Student Research in a Web 2 world: Learning to use new Technology to Gather Primary Data

Rich, M. (2011). Student Research in a Web 2 world: Learning to use new Technology to Gather Primary Data. Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods, 9(1), pp. 78-86.

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Abstract

In recent years there has been rapid growth in the number of resources available to conduct scholarly research with the assistance of the Internet. While the British Library’s (2009) survey revealed a reluctance among doctoral and post‑doctoral researchers to engage with new technologies, masters‑level students and final‑year undergraduates are often much more open to technological innovation, They are familiar with interactive tools in the classroom (King and Robinson, 2009), and used to the characteristics associated with Web 2.0 (O’Reilly, 2005), but could often benefit from guidance as to how to exploit these tools in their independent work. This paper discusses four general types of tool which can be used to gather primary data in research: Electronic web‑based surveys. These can be set up very simply using software such as ‘Surveymonkey’, Qualtrics, or the Bristol Online Surveys system developed specifically for the UK higher education sector. As a result they are popular with students, but their very ease of use often means that little attention is paid to sampling, or to interpreting the results with caution. Blogs. Again, these are easy to set up, but it is less clear to students how they can be used as a data gathering tool. However the current author has encountered a number of instances where a student has set up a blog to invite comments on a topic, and to gather opinions from readers that might contribute to the students’ work. Personal response systems or ‘clickers’ which are available as a computer peripheral and can be used to gather data from a group of people very rapidly. Conferencing systems which could be used in effect to conduct more or less structured interviews electronically. A simple exchange of emails would be a primitive way of achieving this, and would be asynchronous, in that the interviewee does not need to respond instantly. A synchronous equivalent could be provided using chat or instant messaging software. All four of these have the benefit of being instantly self‑documenting in that any data provided is stored electronically. This is a particularly attractive attribute for masters level students, or final year undergraduates, who may be under pressure to produce some independent and original work with very limited resources. As a general observation these tools offer enhanced scope for students to carry out original and distinctive work, and to place their own stamp on their findings. If nothing else, the use of unique primary data can differentiate one student’s work from that of others. But this needs to be tempered with an appreciation of the limitations of primary data and an understanding of how to use it realistically.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Web 2, research training, primary data
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
T Technology > T Technology (General)
Divisions: Cass Business School > Faculty of Management
URI: http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/16861

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