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  • 00:00


  • 00:14

    MARY GOWIN: Thank you so much for being here today.My name is Mary Gowin.And I'm an assistant professor in the Hudsoncollege of Public Health.And I serve as the director of the primary care health policydivision in the College of medicine.Both at the University of Oklahoma health SciencesCenter.I'm a qualitative researcher who worksat the intersection of primary care and public health.I have always been interested in qualitative research.

  • 00:36

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: Because it allows us to delve into the complexitiesof health.In a way that we just simply can't dowith a survey or questionnaire.In particular, I love interviews.They're my absolute favorite thingto do for a number of reasons.So reason number 1 why I love interviewsis because they're an incredibly rich source of data.Because we're asking open ended questions.

  • 00:56

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: So imagine how you would respond to these following twoquestions.Have you ever experienced stress in your educational journey?Versus tell me about a few times that you'veexperienced stress during your educational journey?The first question really gives youthe option to discuss examples.But it also allows you to say just yes or no.

  • 01:18

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: So reason number 2 why absolutelylove doing interviews.Is you really get to connect with the participant in a waythat you just don't get to with other types of research.So think about it.When was the last time someone sat down in front of you,and asked you questions?About what you think.About what you believe.About what you feel.About your experiences in life.

  • 01:40

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: What was the last time that happened for you?Maybe never.Probably not that often.So when you do a qualitative interview.That's what you're doing.You're sitting in front of a person.And saying your voice is valuableand your experiences are valid.And you're essentially validating them.And so what I often find is that.

  • 02:01

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: Participants open up and tell me thingsthat they may not even tell their family and friends.Because I'm this attentive audience and I want to know.And it's really just an incredible way.For us to truly understand our populations and our patientsexperiences from their point of view.And it helps us to design interventions.

  • 02:23

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: And to design other research that really gets at what'sreally driving health.And what's really influencing the health of the peoplethat we're trying to serve.So reason number 3 that I absolutelylove interviews and qualitative research in general.Is because it gives us a chance to tell people's storiesin their own words.

  • 02:43

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: It gives voice to populations and patientsthat we serve in a meaningful and respectful way.And we have to acknowledge that this hasn't alwaysbeen done in the past.And so it's especially important with the populationsthat we serve in public health.And it can be incredibly valuable and importantto public health and medical researchers.

  • 03:04

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: Because we get to gain that in-depth understandingof the experiences that our patients and our populationsare having.And if we understand those experiences.Then we can understand their health behaviors.And the varying influences on those health behaviors.And that helps us to better serve them.Because it helps us to identify intervention points

  • 03:25

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: and barriers to care.That we may not have seen because we didn't hear itfrom their own voice.I became interested in online interviewing several years ago.Primarily because it removes many of the constraintsthat we have with traditional in-person interviews.And now due to COVID-19, online qualitative researchhas become really a necessity rather than a choice.

  • 03:45

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: There's really been some debate in the community overwhether or not online interviews areequivalent to in-person interactions.But quite a few researchers have determined that online videoconference interviewing.Is really an appropriate alternativeto in-person interviewing.In my personal experience.I have found that online interviewingis convenient, cost effective.And it provides us extended access to participants.

  • 04:09

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: So I want to break down those three key points.And talk a little bit more about those in depth.So in terms of convenience.Online interviewing can truly be moreconvenient for both the researchersand the participants.And so I want to tell you a little bitabout what I typically do for an in-person interview.And-- and provide some contrast with online interviews.So to conduct an in-person interview.

  • 04:31

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: I need to find a time and a location that works for bothmyself and the participant.Since we typically don't interview peoplein private spaces such as homes.And this is to ensure their privacy and our safety.I need to find a public location that's both convenient for meand the person.But also quite enough for the interview to be recorded.

