(It's been a while since I've posted, so let me quickly reintroduce myself: I'm @hogg 's significant other. A tattoo collector, not an artist. Also, I'm an American historian -- a.k.a. an academic.)
Perhaps we're all being a little hard on @SailorClaire because she is a self-identified academic. But those of us in that world are not all the same; we've all had different training, and we approach our research, our subjects, our writing, and our instruction from various perspectives and with various levels of discipline and care.
With that said, @SailorClaire, you may have exposed yourself as the academic equivalent of a scratcher.
Your heart seems to be in the right place, and you offered some evidence of background research (albiet too little, too late). But I'd agree with others who have questioned the time constraints on the project and asked whether it isn't ultimately "lazy" to mine internet forums for a sociological study like this. It's an amateur approach rather than a forward-thinking one. As you continue with your graduate work, read more, practice more, you'll certainly be able to better recognize the difference.
Interviewing people as research subjects is a delicate undertaking, which should be obvious considering all the legalese in the paperwork you'll need to submit with your thesis. But paperwork aside, engaging in this kind of first-person research requires better training, a greater sensitivity to your subject matter, an awareness of how you will be perceived by your interviewees, far more reading, and a great deal of practice honing your methodology -- especially your skills as an interviewer, a writer, and a student of your "topic of choice."
If you really do want to make an impact in your field, the research process (and ultimately your writing) can't be rushed. Cutting corners may get you your master's degree, but it won't make you a respected scholar in the field and certainly not within the tattoo world.
I'm sure the tattoo artists on the board can appreciate the value of these kinds of missteps along the way. Best lessons.