Online Social Research: 29 April - 1 May 2019


Online Social Research

Online Social Research (University of Surrey Sociology Short Course Series)

29 April - 1 May 2019, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK



The rapid expansion of the internet has presented researchers with a range of new ways to collect data about the social world, generating important new insights into social behaviour and interaction.

This course is designed to give you an introduction to online social research, covering a range of qualitative and quantitative methods for collecting and analysing online data and for exploring digital social phenomena. Using a combination of lectures and hands-on practical sessions, we will explore various aspects of online social research including ways to collect data, the ethics of online research, and methods to analyse online data.


This course aims to give an overview of online research methods as deployed within contemporary social research. It will develop your critical understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of these approaches to social research, and offer you an opportunity to develop some initial practical skills in applying these approaches. Rather than focusing in depth on any one method, the aim is to give you the confidence to select methods appropriately and to provide a foundation for developing your skills further independently in future.


Course overview:

Indicative content includes:

  • the emergence of digital sociology and online social research
  • online interviews and focus groups
  • administering surveys online
  • ethnography in online settings
  • multi-sited and online/offline fieldwork
  • ethics of online research
  • methods of analysing online data including a selection from: social media data and NVivo; semiotic and content analysis; sentiment analysis; issue crawler; social network analysis


Learning outcomes:

On successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • Understand the range of online social research methods currently available (C,K)
  • Critically evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of these methods and their place in contemporary sociology (C,K)
  • Appreciate the ethical issues that online social research methods raise (C,K,P,T)
  • Demonstrate a practical understanding of the application of these methods (K,T,P)
  • Develop research proposals that make effective and appropriate use of these methods (K,T,P)

Key: C-Cognitive/Analytical; K-Subject Knowledge; T-Transferable Skills; P- Professional/ Practical skills


Course leader:

Christine Hine is a sociologist of science and technology who has a particular focus on the role played by new technologies in the knowledge construction process. She has a major interest in the development of ethnography in technical settings and in "virtual methods" (the use of the Internet in social research). In particular, she has developed mobile and connective approaches to ethnography that combine online and offline social contexts. Christine is the author of books including: Virtual Ethnography; Systematics as Cyberscience; and Ethnography for the Internet and editor of collections: Virtual Methods and New Infrastructures for Knowledge Production and co-editor of Digital Methods for Social Sciences.


Level of study:

Intermediate (some prior knowledge) Some knowledge of social research methods is required, but no experience of online social research in particular is assumed.



Varies according to status:

  • £595 - Government/commercial sector
  • £495 - Educational/charitable sector 
  • £395 - Students.


Preparatory reading:

Caliandro, A., & Gandini, A. (2016). Qualitative research in digital environments: a research toolkit. Taylor & Francis.

Hine, C. (2015). Ethnography for the internet: Embedded, embodied and everyday. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Marres, N. (2017). Digital sociology: The reinvention of social research. John Wiley & Sons.



External participants should bring a USB stick if they wish to keep copies of their work.

Participants on the course will include some students completing the MSc in Social Research Methods


How to book - Reserve your place by registering and paying via the University of Surrey Online Shop.


More information:

This event is currently open to all


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