Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Online Interviews

Today I have been reading more in depth about conducting interviews online, and I was quite happy to discover that some of the protocols I used based on my common sense as a researcher are supported by what I am reading.  The purpose of today's post is to share what I am learning about online interviews.

As with most interactions online, there are two types of interviews: asynchronous and synchronous.  The most common example of asynchronous interviews online are email exchanges.  The easiest example of synchronous interviews online to image are Skype or Google Hangout meetings, although web conferences are used more in research.

When I decided to incorporate online methodologies into my study, I imagined the synchronous interviews as the main source of data collection.  This imagination came from taking several qualitative research courses and applying traditional face-to-face protocols to online research.  Although I planned to use emails to help establish rapport and set up the synchronous interviews, I did not think about relying more on emails to collect my interview data...until today.

Looking at my interview questions, there are a few that would be difficult to answer spontaneously in a synchronous interview.  My respondents would answer better if they were given more time to think through their response, and the response itself would be quite lengthy, or so I hope.  I had intended on reserving those few questions for email, but I plan to revisit my research questions to analyze which ones do not call for synchronous interviews.

I still want to do synchronous interviews because my topic covers a lot of fuzzy concepts that I want to be able to clarify for my respondents, and I also want them to clarify their thoughts and opinions as well.  I feel that emails would be a bit pestering if I asked them to clarify, and then to elaborate, and then to elaborate more.  My pilot data has shown me that a few respondents prefer to give short answers, especially in the beginning of the interview.

One of the bigger surprises in the reading was to discover that I was on the right track with building rapport.  To help my respondents in the pilot study become more comfortable with me, I shared my professional website with them to let them know who I am and that I was legitimate in that I was who I said I was, a PhD candidate collecting data for his dissertation.  In addition to that, the literature said I should also make myself more personable or easier to relate to.  In one way, I am in that my teaching experience is similar to my participants' experience and we've lived in the same cultural context in terms of national borders.  The literature further states that the researcher should share family information, which is something that I used to have on my professional site, but I took it off because I'm applying for jobs now and that doesn't seem appropriate.

Based on my pilot study, I feel that conducting online interviews comes natural to me.  And I hope that I can contribute to the social sciences by sharing my experiences and findings from this and future research.  I feel that acquiring these research skills adds to my value as a researcher in addition to the knowledge gained from answering my research questions.

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