  • 04:52

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: Once those arrangements are made.Then I would need to factor in transportationto the interview, equipment set up time.And I need to account for a little timeto chat with the participant.And get to know them and build some rapport.Before we jump into the consent processand the actual interview.Most of the interviews that I do are somewherebetween 45 and 60 minutes long.

  • 05:14

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: Then the participant usually has some questions.And then I issue an incentive if I'm providing one.After the participant leaves, I stillhave to do some paperwork.I have to break down my equipment.And then I have to get back to my office or to my homedepending upon the time.So all in all conducting 160 minute interview.Can sometimes take between three and four hours of your day.

  • 05:35

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: Not to mention the time and energythat you spend setting that meeting up.Scheduling back and forth with emails, texts and callswith the participants.In contrast, online interviewing eliminatesmany of these time consuming components of the process.Which makes it more convenient for not only you,but also for the participant.For example, there's no need for a public location.

  • 05:56

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: There's no travel time for the interviewer or the participant.And there's little to no set up or breakdown timesince with online interviews.We can record using our computer.Or the software that we're using to conduct the interview.Additionally with online interviews.Privacy concerns are reduced due to the factthat the interview can be conducted in a private space.And safety concerns are eliminated

  • 06:16

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: since the interviewer and the participantaren't meeting in person.This also means the interviews canbe conducted at times that are the most convenientfor the participant.Which can be really important for recruitinggood participants into your study.So for example, since the time is more flexible.I might interview someone from a different time zone at 4:00

  • 06:37

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: AM my time because that's convenient for them.Or I might have somebody who works nights.Who wants to do an interview at 11:00 PM.Which I could go ahead and do.But I wouldn't have done if it was an in-person interview.Another great benefit of online interviewingis that it can be very cost effective.As I've already discussed transportation is eliminated.

  • 06:58

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: Which saves you and the participant moneyin those costs.Additionally, the need for expensive recording equipmentis reduced.Because most computers come with recording devicesalready installed.And free online software such as Zoom, Google, Hangout,Skype, and Webex can also be usedto conduct secure interviews.And you can record that way.

  • 07:19

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: The money that you save can trulybe used to do more recruitment.Or to provide incentives to your participants.Which can really increase your ability to recruit participantsinto your study.Key point number 3, and probably the most important aspectof online interviewing.Is that it provides us opportunitiesto access a more diverse participant pool.So it's like fishing in a lake versus an ocean.

  • 07:40

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: In the ocean you have more fish in general and more typesof fish.And this means more chances of catching a fish.And more chances of catching different types of fish.With online interviews it's like fishing in the ocean.We can recruit and interview participantsfrom basically anywhere in the world.And this can strengthen our work.And help us better understand the people that we serve.

  • 08:02

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: So for example, when I conduct interviews.I'm looking for what we call typical cases.Which just basically means that wewant to understand the experiences of a typical personin our population of Interest.When we're able to recruit a diverse set of participants.And we identify themes in our research.And those themes are coming from diverse voices.

  • 08:25

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: But they're saying the same thing.That strengthens our research.That lends credibility to what we're saying.Additionally online interviewing canhelp us ensure that we're interviewing the people wesaid we wanted to interview.So for example, if I say I'm goingto interview young adults between the ages of 18 to 24.But I only end up interviewing young adult college students

  • 08:47

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: from my University.Then I've left out college studentsfrom other universities.And I've left out young adults who didn't go to college.Which means that my research may notbe as useful as it would have beenif I'd have been able to interview the populationthat I said I wanted to.So I personally believe that online interviewsare convenient, cost effective.And can really strengthen our researchthrough allowing us to expand our participant pool.

  • 09:09

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: And recruit more diverse participants.However, before choosing to conduct online interviewsfor your research.There are really some practical considerationsthat you have to consider.So let's talk a little bit about someof those practical considerations.And maybe some of the challenges of conductingonline interviews.So practical consideration number 1 is,are you comfortable doing online interviews?

