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Links to my published articles online
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2006
Adolescent Diary Weblogs and the Unseen Audience

2005
Conversations in the Blogosphere: An Analysis "from the Bottom Up". Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS-38) Best Paper Nominee.

Weblogs as a bridging genre

2004
Bridging the Gap: A Genre Analysis of Weblogs. Winner of the 2004 EduBlog Awards as best paper.

Common Visual Design Elements of Weblogs

Women and Children Last: The Discursive Construction of Weblogs

Time until my next publication submission deadline
27 March 2006 23:59:59 UTC-0500


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2005
The Performativity of Naming: Adolescent Weblog Names as Metaphor

2004
Buxom Girls and Boys in Baseball Hats: Adolescent Avatars in Graphical Chat Spaces

Time until my next conference submission deadline
31 March 2006 23:59:59 UTC-0500


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Adolescents and Teens Online Bibiliography
Last updated July 8, 2005.

Weblog and Blog Bibliography
Last Updated November 22, 2005.

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My Book2
New books are added but reading status is rarely accurate.


June 09, 2005

The structure of research subject queries

Today I received an apparently bulk email from a researcher who had identified my blog as being "work focused" and he wanted me to participate in his study. Of course this incident has me thinking about how such his request is structured and how I would personally structure a similar type of request. I should mention off the top that the researcher who emailed me was from the U.K. and that our Human Subjects requirement differ.

So how would I do this? First I think I would email potential participants with links to my academic website and to a research information sheet on a university website, yes I know not all researchers have the luxury of IT resources to which I have access and they can't build their ties to the university quite so explicitly. I know I would provide some definition of the terms just so I can make sure that I am comparing apples to apples. Saying "work" is just to loose, students work and school is their job but are their blogs "work blogs"? Which reminds me that the email I received had no age cut-offs, another point to ponder since asking adolescent question and asking to interview them can be problematic in both nations.

Second I would keep my personal blog link list and my research requests far far apart. I have added blogs to my list because they were found though data analysis but I have never told the subjects that I have done so. I think that if I have mentioned that part of it on the blog it was done so after the research itself was completed. Though I expect I have not specifically mentioned any blogs I found through research data analysis.

Lastly I would structure my survey so that it was focused on my stated research topic. While it is difficult to tell exactly what the researcher is doing with his network analysis, it does appear that there may be some extraneous information being gathered. Along with that would be my requirement for more than passive consent to participate in the survey. Especially when I am requesting information about third-parties and personal information. I find a discussion of who I communicate with and how that communication is done to be pretty personal, far more personal then say why I began my blog which has been answered publicly in the blog itself. And also in my blog I have stated that I keep third-party information private, except where the name of the person is publicly linked to the statements being made...such as when I blog a conference presentation or discuss an article I have read.

I rarely say no to requests for my participation in research projects...well most of those phone call things don't count cause they aren't legitimate research they just want to sell you something at the end. I truly believe that if I want others to participate in my research then I must also participate in general. That is me putting pressure on me. But this one I am passing on because of my concerns about the structure of the research as it was presented.

There are many ethical issues embedded in this case. Honesty, transparency, and privacy immediately come to the front. I'm curious how would you conduct a web-based survey?

Posted by prolurkr at June 9, 2005 10:16 AM

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Comments

> I do like the U.S. concept of a information sheet that will tell the participant what the researcher is studying in more specific terms, and includes statements about privacy.

A statement can be useful (mainly to increase response) but the critical element is whether the person abides by the privacy rules not whether they publicise them.

Is there anything wrong with pressure to participate? Improper pressure certainly but the kind of pressure you describe sounds harmless enough - especially as this person's questionnaire seems unlikely to involve very personal questions. I have no age cut-offs on my questionnaire but if a blogger gave their age as under 16 in their profile I didn't invite them to participate - so far only one of my sample turned out to be under 16 (they were asked their age in the questionnaire).

> I would structure my survey so that it was focused on my stated research topic

If the information that is gathered is not unneccessarily intrusive does it matter if some of it is a little tangential? After all you can't always predict what will be important in advance.

But maybe this is just my attitude - as you may remember from the AoIR ethics session last year in other ways I find the prevailing attitude towards Internet ethics unneccessarily lax.

Posted by: David Brake at June 10, 2005 04:55 AM

A statement can be useful (mainly to increase response) but the critical element is whether the person abides by the privacy rules not whether they publicise them.

>> I totally agree David, but how can one know if the rules have been violated if the researcher doesn’t openly state what rules they are operating under? Differences exist across national boundaries so assuming that everyone knows what you are doing is never a good idea.

Is there anything wrong with pressure to participate? Improper pressure certainly but the kind of pressure you describe sounds harmless enough - especially as this person's questionnaire seems unlikely to involve very personal questions.

>> Agreed. This pressure is not extremely harmful, though I do think it needed to be mentioned. As I said in the original post I don’t think it was a wise decision to set-up the email and website as has been done. Pressure to participate is a fairly big deal in U.S. regulations.

I have no age cut-offs on my questionnaire but if a blogger gave their age as under 16 in their profile I didn't invite them to participate - so far only one of my sample turned out to be under 16 (they were asked their age in the questionnaire).

>> Again in the U.S. this would depend on the research question, and the survey design. Here the standard cut-off is 18.

If the information that is gathered is not unneccessarily intrusive does it matter if some of it is a little tangential? After all you can't always predict what will be important in advance.

>> Actually this is an interesting discussion in the underlying differences between qualitative and quantitative research. Quantitative wants specificity and qualitative is somewhat looser in question design. Again it would depend on the specific research question. I noted it because some of the questions appear to be fishing expeditions rather then a crucial part of the design. No doubt the necessity of the question would be clear to me if I had more then a deductive idea of the research they are conducting.

But maybe this is just my attitude - as you may remember from the AoIR ethics session last year in other ways I find the prevailing attitude towards Internet ethics unneccessarily lax.

>> I think that depends on where one is, both under national laws and specific university governance. I have seen research that was approved under national structures that would not have been approved in the U.S., likewise for differences from one university to another within the same country. After the discussion at AoIR last year, I definitely have concerns about the ethics behind some conference papers and the organizing committee’s willingness to accept unethical work for presentation. In my book good research is ethical research, though we can debate the specific ethics rules, and unethical research can never be good.

Posted by: Lois at June 10, 2005 07:44 AM

Professional-lurker,

Thank you for the comments you have made about my research and the request to take part in my research. I found them very useful. I also found the comments very useful.

Both will shape my research from now on.

I have also removed you from my blog.

However, please note my blog is not entirely for the purpose of my research. It provides a list of links that no other blog or directory has done so far (as far as I know) as well as comments on work-related news.

James

Posted by: James Richards at June 15, 2005 05:55 AM