Reviewed By: Lara Briscoe, Dina Doyan, Lydia McClanahan, Nicholas Perilli, Jacqueline Small
Link to article: http://www.informationr.net/ir/21-4/paper729.html
Article Synopsis and Core Research Questions –
This study was conducted to gain a better understanding of the information seeking behaviors of the fastest growing Asian immigrant population in the USA, the Korean American. This study focuses on the information surrounding breast cancer, a leading cause of death and common cancer among women, that is available to Korean Americans through the most widely used website missyUSA.com. This website provides information on a variety of topics. Previous studies had found that online communications provide a better sense of health and well being, especially for immigrants who often feel isolated because of cultural differences and language barriers. The internet provides a supported environment to receive information. The researchers assert that no other study has been conducted using semantic network analysis and content analysis.
The questions that are being studied are “what topics are shared among Korean Americans who seek and share breast cancer information through online forum questions and correlative replies?, what are the most prominent topics among Korean Americans who seek and share breast cancer information online forum questions and correlative replies?, as well as what are the semantic associations between breast cancer questions and correlative replies?” (Park et al. 2016).
Methods used to Answer the Research Q’s –
Data was collected and analyzed using several methods. All the data used in the study was collected from the forum sections of the website MissyUSA. This data consisted of messages and responses relating to breast cancer posted by Korean immigrants on the forums in 2013 and 2014. After sifting through to find the responses that correlated most closely with the discussion of breast cancer—data analysis began.
Per the study, “The collected dataset was analyzed first using content analysis to answer research question one; then semantic network analysis was used to trace the semantic structures of the identified breast cancer related topics for research questions two and three” (Park et al. 2016). The method of content analysis was conducted by human coders using a coding schema to manually analyze questions and responses with the goal of identifying topics.
To reflect the uniqueness of information sharing regarding breast cancer among Korean Americans, researchers modified the coding system through a manual coding process. The content analysis results were then computed and the identified topics were recorded.
The method of semantic network analysis was then employed to examine structural features in terms of behavioral tendencies of Korean Americans who seek and share breast cancer information. Semantic network analysis included measures that were used to “capture the relational properties of the topical networks found in questions and correlative replies and then create a representation through visualization (Park et al. 2016). This allowed the relationships between the data and identified topics to become apparent.
Findings and Conclusions –
Park and Park(2016) found that Korean Americans/Korean immigrants have a critical need for forum discussions to find breast cancer information. Central topics according to the findings were treatment, symptoms, and emotional support. Overwhelmingly, while participants demonstrated a critical need for information regarding breast cancer tests they were primarily considered for diagnosis and treatment, not prevention. In general, because of socio-cultural, language, socio-economic, and geographic barriers, Korean Americans showed low rates of screening, health care and therefore, preventative measures for breast cancer. These factors illuminated patterns of need and concern in the information seeking behavior of participants even though they were not significant to the questions and replies in the forum discussion .
Several topics were not central to discussions, but evidenced strong associations for participant concern. These were issues of finance and insurance. Based on discussion questions, and replies, financial, insurance and other socio-economic factors were determined to impact the level of access to clinical services negatively. Inquiries of free breast cancer screenings indicate an area of concern for Korean Americans suspecting a problem of breast cancer. Lack of health insurance and recent immigrant status present obstacles for some that may need to seek health care services.In concluding, it was determined that in addition to analysis of online communities, more direct communication with Korean Americans is necessary to understand information seeking behavior.
Unanswered Questions/Future Research –
While this study is informative, there are various unanswered questions, which could be considered for further research purposes. For instance, the results of the study do not include those Korean Americans who do not have access to online technology. To reach out to those who do not have access to technology, the study could be completed online and through a tangible survey. Upon completion of both studies, the data could be merged, which would offer more indepth and accurate results. Likewise, although MissyUSA is a popular online community, it is online. One cannot be sure the participants were honest. Even though any survey could have discrepancies and cannot be considered completely accurate, a tangible survey could be an additional portion to the current study. Another variable to be considered to ensure more accuracy is including Korean American men who suffer from breast cancer. For those who lack health insurance, attempts could be made to contact health professionals. Perhaps, they would volunteer their time and credentials to these online health forums. Finally, the study did not state whether or not the participants were offered the research results. Considering providing the data to the participants could play an integral role in prompting Korean Americans to engage in health-care prevention practices.
There was one source that may not have been communicated in the conversations via the MissyUSA.com website but was mentioned in the article. Even though, connecting with other people who are similar to you in culture and language is useful to gain information about breast cancer or other medical concerns, it is always best to have access to experts in the field. While the usage of MissyUSA can be used for socializing about medical concerns, more accurate and reliable resources such as Medline Plus should be consulted. This site provides medical information in various languages, including the Korean language. The information available on this website is free to the public and can answer their questions in their own languages. (Danquah & Wu, 2013, p.244)
Additionally, sources that are available for the uninsured or low-income participants of the online discussion to get low-cost or free screenings came into question. Organizations such as Planned Parenthood a non-profit organization where the services are free or the Susan G. Komen Foundation which offers a Breast Care Helpline or email for more information. These organizations provide information and services to reduce the chances of breast cancer. Information about breast cancer is available, but it is up to the individual to seek it, from various sources. (Park & Park, 2016)
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Park, M.S. & Park, H. (2016). Topical network of breast cancer information in a Korean Americas online community: a semantic network analysis. Information Research, 21(4), paper 729. Retrieved from http://InformationR.net/ir/21-4/paper729.html