The Use of Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) as a Method for Data Collection in Qualitative Research: The Experience of One Researcher

Thursday, 10 July 2008: 10:30 AM
Wendy J. Waldspurger Robb, PhD, RN, CNE , Nursing Department, Cedar Crest College, Allentown, PA

Learning Objective 1: explain computer-mediated communication.

Learning Objective 2: discuss advantages and disadvantages related to the use of CMC for qualitative research data collection.

Using the Internet to collect data for phenomenologic studies has been a recent topic of discussion in qualitative research journals. The term “computer-mediated communication” (CMC) has been used to describe the method of using the Internet to collect data via email, discussion rooms and posts, and electronic online focus groups. Researchers' partiality for electronic mail (email) as a data collection methodology include: a) easy access to worldwide samples, b) low administration costs, and c) its unobtrusiveness to respondents.

Documented challenges include: a) security of data, b) technological difficulties and incompatibilities with operating systems, universal language and readable fonts, c) Internet access and competency, d) interpretation of non-responses from participants, and e) the potential for imposters posing as participants. Despite these limitations, many advantages exist for use of the Internet with data collection including low cost of the technique, b) high speed, c) limitless geographic boundaries, and d) flexibility with time and with asynchronous methodologies.

The researcher utilized CMC to interview nurse Reiki practitioners via the Internet with the use of email. Experiences from this phenomenologic research using CMC to collect qualitative data will be shared. Key topics include: a) the brevity of responses, b) altered reply time, c) handling of operational differences in computer software, d) unconfirmed identities, and e) respondents' preference for verbal interview.

The use of CMC proved to be a valid method for data collection in this researcher's experience. Information gained from the use of CMC as a data collection technique for phenomenologic research has contributed to the knowledge base of nursing research methods. It may also enhance the use of CMC in other venues for the purpose of advancing nursing education.