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In the room where it happens: in-person or remote data collection in qualitative research?
  1. Jane Wray1,
  2. David Barrett2
  1. 1 Nursing, University of Hull, Hull, UK
  2. 2 Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Hull, Hull, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jane Wray, Nursing, University of Hull, Hull, UK; j.wray{at}

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Qualitative research is founded on the collection of rich data through methods such as one-to-one interviews and focus groups, and usually with all parties together in the same place (referred to thereafter as the ‘in-person’ approach). However, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, access to health and social care settings has been restricted and many researchers have been subjected to ‘work-at-home’ orders. Consequently, there has been a rapid transition to many interactions and meetings taking place remotely, using technologies such as videoconferencing platforms. This has impacted substantially on opportunities for in-person data collection. But has the pandemic damaged the ability to gather rich qualitative data, or has it served as a catalyst for more effective, efficient and pragmatic approach to qualitative data collection? In this paper, we explore the arguments for and against remote data collection in qualitative research, focusing specifically on the use of the telephone and Video-mediated communication .

Data collection in qualitative studies

One-to-one interviews or focus groups allow researchers to gather detailed data regarding participants’ opinions, perspectives or experiences about a research topic. Approaches will vary from study to study, with some interactions very structured and researcher guided, while others are much more flexible and participant led. The positioning of interviews and focus groups on this ‘structural spectrum’1 will depend on the skills of the researcher, characteristics of the research question and underpinning methodology. However, regardless of the approach and tools used, traditionally data have been gathered through the research and participant(s) being colocated (‘in-person’).

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.