Methods and analysis In workstream 1, we will conduct a realist synthesis, based on existing literature and interviews with approximately 20 stakeholders, to generate initial programme theories about the impacts of forums on members and moderators and mechanisms driving these. Initial theories that are relevant for forum design and implementation will be prioritised for testing in workstream 2.
Workstream 2 is a multiple case study design with mixed methods with several online mental health forums differing in contextual features. Quantitative surveys of forum members, qualitative interviews and Corpus-based Discourse Analysis and Natural Language Processing of forum posts will be used to test and refine programme theories. Final programme theories will be developed through novel triangulation of the data.
Workstream 3 will run alongside workstreams 1 and 2. Key stakeholders from participating forums, including members and moderators, will be recruited to a Codesign group. They will inform the study design and materials, refine and prioritise theories, and codesign best policy and practice guidance.
Ethics and dissemination Ethical approval was granted by Solihull Research Ethics Committee (IRAS 314029). Findings will be reported in accordance with RAMESES (Realist And MEta-narrative Evidence Syntheses: Evolving Standards) guidelines, published as open access and shared widely, along with codesigned tools.
Trial registration number ISRCTN 62469166; the protocol for the realist synthesis in workstream one is prospectively registered at PROSPERO CRD42022352528.
- HEALTH ECONOMICS
- MENTAL HEALTH
- Patient Participation
- QUALITATIVE RESEARCH