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© The Author(s) 2020. Advocates of online alternatives to face-to-face interviewing suggest online approaches save money and time, whereas others have raised concerns about the quality and content of the resulting data. These issues affect researchers designing and costing their studies and application reviewers and research funders. We conducted a scoping review of English language articles describing the range of online alternative approaches. Furthermore, we systematically identified studies directly comparing online alternatives with face-to-face approaches. Synthesis of these 11 articles (565 participants) suggests that online alternatives should not be viewed as a straightforward replacement for face-to-face, a particularly important finding given the rapid communication changes occurring in the COVID-19 pandemic. When applied with consideration of the evolving evidence on their strengths and weaknesses, online methods may increase the likelihood of obtaining the desired sample, but responses are shorter, less contextual information is obtained, and relational satisfaction and consensus development are lower.

Original publication




Journal article


Qualitative Health Research

Publication Date





2092 - 2102