methods@manchester: research methods in the social sciences

What is Blog Analysis?

Helene Snee, Sociology

Weblogs, or ‘blogs’, are websites that allow authors to maintain ongoing, reverse-chronological entries for an audience, link to other webpages and interact with readers via comments. There are a wide variety of blog genres, ranging from individual online diaries to corporate blogs, but they tend to be associated with more personal and spontaneous forms of writing. In this talk, I use the term “Blog Analysis” to refer to a wide range of approaches. Social researchers have used blogs as a source of data in a variety of ways, from conducting a content analysis of gender and language use to ethnographic participation in blogging communities. Moreover, while social scientists may be interested in the practice of blogging itself, this new documentary resource also lends itself to innovative ways of asking questions about ‘offline’ life.

The talk below provides a brief introduction to blogs and blogging, and presents some examples of how social researchers have engaged with this new medium. I then outline the use of blog data in my own qualitative research project, which took advantage of the spontaneous and unsolicited narratives available in blogs to address research questions regarding the framing of experience. I also highlight some practical, methodological and ethical issues in the field of blog analysis.

Introductory video:

Key references

Hookway, N. (2008) ‘”Entering the blogosphere”: some strategies for using blogs in social research’ Qualitative Research, 8(1) 91-113.

Li, D., and Walejko, G. (2008) ‘Splogs and Abandoned Blogs: The Perils of Sampling Bloggers and Their Blogs’, Information, Communication and Society 11(2): 279-296.

Online resources

The "Mum's Army" Blog case study
The "Big Sleep Blog" case study
Two case studies that used blogs for data collection, from the following training resource:
Exploring online research methods in a virtual training environment (2006)

Statistical Cybernetics Research Group
An information science research group developing software and methods to exploit Internet-based sources, including blogs, for social sciences research.