Remote research methods to use during the COVID-19 pandemic

Kate Hawkins, Jessica Amegee and Rosie Steege

The COVID-19 pandemic has unsettled the world as most countries were not prepared to face such a wide and disruptive event, with very little knowledge of how things would progress at the onset. As the pandemic continues to impact societies – organisations and communities are dealing with challenges on an unprecedented level. This exceptional situation shakes how organisations and communities are working together throughout the world.

Researchers and implementers, who are closely working with communities using participatory methods are facing a difficult time in maintaining their work and collaboration. The restrictive and protective measures put in place across most COVID-19 affected countries, from a partial to total lockdown, have an impact on their working methods. Because most of these methods require direct social interaction, physical distancing, quarantines, and the like raise questions about the continuity of operational or participatory research. Many have moved towards the use of online and other remote tools as a solution.

This pandemic can be seen as an opportunity to consider new ways to maintain links with communities, especially marginalised populations, who struggle to cope financially, mentally, or physically with this crisis and to comply with restrictive measures, even on a short term.

Online and remote research tools have been used for some time, but their importance is growing to mitigate challenges in operational and participatory research.

Many people wonder how to navigate their research in these troubled waters while guaranteeing digital safeguarding. Resources and ideas are spreading around several networks about how continue to undertake field work, collecting data in the best and most appropriate ways. From audio messaging, live stream apps to social media, some interesting resources are listed below to hopefully help you and others find some answers to many questions and instill creativity in research methods. We need to develop this type of research resilience as the COVID-19 pandemic is unlikely to be the last event to cause such large-scale disruptions.


Fieldwork in the Times of COVID-19: Doing Ethnography During a Pandemic

Raul Pacheco-Vega

Disturbing the Aesthetics of Power: Why Covid-19 Is Not an “Event” for Fieldwork Social Scientists

Aymar Nyenyezi Bisoka

Field research in lockdown: revisiting slow science in the time of COVID-19

Zahra Hussain

Doing Fieldwork in a Pandemic

Crowdsourced document initiated by Deborah Lupton (@DALupton, on 17 March 2020

NB: Deborah also curates a community Facebook page ‘Innovative Social Research Methods’ which may be of interest for those wanting to think about new and creative ways of doing social research: Innovative Social Research Methods Public Group

Covid-19: Guide to community engagement at a distance

Short guide by BBC Media Action on behalf of Shongjog, the national platform for Communication with Communities in Bangladesh

Guidance for National Societies on safe and remote risk communication and community engagement during COVID-19


Tips for Engaging Communities during COVID-19 in Low-Resource Settings, Remotely and In-Person


Creative Research Methods, Dr Helen Kara

Part of the Qualitative Expertise at Southampton (QUEST) seminar series

COVID-19 & Virtual Fieldwork


Making design research work remotely


Ethical concerns

Violence against women and girls data collection during COVID-19

UN Women

Phone surveys in developing countries need an abundance of caution

Subha Mani, Bidisha Barooah

Considerations for Doing Intimate Partner Violence Research in the Time of Coronavirus

Innovations for Poverty Action

Remote data collection on violence against women during COVID-19: A conversation with experts on ethics, measurement and research priorities


Remote data collection on violence against children during COVID-19: A conversation with experts on research priorities, measurement and ethics (Part 2)



Ethnographic methods for a time of lockdown and distancing

A Tweet thread by Julia Leser

Digital and Online Ethnography – A Selection of Resources
Philipp Budka’s blog

Resources on online ethnography

A google doc curated by Philipp Budka, Heikki Wilenius, Rano Turaeva, Jordan Kraemer and Rachel Irwin

Sarah Pink: Digital Ethnographies

University of Copenhagen video

Phone and Skype interviews

Best practices for conducting phone surveys

Poverty Action Lab

12 Pro Tips for Digital Interviews and Interactions

Menzies Centre for Health Governance, School of Regulation and Global Governance, Australian National University

Phone Interviewing as a Means of Data Collection: Lessons Learned and Practical Recommendations

Forum: Qualitative Social Research

Skype as a Tool for Qualitative Research Interviews

Sociological Research Online

For PhD students

Virtual not Viral

Blog created to support PhD researchers in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic


Some of these resources were highlighted by Twitter accounts such as @PascaleAllotey, @giannagayle, @a_peterman and @RosemaryJMorgan 

We are also grateful to the Gender and COVID-19 Working Group for their sharing of expertise on the ethics of remote inquiry into gender based violence during the pandemic.