This article evaluates the use of the popular Mobile Messaging App (MMA) WhatsApp as a way to conduct qualitative research with geographically dispersed samples. Through the use of a case study of Latino expat-wives around the globe, we show how traditional methods of qualitative interviewing were adapted and evolved through the use of this application. Findings suggest that WhatsApp is a valuable tool for conducting qualitative research with specific advantages over other MMAs and VoIPs due to its familiarity amongst the target group and its flexible blending of video, audio, and written forms of communication. Particularly its use on smartphones led to interactions that went beyond regular face-to-face interviews, thus allowing us access normally only gained in ethnography studies. While this can be a gain in terms of building rapport and increase the depth of data collection, it also brings new challenges in terms of ensuring data quality, interpreting non-verbal cues and ensuring high ethical standards.


WhatsApp, asynchronous interviews, digital ethnography, geographically dispersed samples, online qualitative research

Author Bio(s)

Rocio Bueno-Roldan is currently a PhD candidate of Sociology at Philipps-Universität Marburg, in Cotutelle with the University of Barcelona. Please direct correspondence to buenorol@staff.uni-marburg.de.

Prof. Dr. Antje Röder is currently Professor for Empirical Social Research at Philipps-Universität Marburg. Please direct correspondence to roeder@staff.uni-marburg.de.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
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