Ivett Ayodele is an undergraduate student at the University of Salford studying BSc (Hons) Psychology and Counselling. She tweets as @ivettayo and @salfordpcy1 and blogs here.
I have accepted the challenge to review Qualitative Online Interviews by Dr Janet Salmons (2015) because I believe that as part of the next generation of psychologists, it is a great opportunity to familiarise myself with the emerging methods of online interviews, which will surely become popular in the future. It is also a great chance to extend my knowledge of qualitative methods generally, while writing this post helps to develop my academic writing skills. My task is to give a student perspective on the book since a lecturer’s perspective has already been explored (see here).
Qualitative Online Interviews by Dr Janet Salmons (2015) guides researchers and students through the process of extending their research into various online settings and it gives guidance on ethical issues that can arise during online interviews. As the author puts it, “the purpose of Qualitative Online Interviews is to encourage researchers to extend the reach of their studies by using methods that defy geographic boundaries” (Salmons, 2015, p. xviii). The book is structured around the E-Interview Framework, a conceptual system which helps to understand interrelationships between the key elements of Online Interviews and aids the process of decision making throughout the research design.
As a first year undergraduate student, I have had the opportunity to learn extensively about quantitative research methods; however Qualitative Online Interviews by Dr Janet Salmons (2015) gave me the opportunity to extend my growing knowledge of qualitative methods. This learning journey ‘forced’ me to develop a complex picture of research methods and now I have a better understanding of both quantitative and qualitative methods; while the benefits of mixed methods became crystal clear to me.
Qualitative Online Interviews (Salmons, 2015) gives a deep insight into specific ethical issues surrounding online interviews. The author took the typical ethical issues of research, such as informed consent or confidentiality, and placed them at the heart of online interviews. For example Dr Janet Salmons draws attention to the possible flaws in data protection in an online setting by pointing out that some companies who own the platform, where the data is stored, might not have adequate protection against unauthorized access.
The cover and the design of the book reminded me of my old school books; however I found that the simple design helped me to focus more on the text, rather than on the pictures and tables. I found this useful, especially as I was learning new concepts. For example, taking a position as an insider (EMIC) or outsider (ETIC) researcher was a new concept which helped me to appreciate the possible design flaws of a qualitative study, as well as the richness of it, compared to a quantitative study.
The detailed content page and the organization of the book helps the reader to find exactly what they are looking for; yet I found that this book works for me best if I read it first from cover to cover.
I found the Researcher’s Notebook section and Discussions and Assignments at end of each chapter very helpful. The Researcher’s Notebook section encouraged me to think about each concept as a practical issue and therefore made it easier to understand and relate concepts to research methods. For example in Chapter 3 -Choosing Online Data Collection Method and Taking a Position as a Researcher- Salmons (2015) explains the main ideas of the chapter through her previous studies, which made these concepts to come “alive”.
The Discussion and Assignment section facilitate further learning by raising some questions in regards to each concept. For example in Chapter 9 (Preparing for an Online Interview), Salmons (2015) talks about the importance of Epoche –“ to approach each interview with clear and fresh perspective”- subsequently the Discussion and Assignments part encourages students/researchers to talk/think through the Epoche concept and raises the question, what could be done to clear our mind before an online interview?
The accompanying website is not as user friendly as I would like, however once I found my way around it, I felt that it is a great way to extend the learning experience for students. The website contains of a general resources and a student resources part.
The general resources section offers materials such as course outline with suggested assignments, learning activities, worksheets and media pieces. They are great for academics for planning a course or seminar on qualitative online interviews and they are also useful for students who want to build on their knowledge outside the classroom. The student resource part is broken down into the chapters of the book. In each chapter students can find the definitions of new terms on e-Flashcards, which is a great learning tool. Students can choose whether they would like to see the term or the definition of the term and learn new terminology while they are having fun!
Qualitative Online Interviews by Dr Janet Salmons has not only extended my knowledge about qualitative methods and online interviews but it also deepened my knowledge about ethical issues during online and off-line research. I would recommend this book to any undergraduate student and if someone chooses to conduct online research for their dissertation, I believe that this book is a must have!