Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Ethical and Methodological Issues Resulting from Recording Lapses in Qualitative Research

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Ethical and Methodological Issues Resulting from Recording Lapses in Qualitative Research

Article excerpt

In recent decades, qualitative research aligned with constructivist-interpretivist and critical theory paradigms has gained popularity and relevancy within psychology and the social sciences. A shift in the way data is collected has accompanied this methodological paradigm shift. The in-depth interview is the most common form of data collection for qualitative research (Creswell, 2013). Prior to advancements in technology, qualitative data was collected through face-to-face interviews, and in many ways, this continues to be the preferred method of data collection (Cater, 2011). However, through advancements in technology over the past two decades, participant interviews are no longer restricted by geographic location or financial constraints (Hooley, Wellens, & Marriott, 2012). Video chat platforms (e.g., Skype, FaceTime, Video calls through Gmail) have allowed for an experience similar to face-to-face interviews, previously only available in person. Applications on cell phones, tablets, and computers have modernized the recording of audio and video, largely improving the quality of the audio/video file and making the storage and transcription process more convenient (Janghorban, Roudsari, & Taghipour, 2014).

Technology-related complications have developed in tandem with these technological advancements, leading to additional ethical and methodological issues to consider when confronted with these obstacles. These include dropped calls and inaudible segments (see Seitz, 2016). In this brief report, we outline some common technology-related ethical and methodological challenges of the qualitative researcher through case examples and offer our thoughts about how such challenges impact us as researchers, our participants, and our research process and product. We shift our rhetorical structure to the first person.

Case Example: Researcher One

I (first author) began my first qualitative research project exploring the experience of transracial Korean adoptees and their sense of identity and belonging. My data collection entailed conducting in-depth interviews with Korean adoptees. The in-person interviews were recorded using my iPhone 4s and the recording application iTalk. Forty minutes into my fourth interview, my phone battery died without my knowing. My heart sank when I realized I had lost 50 minutes of the 90-minute interview. Not only was I not prepared for this, as it was my first qualitative research study, but I also had no idea what the most appropriate and ethically sound steps were. Should I share this with the participant, who had just shared her life and adoption story, filled with many moments of pain and loss? How would she react? Would this data no longer be useful? Should I ask her if she would be willing to meet with me again to redo the parts of the interview that had been lost? Would the interview be the same the second time around given that we had already gone through the participant's adoption story? Would we be able to pick up right where we left off?

I ultimately decided to inform the participant what had happened shortly after our interview concluded. She seemed sad to hear the news but graciously offered to meet with me again to redo the portion of the interview that we had lost. We ended up meeting again two days later. I was cognizant of the possibility that the interview could veer off in other directions and was unsure of what that would mean for the analysis and the quality of my study.

The content of the second interview was nearly identical. For many adoptees, sharing their life story may be a new experience. For this participant, however, it was clear that this was a narrative she had shared before and put significant time and effort into constructing. She was able to pick up almost exactly where we had left off.

The second time I experienced technological difficulties and the accompanying ethical issues was during the interview with my eleventh participant. …

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