Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Email Interviews

I have learned an interesting detail about conducting asynchronous online interviews.  Last year, I read through the literature on online interviews to learn that the most common method of asynchronous online interviews was via email.  Many studies have used this approach to collect all or some of their interview data.  However, the Internal Review Board at the University of Iowa acknowledges that email is not a secure method of data collection.  Therefore I run the risk of losing confidentiality through this process.  The literature also mentions this risk; nonetheless, the researchers were able to conduct email interviews.  However, the IRB does not advise this method, and I am not too surprised.  Although I agree that email is not the most secure method of collecting interview data, the risk is not much lower with other methods.  And the University of Iowa's IRB is known to be more cautious than most others.  The main issue here is not contacting participants or sending them questions via email; it is the receipt of written responses.  It is my responsibility to provide my participants with a secure method of answering my interview questions.

My alternative plan is to use a web survey software program supported by the University of Iowa.  This program is widely used by researchers, so I assume that IRB will find this a safer alternative to email.  Although this plan will consume a little bit more of my time, I will be building research skills associated with the utility of web survey software programs.  Perhaps it will end up saving me time at the end of the data collection process.  The lesson I learned is that even though most of the literature reports mostly positive results of a certain data collection method, it may no longer or may not be the safest or best possible way.

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