Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Health and Rehabilitation Sciences


Andrew M. Johnson


Background: A growing number of health research projects are employing crowdsourcing as part of their methods, leveraging it to inform everything from study design to participant recruitment to data collection and analysis. Therefore, greater understanding of how crowdsourcing is being used and how it can be applied in the research contexts warrants further exploration. Purpose: The purpose of this dissertation was to explore crowdsourcing as a means of research inquiry, and to locate it amidst research paradigms; understand how crowdsourcing in research is used in practice; and, create a framework, and guidelines, for researchers using crowdsourcing in their research. Research Questions: The following research questions were posed: a) What are the core principles and philosophies of crowdsourcing as a research paradigm? b) How and why are researchers using crowdsourcing? c) How are researchers addressing the basic characteristic of crowdsourcing in research studies? d) How could researcher address the basic characteristics of crowdsourcing in research studies? Methodology: To answer the first question, the ontology, epistemology, methodology and axiology of crowdsourcing as a research paradigm was explored. An observational study then analyzed 227 publically available research projects on a crowdsourcing website. Finally, a modified Delphi technique was used to determine whether there was a consensus among 18 experts regarding the use of crowdsourcing for the purposes of research. Based on these studies, a conceptual framework for crowdsourcing research studies emerged. Findings: The core principles and philosophies of crowdsourcing resemble those of the participatory paradigm. Crowdsourcing is being used primarily as a method for participant recruitment, data collection and analysis. The most plausible framework for the application of crowdsourcing in studies is based on the research paradigm which in turn defines the roles of the crowd. The role of the crowd defined in generally acceptable research terms (i.e. participant, data collection, analysis, study design etc.) makes it feasible to align the role with the research paradigms to define the crowd as subjects or participants, citizen scientists, or co-researchers. Implications: These findings suggest that crowdsourcing as a method should align with the research paradigm within which it is being applied. Implications for future research are discussed.