This paper is a response to scholars who have called for exploring and interrogating new strategies of data collection and new approaches to more traditional methods, such as interviewing in the context of the internet. Drawing on feminist standpoint theory, ‘reflexive email interviewing’ is proposed as a method for feminist research. The method is illustrated using a recent case study of email interviews with self-identified women who are members of World Pulse, an online community that aims to unite and amplify women’s voices worldwide. Through this case study, issues of power and resistance in the researcher/researched relationship and of participant reflexivity are interrogated. Lastly, criteria for reflexive email interviewing are proposed, including 1) strategies to interrogate and disrupt power hierarchies within the research process, 2) researcher reflexivity as a continuous part of the research process, and 3) continued invitations for participants to directly reflect on and respond to the research process. Reflexive questions are offered for researchers to use during research design and in each phase of their research process to ensure reflexivity is achieved.
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Following Daniels (2009), the use of ‘self-identified women’ in this paper is an attempt to acknowledge and account for the contestation of ‘woman’ as a category and to move beyond essentialising uses that dictate who counts as ‘women’ and what ‘women’ experience. Our usage here is then also an attempt to include queer and transgender women within our notion of ‘women’. It is with recognition of the complexities and differences among variously positioned self-identified women that the terms ‘women’ or ‘woman’ are used in this paper.
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Question Set #1: Voice
For this question set, I would like you to think about one of the first times you felt that you had a voice online.
Please tell me the story of this early experience. What were you doing? How did this experience make you feel?
What early experiences online helped you to ‘find’ your voice? In other words, what paved the way for this experience?
Follow-ups to Set #1
It seems like your experience with [specific details] was particularly impactful for you. What specific experiences with [name of website] or other websites would you say have been the most influential in shaping or developing your distinctive voice online? How so? For example, was there a specific writing that you did that you feel was particularly influential or response you got?
What drives you to continue expressing your voice online?
What (if any) other aspects have been influential in the development of your voice? (if needed for further prompting)
Question Set #2: Being Heard
For this question set, I would like you to think about a time when you felt you had been ‘ heard’ online.
Please describe this experience of being heard. What happened? How did this experience make you feel?
What specifically gave you the feeling that you had been heard?
Example follow-ups to Set #2
What do you think is necessary in order for you to feel heard online? For instance, is it enough just to put something you wrote out there or what do you need in order to feel heard?
How important is being heard to you? In other words, what does it mean to be heard?
Question Set #3: Empowerment
For this question set, I would like you to think about a time you felt empowered while (i.e. before, during, and/or after) creating content online.
First, what does empowerment mean to you?
Please tell me about this time that you felt empowered online. What were you doing? How did this experience make you feel?
Example follow-ups to Set #3
Are there any other ways you feel these experiences have had lasting impacts on your life, outlook or actions? How so?
Also, has creating content online ever inspired you to take action on behalf of yourself or others?
Question Set #4: Challenges
For this question set, I would like you to think about a time you experienced challenges or barriers to expressing your voice online.
Tell me about those challenges. What did that experience entail? How did it make you feel?
If you have overcome these challenges, how did you do so?
If these challenges are ongoing, how do you deal with them? What do you need to be able to overcome these challenges?
Example follow-ups to Set #4
Aside from these experiences, have you ever felt disempowered or discouraged by your experiences online in any way? If so, please share about these experiences.
Are there any other risks you feel you face in using your voice online?
Question Set #5: Reflection
I’ve provided all of your interview responses together at the bottom of this email. For this final question set, I invite you to read back through your interview responses and reflect on this experience.
What have you learned about yourself and your experiences online through this process?
What sticks out to you as most important about your experiences online based on your responses? Another way to think about this might be, what are maybe one or two things you think people should learn or reflect on from your experiences?
After reflecting on your experiences, what do feel that you need, if anything, to be able to fully express your voice online?
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Example follow-ups to Set #5
Do you have any questions for me now that the interview is complete?
Would you be interested in participating in a review of the findings?
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Cite this article
Linabary, J.R., Hamel, S.A. feminist online interviewing: engaging issues of power, resistance and reflexivity in practice. Fem Rev 115, 97–113 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41305-017-0041-3
- feminist methodology
- online interviewing
- qualitative methods