ASA logo
Cover Page
Requires Subscription DOCX
Requires Subscription PDF


digital ethnography
online participant-observation
qualitative methods
class assignment

How to Cite

Alderfer, Katelyn, and Kristy Kelly. 2019. “TEACHING ONLINE PARTICIPANT OBSERVATION”. TRAILS: Teaching Resources and Innovations Library for Sociology, April. Washington DC: American Sociological Association.


Recognizing the growing usage of digital ethnography in sociology, this assignment provides a hands-on assignment for teaching online participant-observation theory and practice. What differentiates digital ethnography from ethnography is that researchers collect data through online interactions, rather than through in-person, face-to-face interactions...

Download this resource to see full details. Download this resource to see full details.


Subject Area(s):
Qualitative Methodology
Resource Type(s):
Class Level(s):
Any Level
Class Size(s):

Usage Notes

Download the resources to see full details.

1. This assignment is designed to be used in undergraduate or graduate research methods courses, as an alternative to traditional face-to-face participant-observation assignments or to supplement them.
2. This assignment could be adapted for other courses as needed, but assumes students have...

Download this resource to see full details. Download this resource to see full details.

Learning Goals and Assessments

Learning Goal(s):

  1. Goal 1: Students will learn how to effectively conduct participant-observation in a virtual space.
  2. Goal 2: Students will learn how to effectively code and conduct preliminary analysis of online participant observation data.
  3. Goal 3: Students will learn how to write-up preliminary findings and reflect on the process of doing online participant-observation.

Goal Assessment(s):

  1. Assessment 1: Students will identify a virtual space (blog, Facebook or LinkedIn community, Twitter feed, etc.) and conduct a two-hour participant-observation of that space.
  2. Assessment 2: Students will code online participant observation data that they have collected using an open coding method.
  3. Assessment 3: Students will prepare a short summary of their research process and preliminary findings (if any).

When using resources from TRAILS, please include a clear and legible citation.

Cover Page
Requires Subscription DOCX
Requires Subscription PDF

Our website uses cookies to improve your browsing experience, to increase the speed and security for the site, to provide analytics about our site and visitors, and for marketing. By proceeding to the site, you are expressing your consent to the use of cookies. To find out more about how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy .