Is there a bias against telephone interviews in qualitative research?


  • The author gratefully acknowledges Margaret Grey, Dr. PH, RN, FAAN and Lois Sadler, PhD, APRN-BC, PNP for their advice and many helpful suggestions for developing and editing earlier versions of this manuscript. Additionally, the author wishes to acknowledge the support of NIH/NINR grants T32NR008346 and F31NR009911 as well as funding from a March of Dimes Graduate Nursing Scholarship.


Telephone interviews are largely neglected in the qualitative research literature and, when discussed, they are often depicted as a less attractive alternative to face-to-face interviewing. The absence of visual cues via telephone is thought to result in loss of contextual and nonverbal data and to compromise rapport, probing, and interpretation of responses. Yet, telephones may allow respondents to feel relaxed and able to disclose sensitive information, and evidence is lacking that they produce lower quality data. This apparent bias against telephone interviews contrasts with a growing interest in electronic qualitative interviews. Research is needed comparing these modalities, and examining their impact on data quality and their use for studying varying topics and populations. Such studies could contribute evidence-based guidelines for optimizing interview data. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Res Nurs Health 31:391–398, 2008