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The telephone medium and semi‐structured interviews: a complementary fit

Moira Cachia (Department of Psychology, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK)
Lynne Millward (Department of Psychology, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK)

Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management

ISSN: 1746-5648

Article publication date: 15 November 2011




The telephone has been widely used to conduct quantitative research in diverse fields of study, generally using survey methodology. However, comparatively very few qualitative studies opt for this means of data collection. The purpose of this paper is to argue in favour of a medium that has generally been second‐rated in qualitative research. It aims at establishing telephone interviews as an equally viable option to other established methods of qualitative data collection.


This paper is informed by the authors’ experience of using this method, as well as the limited number of previous research articles presented on the topic. It discusses its specific strengths and limitations, drawing on a conducted longitudinal study to illustrate key points. Its application to particular qualitative analysis methods, in view of the acknowledged requirements for each of these approaches, is also presented.


Telephone conversations naturally follow an agenda‐driven format that is initiated by the caller, similar to semi‐structured interviews. The authors propose that the telephone medium and interview modality are complementary. Also, the interview transcripts provide rich textual data that can subsequently be analysed using a range of qualitative data analysis methods.


Focus is placed on the methodological strengths of using telephone interviews in qualitative research, rather than convenience factors which have been the most featured element in previous literature. The paper aims at informing researchers who want to consider using the telephone medium for qualitative data collection and analysis.



Cachia, M. and Millward, L. (2011), "The telephone medium and semi‐structured interviews: a complementary fit", Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, Vol. 6 No. 3, pp. 265-277.



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