  • 09:32

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: The first question that you reallywant to ask yourself if you're considering online interviews.Is whether or not you as an interviewerwould be comfortable conducting an interview online.If you can't be comfortable doing it.Then that means that the participants are notgoing to be comfortable either.And we really don't want that to happen.Because we already maybe have to work a little

  • 09:52

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: bit harder with online interviewsto develop that rapport with our participant.So we don't want to have you being uncomfortable.And then them not being able to settle in and becomfortable with the interview as well.Really important question to ask yourselfbefore you ever even start thinkingabout online interviews.Is are you comfortable being online and interviewingsomebody for research?

  • 10:14

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: And if you aren't there's still options for you.Could practice make it a little bit easier.Because you can practice.You can get with your colleagues and-- or your peersand practice a little bit.Or is there somebody on your teamthat maybe is more comfortable that could takeon that role in the research?And then you could do something else with the research.But really, really important and vital to the process being

  • 10:36

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: a success is you being comfortableas an online interviewer.Project consideration number 2.Is this type of interview really appropriatefor the participants that you want to interview?Not everyone is comfortable with online interactions.Or familiar with video conferencing technology.We've definitely rapidly advanced our comfort

  • 10:58

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: with video conferencing technology because of COVID-19.But there are still plenty of peopleof all ages and backgrounds.Who would just much rather prefer to meet in personand not do an online interview.For example, if you're interviewingpeople who are 65 and older.There's a good chance that they are comfortable.But there's a pretty good chance that they aren't.

  • 11:19

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: And you don't want to take the risk of eliminatingpart of your sample.Because of the way that you designed your study.Additionally, you have to consider whether or notyour potential participants are likely to havereliable internet connection.Or even access to a computer or a smartphonewhere they could do a videoconferencing interview.So for example, if you're interviewing a mostlyrural population.

  • 11:40

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: You may be dealing with participantswho have unreliable internet.Or you may experience a situationwhere you have a lot of interest from participantswho don't have access to a computer or a smartphoneto do the video interview.So you have to take this into consideration.So you definitely want to make surethat you do your due diligence.In determining whether or not online interviews are

  • 12:02

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: the appropriate technique for your participants.Because at the end of the day, it's really all about them.So if you aren't sure.If online interviews are the rightfit for your participants.Find someone to ask.Find someone from that--that potential population.And just ask them.Would you do this?Does this work?

  • 12:23

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: What are your recommendations?Or talk to a colleague who works with this population a lot.And ask them their thoughts.They may have some guidance that could helpyou design an online interview.That would work when you thought it wouldn't.Or they may tell you, hey, that's probably notgoing to work.And it's better to know that up front.Ultimately, if you're a little bitunsure about whether or not online interviews

  • 12:45

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: are the right fit.Be prepared to pivot back to in-person interviewsif they're not working out.Practical consideration number 3.What will you do if you have technology issues?OK so not everyone has reliable technologyand/or internet connection.And even when we do.That doesn't mean things always go as planned.

  • 13:06

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: If you're going to conduct online interviews.Then you have to be prepared for the factthat technology isn't always going to work with us.We've all likely been in a meeting or in a classwhere technology wasn't working.And we know that frustration.And even if you haven't.Then you can probably imagine the frustrationthat people feel when that's the situation.

  • 13:27

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: And we definitely don't want our participantsto feel that frustration.Because they might get so frustratedthat they decide to drop out of the study.And we just absolutely don't want that to happen.Because once we get a participant to agree.That's half the battle.And so we don't want to lose that participant becauseof things that are outside of our control.So you want to have a plan for how

  • 13:48

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: to deal with technology issues.Because they're going to come up.So some really important things to considerare, testing your equipment beforehand.And asking your participant to test theirs as well.Also having written troubleshooting instructionscan be really helpful.Especially if you're not able to connect with the participant.But maybe you can send them the written instructions

  • 14:08

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: and they can practice through.Also building extra time into the interview schedulecan be really important.Because if you have technology issues.You don't want to run the risk of having to in the interviewearly.Because technology issues slowed you down.So just have a plan for technology to go wrongbecause it will.

