The idea of conducting qualitative research interviews by way of asynchronous email messaging seems almost quaint by online research standards. The non-stop evolution of online platforms, that are increasingly loaded with snazzy features that equip the researcher with many of the advantages to face-to-face interviews (e.g., presenting storyboards or new product ideas, and interactivity between interviewer and interviewee), has driven the Web-based solution way beyond the email method and constitutes an important mode option in qualitative research.
The email interview, however, has been taken up by qualitative researchers in various disciplines – most notably, social work, health sciences, and education – with great success. For example, Judith McCoyd and Toba Kerson report on a study that was ‘serendipitously’ conducted primarily by way of email (although face-to-face and telephone were other mode possibilities). These researchers found that not only did participants in the study – women who had terminated pregnancy after diagnosis of a fetal anomaly – prefer the email mode (they actually requested to be interviewed via email) but they were prone to give the researchers long, emotional yet thoughtful responses to interview questions. McCoyd and Kerson state that email responses were typically 3-8 pages longer than what they obtained from similar face-to-face interviews and 6-12 pages longer than a comparable telephone interview. The sensitivity of the subject matter and the sense of privacy afforded by the communication channel contributed to an outpouring of rich details relevant to the research objectives. Cheryl Tatano Beck in nursing, as well as Kaye Stacey and Jill Vincent who researched professors of mathematics, and others have reported similar results.
Research professionals in sociology, medicine, and education who are utilizing the email approach clearly offer lessons of import to all qualitative researchers. While many Read Full Text