Why are social scientists still reluctant to embrace email as data? An ethnographic examination of interactions within virtual teams

Yee Wei (Carol) Au, Abigail Marks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This research note examines why email is underused as a source of data within work and employment studies and provides an example of the usefulness of email for gaining a more detailed understanding of behaviour in the workplace. Three main reasons are identified for the hesitancy to use email as a source of data. Firstly, the confused role of email as formal and informal archival data as well as concerns regarding the immediate often non-deliberated exchanges; secondly, issues with access to and confidentiality of email data; finally, the challenges of triangulation of a data set which includes email data. The analysis of emails between virtual team members, alongside observational and interview methods, demonstrates how interactions between colleagues via email are subtly different to the way in which organizational members describe relationships in an interview situation and reveals how access to email data provides an additional resource in understanding behaviours within the workplace.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)880-890
Number of pages11
JournalWork, Employment and Society
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013


  • conflict
  • culture
  • email
  • ethnography
  • triangulation
  • virtual teams
  • E-MAIL

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