Online Research Methods

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Computers and internet are enabling the way we communicate, access and interact with information and conduct research. Online research methods are digital tools used to gather information. We have identified best online research methods for you.

In the age of digital era, online research skills are crucial to get success in the commercial world. Whatever research you intend doing online you have to start somewhere. For online research, many methods are used worldwide. Those online research methods (ORMs) are also referred as Internet Science and Internet research.

According to Wikipedia,

Internet Research is the practice of using internet information, especially free information on the World Wide Web. Research is broad term means “looking something up” (on the web).

Internet Science is an interdisciplinary science, which looks at the all aspects of the co-evolution in the internet networks and society and studies it.

As Wikipedia states - Online Research Methods (ORMs) are ways in which researchers can collect data via internet. This field is new and evolving. Moreover, with the growth of social media, a new level of complexity and opportunity has been created.

Nowadays the traditional pen and paper research techniques have taken a backseat and made room for online research. The response rate received for online research is much higher than others as the respondents are assured that their identity will be protected.

Here we have discussed types of online research techniques which you can learn in order to utilize the potential of the internet. There are plenty online research methods available for researchers:

 Top Online Research Methods

1 Online Focus Group

An Online Focus Group is one type of focus group. It is a simple subset of online research methods. Online focus group technique is useful for consumer research, business to business (B2B) research and political research. A moderator is assigned to conduct and supervise the focus group who invites pre-screened, qualified respondents who represent a specific area of interest to be a part of a focus group at a particular time. Discussion in focus group generally lasts one hour to 90 minutes only. The moderator guides the discussion using predetermined questions.

Interaction of online focus group is done over the web so that travel expenses can be saved. This method allows respondents to participate from all over the world. An online focus group is usually limited to 8-10 participants. There are many online focus group tools out there to make your online research much easier such as – Google Hangouts, Adobe Connect, Zoom, Skype and GroupQuality. The major benefit of online focus groups is that they reflect the majority of real-life interactions with customers. Therefore, businesses can take decisions accordingly.

2 Online Interview

An online interview is an online research method conducted using computer-mediated communication known as CMC. There are many computer-mediated formats such as instant messaging, email, chat rooms, online forums, and social network services. Online interview is some what same as the face-to-face interviews (F2F). Online interviews are organized by SMS, email or video. There are basically two types of online interviews: Synchronous interview & Asynchronous interview. Synchronous online interviews are conducted in real time via online chat or video call. Where in asynchronous online interviews takes place through emails where the responders don't participate in real-time.

Online interviews are used to understand respondents’ thoughts, feedbacks, and opinions about a particular topic to get the insight of their experiences & ideas. Apart from synchronous and asynchronous online interviews, some of the interviews are conducted in a structured way, semi-structured way and unstructured way.

3 Online Qualitative Research

Online qualitative research refers to all forms of qualitative research conducted online rather than face-to-face (F2F) or via telephone. Online qualitative research can be conducted worldwide. Online qualitative research includes – blogs, mobile diaries, market research, online community, focus groups, Individual Depth Interviews (IDI) and Ethnography. This online qualitative research saves time. As well as it is also cost-saving method. It provides significant convenience for researchers, participants, and observers. This method helps to gather information quickly. Conducting an online qualitative research requires less administration in comparison to face-to-face qualitative research. Also participants can be recruited online from database, panels, and surveys.

4 Online Questionnaires

The first online survey software and questionnaire tools surfaced in the late 1990s. For example, SurveyMonkey is an online survey development software, founded in 1999. Traditional survey tools are outdated now. Online surveys are emerging among online marketers. Basically, an online survey is a questionnaire that the target audience can attend over the internet. Online surveys are usually created as web forms.

Online questionnaires are useful for companies as well consumers. Usually, online questionnaires are used to gather information such as satisfaction level of customers for products or services, to find out preferences,likes and dislikes etc. There can be multiple types of questions in online questionnaires like – open-ended questions, close-ended questions or statements. Through online questionnaire you can get opinions, feedbacks and suggestions from your customers in order to improve your product or service.

5 Social network analysis

Social network analysis (SNA) is the process of investigating social structures through the use of  Network theory and graph theory. Social network analysis is an emerging online research technique as social network platforms are gaining acceptance worldwide. Social network analysis measures and maps the flow of relationships between people, organizations, URLs, and groups. The Social network analysis has emerged as a key technique in sociology. SNA provides both a visual and mathematical analysis of human relationships. In SNA, two terms are popular nowadays – “nodes” means people within the network and “ties” means links, relationship that connects them. There are many social network tools out there to make your work easier such as – Commetrix, Cuttlefish, Gephi, and cytoscape.

6 Web-based experiments

Another useful method for online research is web-based experiments or internet-based experiments. These experiments are conducted over internet. In web-based experiments, the internet is a medium through which you can target larger and more diverse samples with reduced administrative and financial costs. Disciplines like Psychology, Political Science and Economics use web-based experiments for their research. Web-based experiments are becoming popular gradually because researchers can cheaply collect a large amount of data from the wider range of locations and people. Web-based experiments run experiments quickly in comparison to other online research methodology. In web-based experiments, it is easy to access a large number of demographically and culturally diverse participants. One of the major limitation of web-based experiments is that it may have weaker experimental control in comparison to laboratory-based experiments.

Benefits of online research methods

- Easy to collect information

Through online research method, researchers can easily get access to information via surveys, questionnaires, polls etc.

- Time and resource saver

Nowadays accessing information, collecting data, and conducting an online research is becoming easier than ever before due to many tools & software. Rather than the traditional approach, online research methods will save your time as well resources required for traditional research methods. Not just collecting information but the publishing of the data is also becoming quicker. So that researchers can save a large amount of time and resources.

- Global Reach

Through online research methods, you can send your survey or research questionnaires to thousands of people worldwide. Online research methods remove geographical limitations.

Tips for online research  

After learning about various methods of online research you must be prepared to start your research. Before starting your research online, have a quick look at tips for online research we have prepared just for you:

1 Use unique & specific terms

Search “online research” term in google and you will get more than 6, 00, 00,000 search result. So if you want your research on top of the google result than decide specific and unique term of your research. Be specific about your research terms.

2 Search for a variety of sources

Your search results may vary depending on the search engine you use such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Seek out specific sources which can help you to research more about your subject. Look out for research institutions, journals and associations which can be useful for your research subject.

3 Be expert

Don’t rest till you gather all the information required for your research topic. It might take weeks, months to research still keep digging until you become an expert in your topic. If you are not an expert on your research topic then you will not able to present the information in a correct manner to your readers.

4 Examine your sources

After being expert on your research topic, it’s time to evaluate the sources you gathered information from. Check out the credibility of your sources. Use information from those sources which are authentic enough. Check out the authenticity of facts and figures twice.

There is a constant progress in online research methods as those methods are time saver as well as quicker to implement. Online research methods are having more impact than traditional methods. Choose the right online research method for your business and grow your business.

Author Details


Gaurav Patel

Gaurav Patel is Founder of thirstyDevs InfoTech
thirstyDevs InfoTech is a Web solutions company offering innovative web solutions. Our company focuses on providing the best web solution for our customers.

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