  • 14:28

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: So practical consideration number 4.What are the ethical issues that you need to address?All research has ethical implicationsthat we must acknowledge and address if possible.Online interviewing is absolutely no different.For example, it's challenging to guarantee privacyin a public space when conductingan in-person interview.

  • 14:49

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: But the participant can see who's around just like you can.With online interviews participantshave no idea who may be in the room.And you have no idea who may be in the room with them.It's important to be upfront with participantsabout what the expectations are for the interview.And provide them with appropriate assurancesof what they can expect from you as well.

  • 15:11

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: That may even mean taking your cameraand moving it around the room.So that they can see no one's in the room with you.If that makes them feel better do it.Another example of an ethical considerationrelates to recording.When we conduct in-person interviews.We typically only record audio.This allows the participant more privacy.Because we're not showing their face.

  • 15:31

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: We're just having their voice.But when I conduct an online interview.Even though I have the option of recording with video.I only record with audio.Because I want to give that participant as much privacyas I possibly can.So I also tell the participant.This up front and put it in the consent form.We'll also have to consider the differences between online data

  • 15:53

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: collection and storage versus having a recordingon a portable device.And having a plan of how you're going tostore it on a secure computer.Having a really good data safety plan with online interviewsis very important because of the risk of being hacked.So that's something that many participants will actuallyask you.And you want to be able to answer those questions

  • 16:14

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: and assure them that you have a plan in place.You should be very clear when you explain to them.How you plan to store and use the data.And make sure that they understand that they're trulya partner in the process by being as transparent as youpossibly can.So practical consideration number 5.

  • 16:34

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: Is will your institution support online research?So do to COVID-19 we've seen a rapid shift in using technologyfor business, research, and education.And quite frankly, even in our institution for medical care.However, this doesn't always mean that your institutionis prepared.Or ready to support online research.You should be prepared to justify

  • 16:56

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: the reasons for conducting your interviews online.Even though we've talked about all the benefits.That doesn't mean that your institutionis going to agree that those are benefits.So be prepared to really justify why online interviews areappropriate for your study.You also need to be ready to discussthose ethical considerations, such as privacy and security

  • 17:16

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: of online interviews.And be prepared to have a plan in place in writingfor your institution.Also if you're going to provide incentives.Then you need to know where your University standson electronic incentives.It's actually a problem we run into a lot.Because it's much more difficult to manageelectronic incentives.And so a lot of universities don't like to do that.

  • 17:36

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: You want to just make sure that the institution ison board for everything you've planned to do.Because you want to be able to tell the participants whatyou're going to do.And actually follow up and do exactly that.So you want to be able to give them your word.And know that your word is going to be backed upby your actions.So ultimately when you're thinkingabout doing online interviews.

  • 17:56

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: You definitely want to make sure that they'rea good fit for you.But you really want to make sure that they'rea good fit for your participants.And you want to make sure that your institution isgoing to support them.And that you have all the proper protocols in place to make surethat they're a success.So to sum up what we've talked about today.Online interviews can truly be convenient for everyone

  • 18:20

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: involved.They can be more cost effective than traditional interviews.And they allow us access to a widerrange of people, which can really strengthen our findings.And it can also bring more diverse voicesto our qualitative inquiry.However before you decide to do online interviews.You really want to think about whether or not they'rethe best fit for your research.

  • 18:41

    MARY GOWIN [continued]: Your participant population and for your institution.[MUSIC PLAYING]


Mary Gowin, Assistant Professor, Hudson College of Public Health, Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, discusses conducting online interviews in health research, including key points, interview types, technological issues, and ethical considerations.

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Conducting Online Interviews in Health Research

Mary Gowin, Assistant Professor, Hudson College of Public Health, Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, discusses conducting online interviews in health research, including key points, interview types, technological issues, and ethical considerations.

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