Blogging as a Viable Research Methodology for Young People with Arthritis: A Qualitative Study

Julie Prescott, Nicola J. Gray, Felicity J. Smith, Janet E. McDonagh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The development of services that are responsive to the needs of users is a health policy priority. Finding ways of engaging young people in research to gain insights into their particular experiences, perspectives, and needs is vital but challenging. These data are critical to improving services in ways that meet the needs of young people. Objective: Our aim was to evaluate Web-based blogging as a viable method for understanding the daily experiences and condition management strategies of young people with juvenile arthritis. Methods: To meet the objectives of the study, a qualitative approach was required to gather information on the experiences and perspectives of young people regarding the management of their condition and its daily impact. In collaboration with a group of young people with arthritis, a custom website was developed. This website provided the opportunity for young people (aged 11-19) with arthritis from a United Kingdom pediatric hospital to contribute blogs. It was designed so that young people were free to write about whatever was important to them, but the site also included some structure and prompts to facilitate the writing of blogs. Qualitative analytical procedures were employed, supported by NVivo software. Results: Engagement in the study by young people was variable in terms of their participation rates, frequency of website visits, and the length of their blogs. Young people used the site in different ways, some responding to the website categories and prompts that the team created, while others used it as a diary to record their experiences and thoughts. In line with principles of qualitative inquiry, the data collection was participant-led. Young people were in control of what, how much, and how often they wrote. However, some young people expressed difficulty regarding knowing what they should blog about. For a number of reasons, discussed here, the blogs may also not be fully reflective of experiences and perspectives of the participants. However, the data obtained provided insights into young people's experiences of living with arthritis and their use of medicines in the context of their daily lives. Conclusions: Web-based research with young people presents opportunities and challenges for researchers. Web-based blogging methodology has the potential to give young people and parents the space and empowerment to express their own ideas and concerns. However, this project suggests that it might not be the best way to engage a large diverse group of young people and might most effectively be combined with other approaches. Despite these limitations, the study provided valuable data about the experience and impact of living with a long-term condition from the perspectives of young people with arthritis.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere61
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 5 Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes


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