It became necessary to conduct one of my interviews over the telephone, which presented a number of unique challenges, including how to record the interview, not having non-verbal cues and informed consent.
Recording the Interview
Ordinarily I would record my interviews on a Dictaphone with a microphone, which I then transfer to my computer and transcribe. With a telephone conversation, obviously that’s not possible. My solution was to borrow a Nokia mobile phone as this has a record option built into the software, just open the menu when you’re in a call and press ‘Record.’ I’m sure there are third-party applications available for BlackBerry and iPhone, but they don’t appear to support recording natively (although I’m sure you can get apps for it). When you’re recording, both parties hear a discreet beep as a reminder that the call is being recorded. Just make sure you ask permission before you begin recording!
Since I was recording the telephone call, I just quickly read out the main points of the informed consent form, and then asked my respondent to say aloud that they agree to the terms of the form. Simple. I also emailed a blank copy of the informed consent form to my respondent, although I think recording their agreement is enough.
This was much less of a problem than I had anticipated. My respondent was quite animated vocally, and it was clear when a topic was particularly important, or non-essential. Therefore verbal cues seemed to be sufficient. While it’s always easier to ‘read’ someone in person, I don’t think conducting the interview over the phone was a significant disadvantage in this case.
With a bit of prior planning, telephone interviews are completely adequate ways to gather data. They aren’t as ideal as conducting the interview face to face, but they certainly do the job if necessary.