Digital Methods

Digital methods

Watch this film by Dr Mwenza Blell on the role of ethics and politics in data driven research and technology

Meet Taigo Sousa Garcia, who uses a method called scholarly digital editing

Meet Dr Emma Cunliffe, who uses GIS to develop ways to support the armed forces to protect sites in the event of armed conflict and natural disasters

Digital method is the umbrella methodology for using online and digital technologies to generate, collect, and analyse qualitative and quantitative data to investigate a phenomenon (Rogers, 2013). Because digital methods exploit information made available on internet platforms or gathering information through online tools and platforms, they limit research to phenomena which, at least to some extent, can be performed or are reflected online. Despite this limitation, digital methods are utilised in an array of disciplines, including library and information science, informatics, literary studies, English, and computer science, geography by translating a variety of traditional data collection approaches onto the digital world, including the translation of ethnography into virtual ethnography (Hine, 2000) or netnography (Kozinets, 2009), the translation of interviews into online interviews, and paper questionnaires into online surveys, or by analysing the online footprint of people in social networks through Social Network Analysis, or activity of people across different geographies using Geographic Information System (GIS).

The use of online and digital technologies brings about unique practical and ethical issues. Ethical issues include questions regarding gaining informed participant consent, the use of ‘anonymous’ data or revelation of identities or identifiable data, and the blurred ambiguities over what is ‘in the public domain’ online. Published ethical guidelines have been released by The Association of Internet Researchers, the American Psychological Association (APA), and the British Psychological Society to guide researchers in using digital methods. Practical issues researchers need to consider include the nature of continuously changing online platforms and their accessibility for data collection, the rapid expansion of material available to study leading to information overload, and an ever-increasing variety of software tools for extraction, analysis, and visualisation of information.



Ahmed W, Vidal-Alaball J, Lopez Segui F, Moreno-Sánchez PA. A Social Network Analysis of Tweets Related to Masks during the COVID-19 Pandemic. (2020). International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 17(21):8235.

  • This study focused on analysing content from Twitter related to masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ash J, Kitchin R, Leszczynski A. Digital turn, digital geographies? Progress in Human Geography. 2018;42(1):25-43. https://doi:10.1177/0309132516664800

  • The paper advances a threefold categorisation of the intensifying relationship between geography and the digital, documenting geographies produced through, produced by, and of the digital.

Wilson A, Tewdwr-Jones M, Comber R. (2019) Urban planning, public participation and digital technology: App development as a method of generating citizen involvement in local planning processes. Environment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science, 46(2), 286-302.

Training and Development

  • HSS8004: Qualitative Methodology in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
  • TCP1026: Understanding Place: Methods and Perspectives
  • MethodsHub Webinar: “Digital Research Methods. Research under Lockdown.”


  • Alves, D., (2014) Introduction: digital methods and tools for historical research. International Journal of Humanities and Arts Computing 8(1):1-12. https://doi:10.3366/ijhac.2014.0116
  • Ash, J., Kitchin, R., and Leszczynski, A. (2018) Digital Geographies. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.
  • Rogers, R., (2013) Digital Methods. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.
  • Rogers, R., (2019) Doing Digital Methods. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.
  • Snee, H., et al., (2016) Digital Methods for Social Science. An Interdisciplinary Guide to Research Innovation. London: Palgrave Macmillan.