used for the participants of a Focus Group to do certain tasks. When using journals, the information is not shared with other participants, unlike what happens when using blogs. Market Research Communities are the opposite of the Focus Group, involving several participants taking part in various research activities over an extended period of time. The benefits of this method allow for greater sophistication in the segmentation of researchers, participants, and observers.
It is an Internet research technique where the interviewee follows a script provided by a website. The questionnaires are made in a special program to create web interviews. The program allows the questionnaire to contain images, audio and video and links to different web pages. Also, the website is able to customize the flow of the questionnaire based on the answers provided, as well as already known information about the participant. It is considered a cheaper form of research since you do not need to hire pollsters, unlike the computer-assisted telephone interview. With the increase in the use of the Internet, online questionnaires have become a very popular way to collect information.
Social Media Analysis
It is the process of investigating social structures through the use of Network Theory and Graph Theory. It characterizes networked structures in terms of Nodes (individual actors, people, or things inherent in the network) and the links, edges, or connections—whether relationships or interactions—that connect them. Examples of social structures commonly visualized through this analysis include Social Media Networks, the viralization of Memes, circulation of information and networks of friends and acquaintances. It also encompasses business networks, knowledge networks, social relations, collaboration graphs and kinship.
These networks are usually visualized through sociograms, where nodes are represented as points and links are represented as lines. These visualizations provide a way to qualitatively evaluate networks by varying the visual representation of their nodes and edges to reflect attributes of interest. ARS has emerged as a key technique in modern sociology, political campaigns, and the prediction of events such as pandemics and epidemics.
We must remember that the goal is not only to describe the methods, but to show how and why you applied them and to demonstrate that the research was done rigorously. In this regard, the methodology section should clearly show why the methods fit the objectives. As well as convincing the reader that the best possible approach was chosen to answer the problem statement and research questions.
The methodology in digital research can be strengthened by referring to existing research, either to:
Confirm that established practices for this type of research were followed.
Discuss how the different methodologies were evaluated and decided on their approach
Demonstrate that a novel methodological approach was adopted to address a gap in the literature.
In any case, the methodology of digital research, we must write a clear and well-structured text that defends your approach, not just a list of technical details and procedures. If they encountered difficulties collecting or analyzing data, explain how it was treated. In this way, it should be shown how the impact of any unexpected obstacle was minimized. This will avoid any major criticism of the approach and demonstrate that the research was done as rigorously as possible.
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Herrera, Adriana (2007). Research methods: A dynamic and creative approach. Mexico: Editorial Esfinge.
Jury, Yolanda (2009). Research Methodology: In search of the truth. Mexico: Editorial Esfinge.
Sampieri, Hernandez Roberto (et.al.) (2008). Metodología de la Investigación. Mexico: Mc.Graw-Hill.