• Summary
  • Overview
  • Key Readings

The new social contexts formed via the Internet, and the new forms of data made available by the increasing use of diverse forms of computer mediated communication, have challenged researchers to develop approaches which do them justice. At the same time, there has been concern that established principles should be preserved, and that the connection between virtual research methods and more conventional research approaches should not be rejected out of hand. Despite a number of handbooks and textbooks published in recent years there is still a dearth of authoritative works which offer comprehensive coverage of the virtual research methods available to social researchers. In particular, there is none which thoroughly explores the full range of virtual research methods and their antecedents, and which explores the methodological and epistemological ramifications of their development. This multivolume reference collection fills this gap.

The collection covers perspectives on the Internet as a social space; research models for the Internet and the skills, techniques and approaches needed to conduct research in a virtual environment; innovations in the research process and reflections on these innovations; and the ethical considerations to take into account when doing research on the Internet.

Editor's Introduction: Virtual Research Methods
Virtual Research Methods: Background and Developments

The advent of the Internet has provided a major boost to the social sciences. As arguably the most significant recent development in the social world, over the few decades of its development and gradual mainstreaming the Internet has taken part in a transformation of social existence. Theorists of technology in society debate over the extent to which the Internet acts as an agent of change in itself, and it is probably more accurate to say that the form the Internet has taken is symptomatic of wider changes, and thus that the Internet has developed along with other social preoccupations and priorities. Nonetheless, few would dispute that the Internet has provided a highly visible and potent ...

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