Connecting with reality: Adapting qualitative research strategies to technology savvy adolescents

Connecting with reality: Adapting qualitative research strategies to technology savvy adolescents


Mason, D. M. and Ide, B.






Nurse Researcher 21(5),  pp. 40-45.


Royal College of Nursing Publishing Company


Aim To adapt research strategies involving adolescents in a grounded theory qualitative research study by conducting email rather than face-to-face interviews.

Background Adolescent culture relies heavily on text-based communication and teens prefer interactions mediated through technology. Traditional qualitative research strategies need to be rethought when working with adolescents. Adapting interviewing strategies to electronic environments is timely and relevant for researching adolescents.

Data sources Twenty three adolescents (aged 16-21) were interviewed by email. A letter of invitation was distributed. Potential participants emailed the researcher to convey interest in participating. If the inclusion criteria were met, email interviews were initiated. Participants controlled the interviews through their rate of response to interview questions.

Review methods A grounded theory methodology was employed. Initial contact with participants reiterated confidentiality and the ability to withdraw from the study at any time. Interviews began with the collection of demographic information and a broad opening based on a semi-structured interview guide. All data were permissible, including text, photos, music, videos or outside media, for example YouTube. The participant was allowed to give direction to the interview after initial questions were posed. Email interviews continued until saturation was reached in the data.

Discussion Participants were enthusiastic about email interviewing. Attrition did not occur. Email interviewing gave participants more control over the research, decreased power differentials between the adolescent and researcher, allowed the study to be adapted to cultural, linguistic and developmental needs, and maintained confidentiality.

Conclusion As participants said that email communication was slow and they preferred instant messaging, replication in faster-paced media is recommended. Repetition in face-to-face settings is warranted to evaluate how technology may have influenced the findings.


22 January 2015



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Dr. Deanna Marie Mason

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