Luke Skywalker and Master Yoda: How online methodologies may benefit from a partnership with offline methodologies

Patricia Blau and Eva von Rennenkampff
GIM, Germany

Introduction: Qualitative online research still has to find its identity

Qualitative online methodologies are – metaphorically speaking – in their late teenage years. The psychologist Erik Erikson (1959) has defined the main developmental tasks of a teenager as finding one's identity and place in society. Similar to a teen, qualitative online research faces the challenge of finding its place in society – in this case its place within research. As is quite common with teens, there is excitement, potential and experimenting mixed with shortcomings and confusion. As we were writing the outline for this paper, Luke Skywalker came to our minds. Granted, he was in his late teens – but still he combined a lot of confusion and also naivety on the one side with a huge potential on the other. In comparison, the classic qualitative methodologies have a touch of the wise, sometimes maybe a bit quirky elder like Master Yoda. Especially knowing both Star Wars and qualitative (online) research, you now may wonder how far we can take this comparison. Let us answer in the following way: we do not aim at taking this comparison to an extreme, still it will be good to keep in mind that Luke could only become a master by being partnered with wise adults – first Obivan Kenobi and then Master Yoda. Similarly, qualitative online research can benefit from the experience and wisdom of classic qualitative research. This is not only true for the methodologies as such but also for the people behind them: we found we got the best results in qualitative online research when it was done by people who had solid experiences in both classic qualitative research and online research.