Comparing Skype (video calling) and in-person qualitative interview modes in a study of people with irritable bowel syndrome – an exploratory comparative analysis

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Within qualitative research in-person interviews have the reputation for being the highest standard of interviewer-participant encounter. However, there are other approaches to interviewing such as telephone and e-mail, which may be appropriate for a variety of reasons such as cost, time and privacy. Although there has been much discussion of the relative values of different interview methods, little research has been conducted to assess what differentiates them using quantifiable measures. None of this research has addressed the video call, which is the interview mode most like the in-person interview. This study uses quantifiable measures generated by the interview to explore the relative value of in-person and video call interview modes.

Interview data gathered by a qualitative research study exploring the views of people with IBS about hypnotherapy for their condition were used. In-person and video call interviews using the same topic guide were compared on measures of length (time and word count), proportion of time the interviewer was dominant, the number of topics generated (codes) and the number of individual statements on which those topics were based.

Both interview methods produced a similar number of words and a similar number of topics (codes) were discussed, however the number of statements upon which the variety of topics was based was notably larger for the in-person interviews.

These findings suggest that in in-person study interviews were marginally superior to video calls in that interviewees said more, although this was on a similar range of topics. However, the difference is sufficiently modest that time and budget constraints may justify the use of some video call interviews within a qualitative research study.


Original languageEnglish
Article number219
Number of pages9
JournalBMC Medical Research Methodology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2019


  • qualitative research, qualitative methodology, internet interviews, Skype, data collection, mode comparison