Unsolicited narratives from the Internet: a rich source of qualitative data

Qual Health Res. 2001 Sep;11(5):706-14. doi: 10.1177/104973201129119398.


Recently, the Internet has become a forum for informal communication. Many--whose voices may have been unheard--can now express themselves through this medium. Rich narratives are available to the qualitative researcher from bulletin boards, guestbooks, Web pages, and listservs on the Internet. In this article, these data sources are defined and described. Strategies for using these data are discussed. One concern with using unsolicited data from the Internet is the protection of human subjects and the requirement for consent. A proposed model describing the process for deciding when such data are publicly available, as defined by the Office for the Protection of Rights of Research Subjects, and when the use of the data requires consent is presented.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Data Collection / methods*
  • Decision Making
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent*
  • Internet*
  • Research Design*