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Interviews in social science: Is it OK to do them online?


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Hey guys,

I have a question about conducting interviews through video or voice calls in social science (qualitative) research.

My friend from another department did one interview through Skype video chat because the interviewee resided in a different country. However the supervisor told her to do do another one and explained that in social science interviews should always be conducted face to face.

It is less effort from the student to conduct interviews online compared to when they are done through face to face interactions and for that reason only the final grade of the thesis will be lower.  My project is with tourists travelling to my current place of residence so 5 out of 6 of them that I contacted in advance did not have time to meet me in person before they left. I think doing the interviews online would help me a lot but with the experience of my friend I am reluctant. I haven't spoken with my supervisors as I would like to get more information from students of different universities and regions to back myself up when I do. 

Do you have any similar experiences? I'd love to hear about them.  Thanks!




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  • 2 weeks later...

I've seen researchers use online surveys for their qualitative research. I think you just need to justify the reasons why you're choosing that path. No research is perfect. Maybe someone else could jump in with more details, but it's definitely something I have seen other scholars and grad students do. 

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I'm working on my senior undergrad thesis and did all my interviews over skype or phone, its gonna be really dependent on the question imo. Are you looking to take field notes on how they move or react in real time, or how they showed up to the interview? Or are you just concerned with what they're saying and not as much on their physical presence? 

Either that or this professor is just old school, the data I have is still rich and works to answer my question and imo didn't take much away from my data

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Yeah I can see reasons why in-person is better (e.g., you can capture interactional details in person, such as facial expression & gesture that may be relevant to your analysis). Plus, sometimes people just respond better to an in-person interview. However, I've conducted many phone interviews due to distance of participants, and though it may sometimes be more prone to false-starts and overlapping speech, in my experience it hasn't been bad enough to ban that sort of data collection.

Edited by Levon3
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