My Doctoral Dissertation
I completed my PhD research under the supervision of Dr. Brian Detlor at the DeGroote School of Business, McMaster University. The title of my doctoral dissertation was “Socio-Technical Determinants of Member Participation in Virtual Communities: An Exploratory Mixed Methods Investigation”.
My Ph.D. thesis won the Best Doctoral Thesis Award (2010-2011) conferred by the German Society for Online Research (DGOF).
My research comprised an investigation of socio-technical factors that impact member participation in virtual communities. As part of my research, I explored interactive social spaces that facilitate information exchange and social interaction among participating members. The formal abstract of my doctoral dissertation is provided herewith:
The recent unprecedented growth of virtual communities on the Internet has provided an impetus for researchers and practitioners to investigate factors that facilitate or encumber member participation in these communities. As interactive online spaces, virtual communities have the potential to enable high levels of information sharing, communication and social interactions among their members. Despite the crucial realization that engaging and involving members constitutes a fundamental requirement for successful and thriving virtual communities, research done to date to study the factors affecting member participation behavior is still in its infancy. The goal of this study is to identify and ascertain the sociological and technological factors for enhancing and sustaining member participation in virtual communities. Toward this objective, the study utilizes an exploratory mixed methods research design to collect and analyze qualitative and quantitative data from members of various social, professional and commercial virtual communities.
Qualitative data for the empirical investigation was gathered through online focus groups and open-ended questionnaires. Using principles and procedures associated with grounded theory methodology, this study presents an emergent theory characterizing the member engagement process as an underlying phenomenon integrating various socio-technical factors that influence member participation behavior. The subsequent phase of quantitative investigation deliberates the testing of salient theoretical constructs and relational propositions from the emergent theory. Exploratory factor analysis and structural equation modeling techniques were used to estimate a structural model of relationships among socio-technical determinants of member participation in virtual communities. The quantitative results provide a strong substantiation of the qualitative findings through triangulation and elaboration of the constructs and their interrelationships in the emergent theory.
The key findings from this study emphasize the role of factors such as information quality, member responsiveness, member trustworthiness, and perceived enjoyment in determining continued and active participation in virtual communities. The findings also illustrate the salience of perceived satisfaction and sense of virtual community in predicting members’ participation. Based on these findings, this study offers theoretical implications and suggestions for future research, as well as guiding principles and actionable recommendations for virtual community practitioners.