Following on the post about ethical research online, I want to launch a discussion about sampling and identity. Whenever I discuss the idea of conducting sampling activities online, and then interviewing people online, inevitably the question arises: "how do you know the research participants are who they say they are?"
After all, on the Internet dogs are free to mingle unnoticed...
What do you think? Are you concerned with identity of research participants, and what steps do you, would you take to ensure that you are selecting and interviewing the desired participants?
©2002 The New Yorker Collection from cartoonbank.com. All Rights Reserved
The other point is, of course, even in face to face interviews, we might know *who* the person really is (we we might not - depending on whatever!), but do we know that they're saying what they really think ...
I have loved this cartoon for years; I think it is humorous / honest on many levels.
I find that I try to corroborate something about the participants with some other manifestation of online identity. My research has thus far taken me to a lot of blogs and other evidence of social media, and when I make a call for participants, I often ask people who show some interest to tell me a little about themselves first.
However, to your question, I do tend to research people who already have a social presence or are recommended by others I know (as you mentioned in your text). I am not sure how I would do this with those who do not already have some form of public profile (and have not given this much thought, since that is not where my research is right now). Interested in seeing what people think about this.
To this same question, I am wondering if anybody has seen this issue not addressed in a paper or presentation, and the question about identity of the sample being raised by reviewers or attendees? It seems like such an obvious issue now that the question has been raised, though I wonder how many people raise it as a question (yet)?