Tips for collecting primary data in a Covid-19 era

June 2020
In the remote Brazilian Amazon, broadband enables access to information and collection of data.

In this live repository, we bring together experiences of, and resources for, collecting remote primary data in a Covid-19 era. These materials come from books, journal articles, newspaper articles, blogs and webpages, and include experiences of doing participatory, qualitative and quantitative research, through to ethical issues that may be faced and how to deal with them. This resource will be updated, and will draw on other organisations compiling similar lists. If you know of any useful resources, please send to Fiona Samuels at: [email protected]

Perspectives on doing remote participatory research

AuthorAID (2020) ‘The perks of remote documentation’. Blog. AuthorAID (

Glassman, M. (2019) ‘The internet as a context for participatory action research’ Education and Information Technologies 1–21. [Available via ResearchGate.]

Includovate (2020) ‘Dr. Bikketi on adapting to COVID-19 in Kenya’. Interview blog. Includovate (

Jones, N., Gebeyehu, Y., Gezahegne, K., et al. (2020) ‘Exploring adolescents' experiences and priorities in Ethiopia under covid-19’. Policy Brief. London: GAGE/ODI (

Lupton, D. (ed.) (2020) ‘Doing fieldwork in a pandemic’. Crowd-sourced document (

NVivo (2020) ‘On-demand webinar: COVID-19 and doing virtual fieldwork’. Hosted by Deborah Lupton, supported by NVivo (

Russonello, G. and Lyall, S. (2020) ‘Surprising poll results: people are now happy to pick up the phone’. New York Times, 17 April (

Tamí-Maury, I., Brown, L., Lapham, H. and Chang, S. (2017) ‘Community-based participatory research through virtual communities’ Journal of Communication in Healthcare 10(3): 188–194.

The Freedom Fund (2020) ‘On the frontlines of vulnerability: research in the time of the pandemic’. Webinar. The Freedom Fund (

Tilford, J. (2020) ‘Young lives at work: a revised approach in response to the COVID-19 pandemic’. Blog. Young Lives, Oxford Department of International Development, University of Oxford (

Practical guidance on secondary and remote data collection

Archibald, M., Ambagtsheer, R.C., Casey, M.G. and Lawless, M. (2019) ‘Using Zoom videoconferencing for qualitative data collection: perceptions and experiences of researchers and participants’ International Journal of Qualitative Methods 18 (

Braun, V., Clarke, V. & Gray, D. (eds) (2017) Collecting qualitative data: a practical guide to textual, media and virtual techniques. Cambridge University Press. [Includes coverage of ethical issues.]

Buelo, A., Kirk, A. and Jepson, R. (2020) ‘A novel research method for workshops and co-production of knowledge: using a secret Facebook group’. Research Square (

Busara (2020) ‘Data collection in times of Covid-19'. Webpage. Busara (  

Busara (2020) ‘Guide to conducting online workshops & other trainings. Webpage. Busara ( 

Chaudhuri, T. (2020) ‘Collecting data during COVID-19: how do we address data quality?’. Blog (

Deakin, H. and Wakefield, K. (2014) ‘Skype interviewing: reflections of two PhD researchers’ Qualitative Research 14(5): 603–616 ( [Also relevant for Zoom, WhatsApp, etc.]

Drabble, L., Trocki, K., Salcedo, B., et al. (2016) ‘Conducting qualitative interviews by telephone: lessons learned from a study of alcohol use among sexual minority and heterosexual women’ Qualitative Social Work 15(1): 118–133 (

Etang, A. and Himelein, K. (2020) ‘Monitoring the ebola crisis using mobile phone surveys’. In J. Hoogeveen and U. Pape (eds) Data collection in fragile states. Palgrave Macmillan. (

Fielding, N.G., Lee, R.M. and Blank, G. (eds) (2016) The SAGE handbook of online research methods, 2nd edn. London: Sage.

Hanna, P. (2012) ‘Using internet technologies (such as Skype) as a research medium: a research note’ Qualitative Research 12(2): 239–242 (

Heath, R., Mansuri, G., Rijkers, R., Hutchins Seitz, W. and Sharma, D. (2020) Measuring employment: experimental evidence from urban Ghana. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 9263. World Bank (

Holt, A. (2010) ‘Using the telephone for narrative interviewing: a research note’ Qualitative Research 10(1): 113–121 (

James, N. & Busher, H. (2006) ‘Credibility, authenticity and voice: dilemmas in online interviewing’ Qualitative Research 6(3): 403–420 (

Jowett, A. (2015) ‘A case for using online discussion forums in critical psychological research’ Qualitative Research in Psychology 12(3): 287–297 (

