University of Illinois at Chicago
Hershberger & Kavanaugh_pre-proof for UIC_11-1-2017.pdf (81.76 kB)

Comparing Appropriateness and Equivalence of Email Interviews to Phone Interviews in Qualitative Research on Reproductive Decisions

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journal contribution
posted on 2018-06-19, 00:00 authored by Patricia E. Hershberger, Karen Kavanaugh
BACKGROUND: Despite an increasing use of qualitative email interviews by nurse researchers, there is little understanding about the appropriateness and equivalence of email interviews to other qualitative data collection methods, especially on sensitive topics research. PURPOSE: The purpose is to describe our procedures for completing asynchronous, email interviews and to evaluate the appropriateness and equivalency of email interviews to phone interviews in two qualitative research studies that examined reproductive decisions. METHODS: Content analysis guided the methodological appraisal of appropriateness and equivalency of in-depth, asynchronous email interviews to single phone interviews. Appropriateness was determined by: (a) participants' willingness to engage in email or phone interviews, (b) completing data collection in a timely period, and (c) participants' satisfaction with the interview. Equivalency was evaluated by: (a) completeness of the interview data, and (b) insight obtained from the data. RESULTS: Of the combined sample in the two studies (N=71), 31% of participants chose to participate via an email interview over a phone interview. The time needed to complete the email interviews averaged 27 to 28days and the number of investigator probe-participant response interchanges was 4 to 5cycles on average. In contrast, the phone interviews averaged 59 to 61min in duration. Most participants in both the email and phone interviews reported they were satisfied or very satisfied with their ability to express their true feelings throughout the interview. Regarding equivalence, 100% of the email and phone interviews provided insight into decision processes. Although insightful, two of the email and one phone interview had short answers or, at times, underdeveloped responses. Participants' quotes and behaviors cited within four published articles, a novel evaluation of equivalency, revealed that 20% to 37.5% of the citations about decision processes were from email participants, which is consistent with the percent of email participants. CONCLUSIONS: In-depth, asynchronous email interviews were appropriate and garnered rich, insightful data that augmented the phone interviews. Awareness of the procedures, appropriateness, and nuances when carrying out email interviews on sensitive topics may provide nurse researchers with the ability to obtain thick, rich data that can best advance clinical practice and direct future research.


Support for this research was provided by the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Office of Research on Women's Health (K12 HD055892), National Institute of Nursing Research (R03 NR010351 & P30 NR010680) and the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Nursing Dean’s Fund



Hershberger, P. E. and Kavanaugh, K. Comparing appropriateness and equivalence of email interviews to phone interviews in qualitative research on reproductive decisions. Applied Nursing Research. 2017. 37: 50-54. 10.1016/j.apnr.2017.07.005.




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