7: Online and remote research methods

Following the previous chapter’s focus on face-to-face research methods, this chapter now focuses on research involving no direct face-to-face interaction with participants, such as methods conducted via email, the web, online video, phone or SMS. This chapter looks at some of the challenges and benefits of collecting data asynchronously or using technology that bridges the physical distance between the researcher and participant. It begins by giving general information about digital accessibility that is common across different forms of media, such as mobile devices and computers, and the remainder of the chapter looks at accessibility issues relating to specific types of data collection.

Note: technology changes rapidly, and rather than including specific techniques here, links to further information are given at the end of this chapter. This information is easy to find online or in the help and support pages for the relevant technology. At times, some of the information given here may seem quite technical and possibly overwhelming, but, for anyone working within an organisation, either IT support or disability services should be able to offer help with what is required. We also need to keep in mind that any technology used in our research will have to meet relevant legal requirements, such as data protection standards, and will be scrutinised by any ethics-approving body.

There are many benefits to online data collection, ranging from the green benefits of much lower carbon emissions,1 and less time needed overall of participants, to enabling participation from people in other locations and time zones. It means disabled people can take part when they might otherwise be isolated or not be able to participate (Tsatsou, 2020), and includes the opportunity for at-risk participants to participate in the safest form of social distancing.

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