This paper describes an evaluation of the quality and utility of synchronous online interviewing for data collection in social network research. Synchronous online interviews facilitated by Instant Messenger as the communication medium, were undertaken with ten final year university students. Quantitative and qualitative content analysis of respondent and researcher evaluation of the quality and utility of IM indicated that IM was an integral part of student university life and also an excellent and innovative communication platform; a potential advancement for research interviewing. IM was subsequently compared with face-to-face communication in terms of gains and losses for research interviewing. The efficacy of the method of online interviewing using IM in this context is discussed.


Synchronous Online Interviewing, Instant Messenger, Social Support Networks, Virtual Networks, and Content Analysis


The authors would like to acknowledge their gratitude to the Economic and Social Research Council for their generous funding and the respondents who took part, without their contribution this study would not have been. In addition, the second author’s inspiration to utilise Instant Messenger as the communication platform for the online interviews, facilitated this study in being ‘innovative’. They would also like to express their gratitude to Kevin, for his time and expert technical advice.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
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