Health research on transgender people has been hampered by the challenges inherent in studying a hard-to-reach, relatively small, and geographically dispersed population. The Internet has the potential to facilitate access to transgender samples large enough to permit examination of the diversity and syndemic health disparities found among this population. In this article, we describe the experiences of a team of investigators using the Internet to study HIV risk behaviors of transgender people in the United States. We developed an online instrument, recruited participants exclusively via websites frequented by members of the target population, and collected data using online quantitative survey and qualitative synchronous and asynchronous interview methods. Our experiences indicate that the Internet environment presents the investigator with some unique challenges and that commonly expressed criticisms about Internet research (e.g., lack of generalizable samples, invalid study participants, and multiple participation by the same subject) can be overcome with careful method design, usability testing, and pilot testing. The importance of both usability and pilot testing are described with respect to participant engagement and retention and the quality of data obtained online.
- Internet research