Choosing Methods

The traditional principles of research design also apply when using digital media.


When choosing methods, start by considering:

  • What questions, issues or topics do you want to research?
  • What kinds of data will be required for this purpose?
  • What methods will enable you to generate these data?
  • What methods of analysis will be needed to get what you want from these data?
  • What methods of dissemination will help you to share your findings with other people for whom they will be relevant?


With digital media, there are some additional considerations:

  • Do you want to use digital media to extend traditional research methods (e.g. to widen access to a survey, or as tools to enrich interviews, ethnography or participatory research)? Or do you want to use digital media to develop alternative kinds of research methods (e.g. collaborative writing, blogging, mobile methods)?
  • What digital media technologies, access and skills will your participants/audiences have? Make that what you are asking participants/audiences to do is realistic.
  • Online' and 'offline' methods should complement each other. For example, if you want to follow up face-to-face focus groups with online discussions, how will you ensure that this doesn't merely repeat what was said offline?

How will you manage your data?

This is an issue in all research, but is often more complex with digital media. You might end up with different types of media, in different formats, on different websites and devices. In some cases files sizes may be very large (e.g. video). How will you store, access, backup and archive your data?

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“Using digital media in research shouldn’t be ethically vastly different to everyday research.”
Susan Elsley, University of Edinburgh