• computer-mediated communication;
  • email;
  • Internet;
  • nursing research

Aim.  The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of the issues we have confronted when generating and analysing dialogue data by using electronic mail.

Background.  The decision to use email for our research arose from our developing understanding of some of the consequences of illness that people living with chronic illness confront in their lives. As researchers, we recognized the potential of the Internet for computer-mediated communication using email for communication between researchers and research participants.

Discussion.  We consider the functional aspects of generating data by email, such as the software needed, and then explore the issues encountered during the research process including ethical considerations, fluctuating participation, participants’ familiarity with using email, facilitating lurkers towards participation, establishing group norms, and the role of the facilitator.

Conclusion.  As a collaborative inquiry, email conversation allowed us to spend time with participants over 2 years to explore chronic illness experience. However the scope and viability of computer-mediated communication as a qualitative method of research remains relatively unexplored, hence this paper.