Blogging, a new and intriguing form of communication, has geared popularity in recent era and has sprouted its roots into research as well. With the growing popularity of blogs, researchers are beginning to realise the value this media to acquire data regarding attitudes, experiences and opinion, for their research. In the current times, blogging is used as a research tool, especially in the health domain and has been recognised as a potential qualitative data collection tool.
The prevalence of social media globally is evoking interest to utilise blogs as a tool for research method. Along with the increasing popularity of the internet, Online Research Methods (ORMs) also developed in a parallel fashion. In the mid-1990s health and social researchers sought to understand how the then developing internet media was shaping human lives and impacting human behaviour both online and offline. Conventionally, academic researchers have been using platforms such as conferences, academic journals and books to present their findings and engage in academic knowledge sharing with colleagues. The development of new communication and technology tools have given rise to new modes of interaction and the new platforms are weblogs (blogs), formerly defined as `online logbooks’. A small but growing number of researchers write research related blogs. The researchers are continuously engaged with the virtual environment. The content of the blog posts varied greatly not only among the blogs but also within each blog.
Study conducted in the health sector is basically applied research because it is used for safeguarding the health interests of people and has its global implications. So, blogs are generally used by researchers accessing populations beyond their physical reach. Generally, three types of content are provided through blogs which are expertise, activities and identification. Expertise related content provides information on a particular topic as it is specifically related to the domain of the researcher. Apart from the specific domain, the researchers are often engaged in other activities such as workshops and conferences which may be related to both teaching and research. Further, few contents may be related to the personal interest and information related to the research which is purely reflexive in nature. Though there is a clear demarcation among these contents they may often find their presence in a single blog.
Blogs are now being viewed as a publication. They have become fascinating form of communication, personal expression and also an important research tool because of easy access to codified data and their acceptance as a source of information as well as a communication tool.
The major hurdle in collecting data (qualitative) is the time it consumes and problems faced in synchronising data. Generally, qualitative data are collected through interviews,focus groups and observation. Apart from collecting data, it needs to be codified for analytical purposes, which in turn requires more time and resources.
One of the major benefits of blogs is that they are readily available in a print format, offer immediate availability of rich, codified data in an efficient package pre-prepared for analysis. Blogs do not require synchronisation between the researcher and the subject, and so are more convenient and less time and resource demanding. Another source of convenience can come from the content of the blog which is often categorised by the blogger according to their assignment of topic, mood, or motivation. This enables faster and easier access to information of the greatest value. Blogs provide the richness and depth of information available.Blog data is the primary method of data collection which is not subject to the influence or interference of the researcher. The dark side of the blogs used as a research method is impurity of data and reliability and validity of data biases as blogs may not always be well written.