July 24, 2024

Participant Information

I am a doctoral candidate within the E-Research and Technology Enhanced Learning Programme at Lancaster University. I am conducting a research study into the lived experiences of educators in relation to social support and wellbeing through private social network site (SNS) channels. I am defining a private SNS channel as a space where participants engage with each other using the SNS platform but access is restricted in some way through membership or invitation. Examples of this could include a Twitter Direct Message Group, Facebook group, WhatsApp Group, Slack Channel etc

Research Purpose

The purpose of my study is to explore the meaning of social support and the impact on wellbeing for educators who interact within private social network site (SNS) channels. It will address gaps identified in the literature in relation to the relationship between social support and SNS and focus on behaviour and practices that can foster various types of online social support.

I am conducting this research because as an educator myself, I have personal experience of social support and positive wellbeing through engaging in various private social network site environments. I  intend to capture descriptions of educators’ lived experiences of social support and wellbeing within these environments.


I am using a qualitative research approach as this will enable me to explore social support and wellbeing within private SNS channels from a holistic and in-depth perspective. Qualitative research focuses on the subjective experience of participants and is considered useful in studies that are ‘designed to humanize and bring to life people, problems, contexts, settings and situations’ (Creswell 2013; Krathwohl 2009 as cited in Sultan, 2019, p. 51).

Heuristic Inquiry (Moustakas, 1990) is an ideal methodological approach for this research as this will allow me to take an autobiographical perspective. It is person centred and ‘creates a sense of connectedness as a researcher … researchers collaborate to illuminate the nature and essence of the topic of inquiry’ (Patton 2002, as cited in Sultan, 2019, p. 19)

Heuristic Research aims to ‘identify non-hierarchical themes that help us understand the essential nature of the phenomenon (Sultan, 2019, p. 9). It has a humanistic foundation and has a holistic, collaborative and communal approach. Although it is related to phenomenology, there are certain distinctions, the most critical of which involve the fact that the ‘researcher must have direct experience of the phenomenon’ (Douglas and Moustakas 1985 as cited in Sultan, 2019, p. 26) as such this is a good fit for my study.


My participants are drawn from my Personal Learning Network who have also experienced social support within private/ closed social network site (SNS) channels and are happy for me to interview them in relation to this experience.  Criteria for inclusion in this study is therefore as follows :

  • Participants who are part of my Personal Learning Network and self-identify as an educator involved in delivering or supporting learning and/or teaching in any discipline.
  • Participants who have experienced aspects of social support within private/closed online social network sites

Benefits of Taking Part

Taking part in this study will allow participants to reflect on and share experiences of engaging in a private SNS channel. It is unlikely that there will be any major disadvantages to taking part

What if Participants change their mind ?

Participants are free to withdraw at any time before and during the interview. and can also withdraw within 2 weeks after the interview, without giving any reason. If participants want to withdraw just need to let me know, and I will extract any data they have contributed to the study and destroy it.


After the interview only I, the researcher conducting this study and my supervisor (Dr Kyungmee Lee) will have access to the ideas shared with me. I will keep all personal information confidential, that is I will not share it with others. I will remove any personal information from the written record of the contribution. All reasonable steps will be taken to protect the anonymity of the participants involved in this project.
Please note that if participants wish to be accredited for taking part in the research, names will be listed in the acknowledgements but specific responses will be anonymised via pseudonym.

How the information will be used

This will be used for research purposes to include my PhD thesis and other publications, for example journal articles or blog posts.  I may also present the results of my study at academic conferences. When writing up the findings from this study, I would like to reproduce some of the views and ideas you shared with me. I will only use anonymised quotes from my interview with you, so that although I may use your exact words, all reasonable steps will be taken to protect your anonymity.

How data will be stored

Audio recorded data will be removed from the recording device on the day of recording and stored, in an encrypted form, on password-protected and encrypted laptops and on the University network. Only myself and my supervisor Dr Kyungmee Lee will have access to the dataset. No hard copies will be used in this project since data will be managed digitally., I will keep the data securely stored for the duration of my PhD Student registration after which time it will be deleted.

Questions or Concerns

If participants have any queries or are unhappy with anything in relation to their participation in the study, they should contact me directly Debbie Baff (d.baff@lancaster.ac.uk)  or my supervisor: Dr Kyungmee Lee Department of Educational Research Tel: +44 (0)1524 595158 k.lee23@lancaster.ac.uk  

If any participant has any concerns or complaints that they wish to discuss with a person who is not directly involved in the research, they can also contact: Professor Don Passey Department of Educational ResearchTel: +44 (0)1524 592314 d.passey@lancaster.ac.uk  

This study has been reviewed and approved by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and Lancaster Management School’s Research Ethics Committee. 


Moustakas, C. (1990) Heuristic Research: Design, Methodology, and Applications

Sultan, N. (2019) Heuristic Inquiry: Researching Human Experience Holistically. SAGE Publications.