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Email interviewing: generating data with a vulnerable population


C. Cook:


cook c. (2012) Email interviewing: generating data with a vulnerable population. Journal of Advanced Nursing68(6), 1330–1339.


Aims.  This paper describes online recruitment and the email interviewing data collection method with women diagnosed with a viral sexually transmitted infection. The paper highlights the advantages of the method to researchers and participants when conducting research where face-to-face participation may difficult.

Background.  Online recruitment and in-depth email interviewing have been used by only a small number of nurses internationally. The method enables inclusion of people who might otherwise be excluded from research, for reasons such as geographical distance, incompatible time frames, clinicians’‘gate-keeping’ and participants’ desire for anonymity for physical or emotional reasons.

Methods.  In-depth email interviews were conducted with 26 women in New Zealand, United States of America, Canada and England who had a diagnosis of either human papilloma virus or genital herpes simplex virus. Data were collected during 2007–2008 and analysed using a poststructuralist, feminist thematic analysis.

Results.  Participant retention was high. Women emphasized satisfaction with the process. Asynchronous interviews allowed for additional reflexivity in the researcher’s responses and rich data generation.

Conclusion.  This method has the potential to enable nurses to include vulnerable and relatively inaccessible participants in ‘sensitive’ research. In-depth email interviews may generate rich data through a process participants deem to be of personal value.