The ongoing pandemic has impacted all activities. The academic world is also facing specific changes and challenges. Education has gone online. Researchers are striving to conduct research activities in settings and ways that are different from the formats in which they were initially conceived. Research interviews have gone remote. As academicians conduct online interviews to collect data for qualitative research, they can rely on research transcription agencies to get them documented.
Qualitative research interviews focus on examining the attitudes, opinions, beliefs, and experiences of study participants. The interview method will differ depending on the number of participants, the spatial and temporal conditions, the research goals, and traits of the respondents. While face-to-face interviews are the preferred method, today, social distancing has made electronic interviews a valuable research tool. There are two remote interview methods – synchronous and asynchronous – which can also be used simultaneously.
Synchronous interviews are conducted real-time. The main synchronous approaches are videoconferencing, text-based online chat, and instant messenger protocols. In asynchronous interviews, the interviewer and respondent interact at different times via email, bulletin boards, and social media networks. Online interviews such as focus group interviews and one-on-one interviews can be conducted as both synchronous (real-time) and asynchronous (non-real-time).
Remote interviews for research offer many advantages:
- They overcome the challenges posed by geographical boundaries, time and cost. Interviews can be conducted with people anywhere in the world from the interviewer’s computer. The costs associated with conducting physical interviews are eliminated.
- Flexibility is one of the biggest benefits of online interviews. They can be conducted at a time that is convenient to both the interviewer and respondent, which can increase participation.
- Both synchronous and asynchronous methods can used to conduct focus group interviews as well as one-on-one interviews.
- Remote interviews are a great option for people with restricted mobility and people who cannot read and write. All they need to participate is a computer with an internet connection and the necessary software.
- Pew Research notes that web surveys allow researchers to use various multimedia elements, such as make participants view videos, or listen to audio clips, which are not available to other survey modes.
- Video interviews allow the interviewer to analyze respondents’ non-verbal cues such as facial expressions and body language. This can provide valuable insights to the researcher.
- It is generally found that online interviews boost engagement. Studies report that respondents felt more able to discuss sensitive issues in an online setting than in a face-to-face interview (www.restore.ac.uk).
- With online qualitative data collection tools, the time-frame for fieldwork is shorter.
However, despite these benefits, the success of remote interviews depends on access to high-speed internet and participants’ digital literacy and familiarity with using the technology and software. Also, virtual interviews cannot replace face to face interactions. Nevertheless, given the call for social distancing during the pandemic, electronic interviews are a feasible alternative to collect data for qualitative research.
Top Online Tools for Qualitative Research
- Skype: Widely used for online synchronous interviews, Skype facilitates both audio and video interviewing. It is user-friendly and comes with a wide range of features and functionalities.
- LiveMinds: This tool is an exceptional qualitative research platform for conducting one-to-one or group conversations and task-based activities. It comes with multilingual capabilities and features text, video, images or audio stimulus for the participants. Researchers can use its tools for real-time and offline analysis.
- FocusVision: With comprehensive survey software, online community monitoring, online focus groups, live video, FocusVision offers advanced surveys and reporting for qualitative and quantitative research. Its ‘InterVu’ tool is designed for focus groups. As Video Streaming groups are recorded, they can be reviewed them.
- itracks: itracks comes with multiple capabilities for qualitative research such as: telephone, robust flash-free video platform, text-based online focus groups in real-time with polling and rich media capabilities, video chat, and integrated online and mobile discussion groups with video capabilities.
- VisionsLive: This tool conducts online focus groups and interviews on its ‘V+ Platform’. Participants can use its bulletin boards to send their feedback at a time suitable to them. Moderators can conduct text or visual webcam discussions with participants. Participants in a study can engage in real online social interactions including fluid conversations and liking and sharing images and videos.
Downloading these discussions and getting them transcribed by a digital transcription service provider can ensure accurate and timely text documents for qualitative analysis.