The E-interview: A digital, asynchronous data collection in schools

Year: 2009

Author: MacNeill, Neil, Cavanagh, Rob, Reynolds, Peter

Type of paper: Refereed paper

The qualitative interview is a time-consuming process, and in school environments it has become more difficult to obtain quality interview time with school administrators and teachers due to an increasing number of organisational factors. The impact of New Public Management, with its emphasis on managerialist concepts of efficiency, has changed the nature of schools in the past two decades, making the use of time an accountable variable for school administration. For the qualitative interviewer, asynchronous internet and other digital communication technologies offer solutions to both the temporal and methodological issues faced by researchers, when all parties are digitally connected.

A key issue for the researcher during any interview is the problem of how best to represent the respondents' responses. In the audio recording of interviews there is a temptation for the researcher to write an authentic representation of the colloquial speech of respondents. While it can be argued that this is a true account of what was said, it may demean the respondents. An advantage of the e-interview is that both parties can review the written (emailed) text as it passes back and forth between the interviewer and interviewee, and make corrections if they are needed. Additionally, the spell check and grammar check alert respondents to errors in their responses.

It is argued that when dealing with literate respondents, in purposive samples, the e-interview facilitates more considered, valid responses to the questions in the interview process.

Key words: e-interview, qualitative research, interviewing, school-based research.