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Research considerations when investigating psychological factors and health-related issues in online contexts

Hall, M and Grogan, S (2017) Research considerations when investigating psychological factors and health-related issues in online contexts. In: Digital qualitative research in sport and physical activity. Qualitative research in sport and physical activity, 1 . Taylor and Francis, pp. 93-106. ISBN 978-1138235533 (In Press)

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Abstract

The last decade has seen a significant increase in internet usage. In 2015, 86 per cent of households in Great Britain had internet access, compared with 57 per cent in 2006; and 78 per cent of adults (39.3 million people) accessed the internet every day in Great Britain in 2015, compared with 35 per cent (16.2 million) in 2006 (Office for National Statistics, 2016). Since the turn of the new millennium, worldwide usage of the internet has grown by more than 832.5 per cent, and it is now used regularly by more than 46 per cent of the world’s population (Internet World Stats, 2016). The availability of wireless hotspots has also increased in the last ten years – in 2015, 74 per cent of adults in Great Britain had used the internet through mobile phones or other portable devices (Office for National Statistics, 2016). Ofcom (2014) reported that 66 per cent of online adults in the UK have a current social networking site profile, with 60 per cent of these users visiting sites more than once a day. One of the more popular online platforms for research is the forum where people discuss topics, access and provide information, give and receive advice, and talk about their experiences. These kinds of online discussions provide a useful source of information for researchers wishing to access people’s accounts of a variety of experiences and behaviours, including experiences and embodiment and self-reported drug use. In this chapter, after reviewing work linking body image with social media and drug use, we draw on our recent research investigating discussions about using ephedrine and synthol in relation to sporting performance, health and body image. We discuss some of the theoretical, methodological and ethical considerations involved in undertaking online research, and provide readers with practical advice on venturing into this type of investigation.

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