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Online interviews and focus groups

The guidance outlines the ethical considerations of conducting online interviews and provides information to help you comply to data protection regulations.

Using Microsoft Teams for research interviews

The University recommends using Microsoft Teams for research interviews as it is compliant with Data Protection legislation. Teams can be downloaded onto computers and mobile devises, or it can be accessed via any web browser.

Please do not use the University's Zoom account for participant interviews, as this is intended for online teaching only.

DDAT provides general guidance on using Teams. To use Teams to conduct an online interview or focus group, you will need to create a meeting in your University outlook calendar and invite your participants to this using their email addresses. You can find instructions for how to do this on the Microsoft webpages here.

If you have concerns that Teams does not meet your requirements, please contact DDAT via the Self Service Portal before seeking alternative solutions.

Focus groups and participant confidentiality

If you are conducting an online focus group (via Microsoft Teams), you should be aware that group members are likely to be able to see the names, and possibly faces, of other participants in the group. If participants join as ‘guests’, they will be asked to provide their name when they join the meeting so you can ask them to only use first names or a pseudonym if appropriate.

However, if participants join via their own Teams account (either a personal or work account), they may be unable to change their displayed name. Participants should be made aware of this in the participant information materials given to them at the start of the study, and their specific permission for this should be obtained via the informed consent process [link to informed consent page when ready].

Recording interviews and focus groups

If you wish to record your online interview/focus group, you must ensure that this has been covered in your ethics application and this information has been provided to participants in their participant information materials.

If you are using video so that you and your participant(s) can see each other, please be aware that Teams will automatically record video at the same time as audio. It is not possible to only record audio using Teams. You can still use Teams to record your interview, but this should be clearly explained in your participant information and consent materials. If obtaining video recordings, you would also need to class the data as ‘highly restricted’ and ensure that encryption is applied to the recordings, even if no identifiable information is discussed verbally.

If you do not wish to include video in your recording, the suggested approach is to use a Dictaphone on your desk to capture audio only, rather than recording via Teams. If using an internet-connected mobile device (e.g., smartphone or tablet) to record audio, you must ensure the device does not automatically back-up to a server or cloud system that breaches data protection legislation. You can also ask your participant to turn off their camera during the interview, but you may wish to consider the potential impact of this on communication.

Confidentiality of research participants

To conduct interviews and focus groups online, you will need to obtain participants’ email addresses. These must be stored securely alongside other contact information to protect participants’ identifiable data.

You should also consider how you name interviews in your Outlook Calendar to protect participants’ identities. The name of the meeting will also be used as the name of the recording in Teams. You can find further guidance and examples of how to name files (including audio recordings of interviews) via the Library Research Data Service webpages here.

Please note that if your research participant is a member of the University of Bath, they will also be able to start their own Microsoft Teams recording of the interview. At the start of the interview, you must inform the participant that they should not start their own recording of the interview, particularly if you do not have ethical approval to create interview recordings.


There is a Transcription feature available through Microsoft Teams, but researchers should be aware that it may not be entirely accurate as some words can be misunderstood.


When using Microsoft Teams to collect participant data, researchers should not assume that all participants will have access to the required digital means in terms of devices, data, and privacy. Whilst this is particularly relevant for socioeconomically vulnerable participants, given the shift to remote working and learning, even households that are well-equipped can face increasing demands on digital resources such as equipment and internet connectivity.

Researchers should also be mindful of ethical considerations regarding participants’ privacy during remote interviews. For example, finding a space to be alone, quiet, and not overheard may be more difficult to achieve for certain households.

Guidance on conducting and supervising community-oriented psychology research during COVID-19, available online here, Graber, R., & Graber, R. (2020).

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