Social researchers can hardly afford to ignore the Internet, as it has become an intrinsic part of everyday life. This new site of social interactions is begging to be researched and explored. At the same time it can be a moral minefield and a quality control nightmare even for researchers skilled in established methods. Virtual Methods offers a detailed exploration of the problems and opportunities surrounding Internet-based research. Can offline and online observations be combined? Are online interviews able to produce high quality data? How does a researcher sort through the vast mass of material available? From hyperlink analysis to the sex industry online, case studies sensitively highlight the difficulties researchers face, point out the opportunities to be seized, and offer practical solutions. Virtual Methods provides concrete advice for all stages of the research process. Anyone planning a research project involving the Internet will find this book an essential guide.