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      Prospectus for the Ph.D. in Information Studies




    An analysis of social interactions in
     online hea...
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Table of Contents
Abstract ............................................................................................
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Abstract
Internet users are becoming increasingly social in their online information behavior, as shown by a
growin...
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Prospectus

  1. 1. 1  Prospectus for the Ph.D. in Information Studies An analysis of social interactions in online health social networking Drexel University College of Information Science and Technology Katherine Chuang September xx, 2010  
  2. 2. 2  Table of Contents Abstract .................................................................................................................................................. 3  Introduction ............................................................................................................................................ 4  Motivation .............................................................................................................................................. 4  Research Question(s) .......................................................................................................................... 6  Purpose of Study................................................................................................................................. 7  Review of the Literature ........................................................................................................................ 8  Section 1: Online Social Support ....................................................................................................... 8  Social Support Types ...................................................................................................................... 9  Levels of social supports ............................................................................................................... 10  Support in Online Health Communities ........................................................................................ 12  Section 2: Features in Text-Based Online Communication Tools ................................................... 13  Summary of text-based social media communication tools .......................................................... 13  Factors in Tool Selection .............................................................................................................. 14  Characteristics of Textual Social Media ....................................................................................... 15  Section 3: Social Interaction Patterns in Health Communication .................................................... 16  Measuring with Social Network Analysis .................................................................................... 18  Patterns of Interactions ................................................................................................................. 21  . Social roles in online health community ....................................................................................... 22  Conclusion ........................................................................................................................................ 23  References ............................................................................................................................................ 23   
  3. 3. 3  Abstract Internet users are becoming increasingly social in their online information behavior, as shown by a growing trend of social media adoption. The motivation for this research comes from an increasing need to understand the patterns of social interactions online, especially of e-patients using the internet as a health resource. For example, e-patients participate in online health communities that are similar to face- to-face peer support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous. Studying these websites is important for health informatics research because studies have demonstrated that support groups can have a positive impact on quality of life, decision making by patients, and improved health outcomes. Participation in online support groups is important for patients, as it leads to a sense of empowerment. Social networking in the health context has grown in popularity recently due to their advantage in allowing patients to play a more informed role in their own healthcare by gathering and sharing health information outside of their doctor’s office (Kielstra, 2009). Patients and/or their caregivers often turn to the internet to seek support, especially those with limited local resources. E-patients use social networking platforms to teach each other about conditions and treatments (Civan & Pratt, 2007). It has been predicted that social networking sites will increase in popularity because of the growing number of users adopting social media and spending time to socialize online. Some tools they use for these activities include the popular text-based communication mediums Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace. In these environments, people are able to work together as a group (i.e. raise breast cancer awareness), share advice and reviews with each other, or offer words of encouragement. Previous studies identified different types of social support (i.e. informational support, emotional support) in online support groups, looking at areas of shared patient expertise, identifying types of interactions that facilitate social support exchanges among group members, and comparing online empathy with offline empathy. This study will be different from previous studies because it will seek to understand the mechanism of technology that facilitates social support exchanges. The findings will be of value to those who design and evaluate online intervention programs. This research would help (1) health professionals (and their IT system analysts) who are designing and implementing online intervention programs using social media technologies, (2) researchers studying social support as a behavior change technique in a virtual environment, and (3) inform policy makers who determine practice guidelines. The outcome of this study can contribute to improving online intervention programs by targeting specific functions of social network sites.  

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