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Looking at the "field" through a Zoom lens: methodological reflections on conducting online research during a global pandemic

Howlett, Marnie (2022) Looking at the "field" through a Zoom lens: methodological reflections on conducting online research during a global pandemic. Qualitative Research, 22 (3). 387 - 402. ISSN 1468-7941

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Identification Number: 10.1177/1468794120985691


For many social science scholars, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to re-think our approaches to research. As a result of new social distancing measures, those of us who conduct in-person qualitative and ethnographic research have faced significant challenges in accessing the populations and fields we study. Technology served as an incredibly useful tool for social interaction and research prior to the pandemic, and it has since become even more important as a way to engage with others. Although not all types of social research, or even all projects, lend themselves to online activities, digital communication platforms like Zoom, Skype, and Facebook have allowed many of us to continue our studies from a distance—in some cases, significant temporal and spatial distances away from our research sites. As such, it is important to consider how these different methodological approaches challenge our understandings of fieldwork. While the disadvantages of not physically accessing the places we study are clear, can mediated approaches offer (any) hope of the immersion we experienced with in-person fieldwork? If many of us are able to continue ethnographic research (in some form) without co-locating with our participants in our field sites, how are our studies fundamentally affected, as well as the ways we conceptualize the ‘field’ more largely? This paper explores these methodological and epistemological questions through reflections on conducting online research during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 The Author
Divisions: School of Public Policy
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Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Q Science > Q Science (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Date Deposited: 16 Dec 2020 13:45
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2024 06:48

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