Jowett, A. (2020) 'Carrying out qualitative research under lockdown – Practical and ethical considerations'. LSE blog ( 

Jowett, A., Peel, E. and Shaw, R. (2011) ‘Online interviewing in psychology: reflections on the process’ Qualitative Research in Psychology 8(4): 354–369 (

Kornbluh, M., Neal, J.W. and Ozer, E.J. (2016) ‘Scaling‐up youth‐led social justice efforts through an online school‐based social network’ American Journal of Community Psychology 57(3–4): 266–279 (

Kretschmer, T., Schneider, E., Jechel, L. and Krämer, M. (2020) ‘The overload in Covid-19 resources – navigating the evidence jungle’. DEVAL – German Institute For Development Evaluation ( 

Lloyd, S. & Lorenz, L. (2020) ‘Can I do a photovoice project remotely? Yes, you can!’. Webpage. PhotovoiceWorldwide (

Lo Iacono, V., Symonds, P. and Brown, D.H. (2016) ‘Skype as a tool for qualitative research interviews’ Sociological Research Online 21(2): 1–15 (

Magnani, N. and Magnani, M. (2020) 'Material methods for a rapid-response anthropology'. Special Section Article (

Marwick, A.E. (2014) ‘Ethnographic and qualitative research on Twitter’ in K. Weller, A. Bruns, C. Puschmann, et al. (eds) Twitter and society, 109–122. New York: Peter Lang (

Masefield, S.C., Megaw, A., Barlow, M., White, P.C.L., Altink, H. and Grugel, J. (2020) ‘Repurposing NGO data for better research outcomes: a scoping review of the use and secondary analysis of NGO data in health policy and systems research’ Health Research Policy and Systems 18: 63 (

Murray, L. (2012) ‘Online opportunities for mobile and visual research’ in C.N. Silva (ed.) Online research methods in urban and planning studies: design and outcomes. IGI-Global. [Email module coordinator for access.]

ODI (2020) ‘Research during Covid-10: learning from practice’.  Video and podcast recordings of a webinar (

Poynter, R. (ed.) (2010) The handbook of online and social media research: tools and techniques for market researchers. John Wiley & Sons.

Rana, B., Yoko Okura, Y., Neupane, S. and Svensson, J. (2020) ‘Carrying out research during lockdown: how to do remote surveys in rural communities’. Flood Resilience Portal ( 

Roberts, S., Snee, H., Hine, C., et al. (eds) (2016) Digital methods for social science: an interdisciplinary guide to research innovation. Springer.

Singh, A. (2020) ‘Taking Busara online. Envisioning research in the new world’. Blog. Busara (

Sloan, L. and Quan-Haase, A. (eds) (2017) The SAGE handbook of social media research methods. London: Sage.

Speyer, A. (2020) Remote survey toolkit: Prepare in response to COVID-19. 60 Decibels (

Stewart, K. & Williams, M. (2005) ‘Researching online populations: the use of online focus groups for social research’ Qualitative Research 5(4): 395–416 (

SVRI – Sexual Violence Research Initiative (2020) 'SVRI Knowledge Exchange: Pivoting to remote research on violence against women during COVID-19'. SVRI ( 

Turner, D. (2020) ‘Conducting qualitative interviews and focus groups online’. Quirkos blog (

Undie, C.-C., Mathur, S., Haberland, N., Vieitez, I. and Pulerwitz, J. (2020) ‘Opportunities for SGBV data collection in the time of COVID-19: the value of implementation science’. Webpage. Sexual Violence Research Initiative, 26 June (

United Nations Development Programme – UNDP (2018) WhatsApp surveying guide: lessons learnt from two qualitative WhatsAapp surveys in Lebanon. UNDP (

Von Engelhardt, J. and Jones, L. (2020) ‘Using mobile phone surveys to track resilience and post-disaster recovery: a how-to guide’. Toolkit. London: BRACED/ODI (

Ethical issues/guidance and quality concerns

Some of the references above mention these issues and concerns, but the references below focus primarily on them.

Ansoms, A. (2020) ‘Research in times of crisis: caring for researcher’s mental health in the Covid-19 era’. Essay. SSRC Items ( [Unpicking the toll that working in crisis contexts can take on researchers, this lays out an institutional strategy for providing support through training, coaching and care.]

Bhatia, A., Peterman, A. and Guedes, A. (2020) ‘Remote data collection on violence against children during COVID-19: a conversation with experts on research priorities, measurement and ethics (Part 2)’. Webpage. UNICEF (

Bidhu (2020) ‘Mantras to data quality in telephonic surveys during COVID-19 crisis’. Blog. Medium (

British Psychological Society (2017) Ethics guidelines for internet-mediated research. INF206/04.2017. Leicester: BPS (

Carayannis, T. and Bolin, A. (2020) ‘Research in insecure times and places: ethics of social research for emerging ecologies of insecurities’. Essay. SSRC Items ( [Outlines the new valences of research in the pandemic era, from security challenges to new methodologies for gathering data remotely and the need to reflect on the changing roles of institutions.]

