Researching Social Media: Qualitative and Mixed-Methods Research Approaches

Cathy Brennan, David Ellis, Kim Heyes

Research output: Chapter or section in a book/report/conference proceedingChapter or section


To understand the relationship between social media and mental health we need research that examines what people are doing and how this relates to other, measurable, variables such as their personal characteristics and the outcome of their social media use. We also need research that explores how and why people use social media and their experiences of doing so. The chapter on quantitative methods focuses on the former; in this chapter we will look at research that explores how and why people use social media and their experiences of doing so. This type of research is referred to as qualitative research. Qualitative research is that which seeks to understand rather than measure social phenomena; it uses non-numerical data such as interviews, written text, images, and observations. Qualitative research can offer rich insights into the experience of people on social media; it can explore their motivations for being online, what they do when online, their reaction to content, and their interactions with others in particular online spaces. In this chapter we will present an overview of qualitative approaches that focuses on methods of data collection and analysis. We will discuss the main approaches to data collection and offer some important pointers to bear in mind when evaluating the results of studies that use these methods. For those interested in a more in-depth exploration of qualitative methods there are some suggestions for further reading at the end of the chapter.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSocial Media and Mental Health
EditorsAllan House, Cathy Brennan
Place of PublicationCambridge, U. K.
PublisherCambridge University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9781009024945
ISBN (Print)9781009010863
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2023


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