Qualitative Research in the Digital Era: Obstacles and Opportunities

Ted Palys, Chris Atchison


Although the many sites and opportunities available to researchers through the development and proliferation of the Internet are well known, little attention has been paid to what digital technologies and the world’s developing digital infrastructure can offer qualitative researchers for the actual process of doing research. This article discusses opportunities that now exist that we have experimented with and implemented in our own research, such as viral sampling strategies, wireless interviewing, and voice recognition transcription, as well as impediments we have encountered that stand in their way. Included in the latter are research ethics boards who often lack expertise in issues that arise in computer-assisted research, hardware/software costs and technological expertise for researchers, and university administrations who have not embraced infrastructure for qualitative research to the same extent they have supported quantitative research. The article closes with a look at the implications of emerging issues, such as the trend to cloud computing, the proliferation of mobile devices, and the maturation of voice recognition software.

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