‘I’m Always on Facebook!’: Exploring Facebook as a Mainstream Research Tool and Ethnographic Site

  • Eve Stirling


This chapter discusses a research project which explored the everyday use of the social network site (SNS) Facebook by first-year undergraduate students in their transition to university. It not only explores the opportunities and challenges of using Facebook as a research site and how this digital approach may differ from a ‘mainstream’ ethnography, but also argues for this approach to be viewed as ‘mainstream’ due to the mediated nature of contemporary social life.


Social Network Site Participant Observation Digital Method Digital Space Lecture Theatre 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bailey, C. (2007) A Guide to Qualitative Field Research. California: Pine Forge Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beer, D. and Burrows, R. (2007) ‘Sociology and, of and in Web 2.0: some initial considerations’, Sociological Research Online, 12(5),, date accessed 20 March 2009.Google Scholar
  3. Boellstorff, T. (2008) Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Boellstorff, T., Nardi, B., Pearce, C. and Taylor, T.L. (2012) Ethnography and Virtual Worlds: A Handbook of Method. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  5. boyd, d. (2008) ‘How an qualitative Internet researchers define the boundaries of their projects: A response to Christine Hine’, in A. Markham and N. Baym (eds.) Internet Inquiry: Conversations About Method. London: Sage, pp.26–32.Google Scholar
  6. Buchanan, E.A. (2011) ‘Internet research ethics: Past, present, and future’, The Handbook of Internet Studies, Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, pp.83–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. CLEX (2009). Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World. Report of an Independent Committee of Inquiry into the Impact on Higher Education of Students’ Widespread use of Web 2.0 Technologies,, date accessed 12 May 2009.Google Scholar
  8. Crooks, R.N. (2013) ‘The Rainbow Flag and the Green Carnation: Grindr in The Gay Village’, First Monday, 18(11), Scholar
  9. Davies, J. (2012) ‘Facework on Facebook as a new literacy practice’, Computers and Education, 59(1), 19–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Delamont, S. (2004) ‘Ethnography and participant observation’, in C. Seale, G. Gobo and J. Gubrium (eds.) Qualitative Research Practices, London: Sage, pp.217–29.Google Scholar
  11. Ellison, N. B. and boyd, d. (2013) ‘Sociality through Social Network Sites’, in W. H. Dutton (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Internet Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp.151–72.Google Scholar
  12. Facebook (2013) Asset and Logo Guidelines March 2013 (Lightweight version),, date accessed 25 October 2013.Google Scholar
  13. Geertz, C. (1973) The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  14. Hammersley, M. and Atkinson, P. (1983) Ethnography: Principles in Practice, London: Tavistock.Google Scholar
  15. Hammersley, M. and Atkinson, P. (2007) Ethnography. Principles in Practice (3rd edition). Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  16. Ipsos MORI (2008) ‘Great expectations of ICT’, JISC,, date accessed 15 May 2009.Google Scholar
  17. Hine, C. (2000) Virtual Ethnography. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  18. Hine, C. (ed.) (2005) Virtual Methods. London: Berg Publishers.Google Scholar
  19. Hine, C. (2007) ‘Connective ethnography for the exploration of e-Science’, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12(2), 618–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kirschner, P.A. and Karpinski, A.C. (2010) ‘Facebook®and academic performance’, Computers in Human Behaviour, 26(6), 1237–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kozinets, R. (2010) Netnography: Doing Ethnographic Research Online. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  22. Leander, K.M. and McKim, K.K. (2003) ‘Tracing the everyday “sitings” of adolescents on the Internet: A strategic adaptation of ethnography across online and offline spaces’, Education, Communication and Information, 3(2), 211–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Madden, R. (2010) Being Ethnographic. A Guide to the Theory and Practice of Ethnography. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  24. Madge, C., Meek, J., Wellens, J. and Hooley, T. (2009) ‘Facebook, social integration and informal learning at university: “It is more for socialising and talking to friends about work than for actually doing work”’, Learning, Media and Technology, 34(2), 141–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Markham, A. (2005) ‘The methods, politics, and ethics of online ethnography’, in N. Denzin and Y. Lincoln (eds.) The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research (3rd edition). London: Sage, pp.247–84.Google Scholar
  26. Murthy, D. (2008) ‘Digital ethnography: An examination of the use of new technologies for social research’, Sociology, 42(5), 837–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Raynes-Goldie, K. (2010) ‘Aliases, creeping, and wall cleaning: Understanding privacy in the age of Facebook’, First Monday, 15(1), Scholar
  28. Robinson, L. and Schulz, J. (2009) ‘New avenues for sociological inquiry: Evolving forms of ethnographic practice’, Sociology, 43(4), 685–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Sade-Beck, L. (2004) ‘Internet ethnography: Online and offline’, International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 3(2), 45–51.Google Scholar
  30. Sanjek, R. (1990) Fieldnotes: The Makings of Anthropology. London: Cornell University.Google Scholar
  31. Selwyn, N. (2009) ‘Faceworking: exploring students’ education-related use of Facebook’, Learning, Media and Technology, 34(2), 157–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Selwyn, N. and Grant, L. (2009) ‘Researching the realities of social software use — an introduction’, Learning, Media and Technology, 34(2), 1–9.Google Scholar
  33. Stirling, E. (2009) We all communicate on Facebook. A case of undergraduates’ use and non-use of the Facebook group, MA Dissertation, University of Sheffield.Google Scholar
  34. Stirling, E. (2014) Why waste your time on Facebook?: A temporal analysis of first-year undergraduate students and transition in UK Higher Education, PhD Thesis, University of Sheffield.Google Scholar
  35. Taylor, T.L. (2006) ‘Does WoW change everything? How a PvP server, multinational player base, and surveillance mod scene caused me pause’, Games and Culture, 1(4), 318–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Vie, S. (2008) ‘Digital Divide 2.0: “Generation M” and online social networking sites in the composition classroom’, Computers and Composition, 25(1), 9–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Vitak, J., Lampe, C., Gray, R. and Ellison, N.B. (2012) ‘Why won’t you be my Facebook friend?: Strategies for managing context collapse in the workplace’, in Proceedings of the 2012 iConference, ACM, pp.555–7.Google Scholar
  38. Wolf, M. (1992) A Thrice-Told Tale: Feminism, Postmodernism and Ethnographic Responsibility. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Eve Stirling 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eve Stirling

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations