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Design features for online communities

Study level


Master of Philosophy


Faculty/Lead unit

Science and Engineering Faculty

School of Information Systems

Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


Dr Jason Watson
Senior Lecturer
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty


What design features are best suited to support peer to peer interactions within online communities?

What types of interactions are desirable for specific contexts, and how can support for these interactions be realised through design?

What do extant theories tell us about user behaviour and about the design of online communities?

What are the commonly occurring problems, and which general reusable solutions or patterns can be developed to optimise online community design?

This research will investigate and optimise design approaches to building online communities and posit a framework to assist developers with commonly occurring problems in specific contexts.

Research activities

In this project you will be required to conduct theoretical and systems research into social technology, online communities, and their various stakeholders.

The research activities will employ multiple methods to understand meanings, look at, describe and understand experience, ideas, beliefs and values of stakeholders.

You will be required to conduct a literature review and then employ empirical methods such as focus groups, survey, interviews, etc.

You may also be required to research existing online communities using various techniques such as virtual ethnography, observation, and/or content analysis.

You should be comfortable learning a range of research methodologies. Activities will be configured depending upon the situation and your level of technical ability. Those with technical skills may perform experiments where concepts are tested via a prototype online community.


You will:

  • derive and model the characteristics of social technology platforms (and their users)
  • provide the community with frameworks that explain human behaviour and experience on social platforms that inform our understanding of social technology / online community design, adoption and impact.


You may be able to apply for a research scholarship in our annual scholarship round.

Annual scholarship round



Contact the supervisor for more information.