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Web Survey Bibliography

Title Use of the Internet as a data collection tool: a methodological investigation of online synchronous interviews
Year 2008
Access date 04.06.2009

Background  Online synchronous interviews are conducted in “real time” using online venues such as chat rooms or MUDs, or by means of messaging or conferencing software. This paper examines the pros and cons of collecting qualitative data using online synchronous chat.

Methods Follow-up interviews were conducted with gay men who had already taken part in the Internet and HIV study, a study of high risk sexual behaviour among gay and bisexual men in London. Between July and September 2003, 31 gay men living in London were interviewed one-to-one for the Internet and HIV study by an experienced qualitative researcher (MD). MD conducted online synchronous interviews with 17 men and face-to-face (traditional) interviews with 14 men. AE then conducted follow-up interviews with 6 of the 17 online interviewees and 5 of the 14 face-to-face interviewees. The follow-up interviews were conducted in the same mode as the first interview. They were designed to explore the interviewees’ experience of their earlier Internet and HIV interview. All online synchronous interviews (both original, with MD and follow-up, with AE) took place in “private chats” between the interviewer and interviewee which could not be accessed by other people.

Results Online synchronous interviews appear to be suited to a more quantitative, structured format in order to reduce respondent burden, given the extra demands of typing in real time. The use of such interviews increases turnaround time through production of an instant transcript and the opportunity for respondents to slot their online interviews into other arrangements. This requires a flexible approach from the interviewer who also needs experience with online chat in order to adapt to the respondent’s style of communicating.

Conclusions Online synchronous interviews may be used in conjunction with or as a cost-effective supplement to face-to-face interviews. They may, for example, provide a cheap method for scoping out issues for future research or a tool for the rapid generation of data as part of a grounded theory approach, whereby data are collected from a variety of sources until emerging categories are saturated.

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Year of publication2008
Bibliographic typeConferences, workshops, tutorials, presentations
Full text availabilityAvailable on request

Web survey bibliography - 7th International Conference on Social Science Methodology (23)