It is possible to carry out your interview online rather than in person. Careful consideration will have to be given to whether this method is suitable for your research. One of the most important distinctions in online communication is between synchronous and asynchronous communication. You can see from the glossary definitions that carrying out interviews using asynchronous communication techniques such as email is unlikely to be appropriate for any interviewing techniques that require contextual responses or further probing from the interviewer in real time. As such, asynchronous techniques tend to be limited to techniques such as structured interview, that border on being questionnaires.
Synchronous techniques such as chat rooms and messaging software enable communication via text in real time. Also, there are now increasingly accessible methods for synchronous communication that enable the interviewer and interviewee to see each other and thereby to facilitate some visual interaction. These include online conferencing techniques or the use of webcams with instant messaging software. There are, of course, pros and cons to using online technologies for interviewing, including:
- Saving money, e.g. travel costs or hiring a location.
- In cases where the questions and answers are captured in text, there could be savings on transcription costs.
- Interviewees and interviewers can be widely dispersed geographically.
- Both interviewee and interviewer can be more flexible regarding dates and times of meetings.
- It can be more difficult to verify the identities of the interviewer and interviewee.
- Using online technologies may require significant technological competence from both the interviewer and interviewee.
- Maintaining the interviewee's motivation and interest can be more difficult online than face to face, if the technique used does not enable each party to see the other.
A more in-depth consideration of the above advantages and disadvantages is available externally at this University of Leicestersite. It also includes consideration of sampling, representativeness and design issues.
You may also find the following article by Bampton and Cowton (2002) of interest. It considers the implications of using e-interviewing on research: Bampton, R., and Cowton, C., (2002) The E-Interview. Forum: Qualitative Social Research. 3:2.