On this page:
“Qualitative researchers who use novel methodological approaches should be prepared to engage in a process of reflection and reflexivity to make transparent the experience and demonstrate the viability of the method"
This page covers everything you need to consider if you are undertaking social or secondary research online. This page is perfect for researchers in the social sciences, arts and humanities. If you're a scientist without a lab, see our alternative page for advice.
NOTE: If your data collection processes change, you may need to revisit your ethical approval, consent process and data management plan. You should also consider the ability of your participants to engage in your research under the stress of a global pandemic.
See also: the Library's guide to Research Data Management, including advice about data storage options which can be accessed remotely.
If you had planned to conduct interviews or focus groups in person, you may be able to move this form of data collection online. Online interviews and focus groups can be a great way to facilitate social research. Conducing your research online can also have advantages in that it may be used to preserve anonymity or engage participants that are geographically dispersed. Online interviews can sometimes be less intimidating for participants and may make them more open or honest. You will need to reflect on what that means for your research.
You will need to consider your participants, and if they will have the required technology and technical competency to engage in this way. You should also be mindful of any strain or stress participants may be experiencing due to the global pandemic and if your research remains appropriate. It is also important for you to discuss any ethical implications of this with your supervisor and/or ethics committee.
When conducting online interviews or focus groups you have several choices. You can facilitate this via text-only chat, by voice chat or through video chat. There are lots of tools you can use for this, but you will need to consider the data management of any tool you use.
Skype can support calls of up to 50 people and is completely free. It offers text, audio and/or video chat. University of Hull staff also have access to Skype for Business. Zoom is also a popular tool, but you should strongly consider if it is appropriate for research purposes in the way it processes data. You will need to make sure you work with your participants to ensure they are happy to use your chosen tool. It may be helpful to offer technical support if they need help in setting up the software and connecting. Don't forget to check your own computer and connection is working too!
Just as you would with an in-person interview, don't forget to record any sessions if you are connecting via video or audio chat.
The University of Hull provides access to JISC Online Surveys which can be used for the delivery of online questionnaires and surveys. Members of staff can request a JISC Online Survey account is created via the Support Portal. Students will need to ask their supervisors to complete the form for them.
Due to GDPR you should avoid using Google Forms or Microsoft Forms for collecting any personal information. It is highly recommended that you use JISC Online Surveys.
Getting started with JISC Online Surveys
There are lots of great software packages that can be used for the analysis of primary or secondary data. If working remotely, you can access a whole range of software via the University of Hull or for free on the internet. See our Data analysis software page for more details.