Conducting Empirical Research in 3D Virtual Worlds: Experiences from two projects in Second Life

Shailey Minocha, Minh Tran, Ahmad John Reeves


At The Open University in the UK, we have conducted empirical qualitative research in Second Life, a 3D virtual world. The first project is in the education domain in which we are investigating the designs of learning spaces in Second Life, while the second project is related to shopping and consumer behaviour of users in Second Life. In this paper, we discuss our experiences of conducting empirical research in 3D virtual worlds with a specific focus on the following aspects: ethical norms, real-world and virtual identities, privacy of the participants, communication modalities (voice, text and use of gestures), logistics of conducting user-based studies, and skills and training needs of researchers. Although our experiences are based on conducting empirical research in Second Life, we hope that our experiences and discussions in this paper will also be useful for researchers who aim to conduct research in avatar-based 3D virtual worlds other than Second Life.


3D learning spaces; 3D virtual worlds; communication modalities; consumer behaviour; empirical research; ethical guidelines for 3D research; Second Life; virtual identity; virtual world researcher.

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