Online Research within a Qualitative Paradigm: Methodological Considerations and Empirical Findings
In this article I investigate, whether the Internet can be considered as a research tool for qualitative questions in the field of social sciences. Taking the paradigm of qualitative research as a basic requirement the interpretation of communication in qualitative methodology is reflected and compared with the development of modern societal and individual communication, especially computer mediated communication (CMC). In the second part the technical facts of computer mediated communication in the Internet are explained and as well the relation between theoretical concepts of CMC and the qualitative paradigm is analysed. An overview over the current techniques in online-research shows the latest developments in methods of research and rounds off the theoretical discussion. Computerised communication as a qualitative research tool is empirically tested with the help of an exemplary issue. The data are evaluated on a formal-structured as well as on a content interpretative basis, discussing the areas of conflict found out in the theoretical part. The interests of content are the subjective experiences of "Zweit-Frauen", women who have a relationship with a divorced or long-term separated male. On the basis of the data captured through public Internet communication and per e-mail it is possible to gain an insight into the multi-perspectivity and the inter subjective meaning of this social phenomenon. It shows that the individual experience is influenced by the actual societal basic conditions in Germany and the traditional-normative partnership conception. The stories of the females living in a 'secondhand-partnership' highlight clearly the individual complexity and interdependence of their life-topics. They may generate an area of subtly differentiated conflicts.
methodology; qualitative social research; online research; computer mediated communication; women