• Qualitative Data from a Postal Questionnaire: questioning the presumption of the value of presence

      Beckett-Wrighton, Clare; Clegg, S. (2007)
      There is a common assumption that a postal questionnaire is an inappropriate research instrument for collecting rich qualitative data. In this article we challenge this and argue that in some circumstances such instruments can be used to yield rich thick descriptions of the kind normally associated with interviewing. We give the example of research into lesbian identities. Our experience led us to question what we call the epistemology of presence and the assumption that presence guarantees authenticity. We also suggest that the ethics of the face-to-face encounter may be different from those occurring at a distance. We conclude by arguing that researchers should be more open to the possibilities that postal questionnaires may be capable of generating authentic qualitative data, and that interviewing should be an explicit choice not the default position in qualitative research.