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Montreal’s Experiences Conducting Virtual Service Provider Interviews
Émilie Cormier & Diandra Serrano
Data collection for the Aging in the Right Place project (funded by CMHC and SSHRC) began in the fall 2020 for all three cities. While some of the planned aspects of data collection, such as site-specific document reviews could go forward as initially conceptualized, others such as the on-site environmental audits and service providers interviews required adaptations due to COVID-related restrictions. In Montreal specifically, where on-site face-to-face interactions were impossible, the team decided to delay the on-site environmental audit and move forward with virtual service provider interviews, which were completed in the early 2021.
While transitioning to an on-line interview platform certainly allowed the team to move forward with data collection, the Montreal team was concerned that the vitural nature of the interviews would challenge the rapport that is critical when conducting qualitative interviews (Gaglio, 2006) and when working to establish collaboration with study sites.
However, much to the team’s surprise, this was not the case. In fact, in keeping with Weller’s observations (2017), the team found that the technology fostered a sense of closeness free of the pressures that can sometimes come when interviewers and participants are together in the practice site. It also appeared to assist with equalizing the balance between those conducting and those participating in the interviews supporting an informal relaxed atmosphere. Even some of the obstacles experienced during the interview process, such as lost internet connections and sound echoing, supported our connections with one another because they forced each of us to listen with renewed attention (Weller, 2017).
Of course, the ease associated with online interviews is partially dependent on the technological comfort of both interviewees and interviewers (Lo Lacono et al., 2016). With telecommunication becoming the norm throughout the pandemic this comfort was certainly present amongst service providers and the research team by the time we embarked on service provider interviews.
As the COVID restrictions in Montreal begin to ease, we look forward to meeting our study partners face to face. In the meantime, we have learnt that good qualitative interviewing can take place virtually. We thank all service providers who participated in this first stage of data collection for their authenticity, flexibility, support and dedication to the project’s aims.
Also check out this video with Hannah Brais from Old Mission Brewery, our partners in Montreal here.
Gaglio, B., Nelson, C. C., & King, D. (2006). The role of rapport: Lessons learned from conducting research in a primary care setting. Qualitative Health Research, 16(5), 723-734.
Lo Lacono, V., Symonds, P., & Brown, D. H. (2016). Skype as a tool for qualitative research interviews. Sociological Research Online, 21(2), 103-117.
Weller, S. (2017). Using internet video calls in qualitative (longitudinal) interviews: Some implications for rapport. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 20(6), 613-625.
Salmons, J. (2014). Qualitative online interviews: Strategies, design, and skills. Sage Publications.