The ‘‘Absent’’ Researcher: Reflections on Using Real-Time Observational Methods to Explore Young Peoples’ Online Behaviours

Martin, S. , McDaid, L. and Hilton, S. (2016) The ‘‘Absent’’ Researcher: Reflections on Using Real-Time Observational Methods to Explore Young Peoples’ Online Behaviours. Qualitative Methods Conference, Glasgow, UK, 3-5 May 2016. (doi:10.1177/1609406916672113)

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Observational methods involve watching and recording what individuals do and say in particular settings and have been used frequently within the social sciences, in different ways and across varying contexts. They are valued for their potential to gain insights into ‘‘natural’’ behaviours through creating an environment closer to everyday life than a face-to-face interview, allowing observation of behaviours similar to those that may naturally be exhibited by participants. A number of studies exploring online health information seeking have incorporated such methods through the use of computer applications that allow recording and thus observation of online information searching behaviours in real time. However, few of these have included researchers’ reflections on carrying out this kind of research. This presentation will attempt to fill this gap by drawing on experiences of carrying out an exploratory qualitative study using paired interview and observational methods which explored how young people (aged 16–19) search for and evaluate online sexual health information. This presentation will focus on the use of observational methods as a way of grounding insights in ‘‘real life’’ situations and the opportunities and challenges with using this type of methodology, with a particular focus on the concept of the ‘‘absent’’ researcher and its effect on participants’ behaviours. This presentation will explore firsthand experiences of applying these methods, describing and reflecting on the practical, relational, and ethical concerns that arose and discussing ways to manage and respond to these.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item
Additional Information:Abstract published in International Journal of Qualitative Methods 15(1):25-26
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:McDaid, Professor Lisa and Hilton, Professor Shona and Patterson, Mrs Susan
Authors: Martin, S., McDaid, L., and Hilton, S.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
Published Online:22 November 2016

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