, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp 496-505

Virtual subjects: Using the Internet as an alternative source of subjects and research environment


This paper presents a rationale for why some researchers might consider using the Internet for research by addressing four issues. First, a few unique research opportunities afforded by the Internet are discussed. Second, the utility of using newsgroups and theTelnet protocol is described. Third, Internet research ethical guidelines in five areas are developed. Fourth, the data validity issue is addressed, and previous research using Internet and introductory psychology subject samples is replicated. The samples were similar on 5 of 7 demographic variables but differed in age and sex compositions, and response patterns for the two samples were similar to those reported previously . Finally, some limitations of the Internet are considered, as are its potentials to fulfill traditional research requirements and its use as an educational aid.

The authors thank Danalee Goldthwaite, William Roberts, and the reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions on earlier versions of the manuscript.