The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated a radical and rapid change in qualitative research. My planned in-person dissertation research shifted almost overnight to an online-only setting. Methodologically, I had to adapt my research quickly into an Internet-friendly format. I adapted focused ethnographic methods for use in online spaces in my research. Using vignettes and reflections on the dissertation experience, this essay offers a behind-the-curtain look at the work required to gain access to an online research site and tips for conducting online qualitative research.


financial aid, focused ethnography, online research

Author Bio(s)

Saralyn McKinnon-Crowley is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Her qualitative research studies cultures of higher education, including financial aid, teaching and learning, student affairs professionals, and transfer between community colleges and four-year institutions. Please direct correspondence to saralyn@utexas.edu.


A previous version of this paper was presented at the 17th International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry. I thank the participants there for their feedback, as well as Aren Wilson-Wright.

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