Chaudhuri, T. (2020) ‘Collecting data during COVID-19: how do we address data quality?’. Blog (

Crivello, G. and Favara, M. (2020) ‘COVID-19 and the “ethics of disruption”’. Blog about paper (pre-print). Young Lives, Oxford Department of International Development, University of Oxford (

Franzke, A.S., Bechmann, A., Zimmer, M., Ess, C. and the Association of Internet Researchers (2020) Internet research: ethical guidelines 3.0 (

James, N. & Busher, H. (2006) ‘Credibility, authenticity and voice: dilemmas in online interviewing’. Qualitative Research 6(3): 403–420 (

kNOwVAWdata, UNFPA, UN Women and WHO (2020) ‘Decision tree: data collection on violence against women and COVID-19’. Powerpoint graphic. United Nations Population Fund (

Peterman, A., Bhatia, A. and Guedes, A. (2020) ‘Remote data collection on violence against women during COVID-19: a conversation with experts on ethics, measurement & research priorities (Part 1)’. Webpage. UNICEF (

Roberts, L.D. (2015) ‘Ethical issues in conducting qualitative research in online communities’ Qualitative Research in Psychology 12(3): 314–325 (

SVRI – Sexual Violence Research Initiative (2020) ‘Trauma-informed phone interviews on sensitive topics: learning from the COVID-19 lockdown in Uganda’. An interview with Sylvia Namakula and Agnes Grace Nabachwa. SVRI (

UNCST (2020) National guidelines for conduct of research during coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic. Uganda National Council for Science and Technology, Republic of Uganda. [Available via a link in guidance given by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.]

UN Women (2020) ‘Violence against women and girls data collection during COVID-19’. UN Women (

Examples of information sheets and consent forms

Marston, H. and Earle, S. (2020) ‘Participant information sheet’. In the COVID-19: technology, self-isolation, loneliness & leisure activities study ( in [Note the section ‘Risk of harm’ and the ‘thank you’ text.]

Repositories at other organisations

Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) (2020) ‘Best practices for conducting phone surveys’. Webpage, live updates ( [Resource drawing on their networks of expertise for best practices in switching from in-person to surveying online or via phone.]

AuthorAID (2020) ‘Tell us your lockdown stories!’. Webpage (

Busara (2020) ‘Our response: what we have done’. (

Capacity4dev (2020) ‘Evaluation in crisis’. Devco/ESS initiative. (

Feedback Labs (2020) ‘Category Archives: Feedback & COVID-19’ ( [Various blogs on how to do research and feedback findings during COVID-19.] 

Gauteng City-Region Observatory (2020) ‘Seminar series – Collecting social data: adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic’ ( [Various materials including presentations.] 

IDinsight (2020) ‘How to maximise phone surveys for remote data collection’. Blog (

Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) (2020) ‘RECOVR research projects’. Webpage ( [Repository of questionnaires and projects that have started running Covid-19-specific surveys.]

International Initiative for Imapct Evaluation (3ie) (2020) ‘Phone surveys in developing countries need an abundance of caution’. Blog ( [List of reasons to be extra thoughtful during Covid-19 about whether the remote data collection should take place.]

Mixed Migration Centre (2020) ‘MMC adapts its 4Mi program to assess the impact of COVID-19 on refugees and migrants’ ( [Various resources linked to changing migration-related research methods in light of COVID-19.] 

ODI/GAGE – Gender and Adolescence: Global Evidence ( [GAGE are preparing a number of resources to support research during the Covid-19 era.]

Social Science Research Council (2020) ‘Covid-19 and the social sciences’. Essay series. SSRC Items ( [Brings together scholars from across the social sciences to examine longstanding research practices and develop new ones in response to the insecurity created by Covid-19.]

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNSD) (2020) ‘Carrying out a telephone survey under the impact of COVID-19 – what to consider’. Blog (

United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) (2020) ‘Surveys under lockdown; a pandemic lesson’. Stats Brief (

World Bank Blogs (2020) ‘Mobile phone surveys for understanding COVID-19 impacts: Part I Sampling and mode’. Webpage ( [Includes a table comparing phone, interactive voice response (IVR) and sms surveys.]

Young Lives (2020) ‘Data and research’. Young Lives, Oxford Department of International Development, University of Oxford ( [Broad range of relevant information on the organisation’s Data and Research page.]