Interviewing techniques for research by jayadeva de silva

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Interviewing techniques for research by jayadeva de silva

  1. 1. Jayadeva de Silva (Humantalents International)Interviewing Techniques forResearchJayadeva de Silva .M.Sc, FIPM, FITDOn the surface, an interview simply consists of two people talking together about some topicwhich is of interest to them both. There are, in fact, a number of important differencesbetween interviewing someone and having a normal conversation with them as the followingset of comparisons make clear.A conversation generally lacks an explicitly mentioned purpose. A conversation generallylacks an explicitly mentioned purpose. An interview always has an explicitly mentionedpurpose. There are unspoken rules that you should avoid repeating yourself.An interview always has an explicitly mentioned purpose.Repetition of questions enables one to check that the information is reliable and can revealnew information. 1
  2. 2. Jayadeva de Silva (Humantalents International)In a conversation both participants can ask questions. In an interview questioning is largelyrestricted to the interviewer. Both interest and ignorance are likely to be expressed only bythe interviewer. Interviewing requires that all implicit knowledge from a respondent isbrought out into the open and made explicit. Answers should always be as detailed aspossible.Interviews differ in the extent to which they are structured. At one end of the continuum isthe most structured form of interview, in which the questioning process is tightly organised:at the other is the wholly unstructured form.Research students are expected to have a sound knowledge of the followingTypes of interview:StructuredSemi-structuredUnstructuredOne-to-one interviewsConversational interviewsSmall-group interviews (focus groups)E-mail and telephone interviewsStructured InterviewStructured interviews consist of the interviewer asking each respondent the same questionswith the same precise wording and sequence of questions. The precise form and direction ofthe questioning is determined in advance of the interview. No interpretation of meaningshould be offered, No deviation from the order of questions on the interview schedule,No further probing of answers should be made.Deviation from the schedule throws doubt upon the reliability of the investigation.Structured interviews are the nearest type of interview to a questionnaire, in its most extremeform, it would consist simply of an interviewer reading through a prepared list of questions,and writing down the respondents answers. The questions may even be phrased in such away that a limited range of responses can be elicited.For example: Do you think that health services in this area are excellent, good, average orpoor?In these cases answers may be coded and subjected to quantitative analysis. Structuredinterviews are generally quicker to do but they reveal considerably less data thanunstructured interviews.Structure Interviews are used:If the direction of your inquiry is perfectly clear from the outsetIf you only need obtain answers to a set of questions which you can formulate in advanceUsually used in large scale interview-based surveys, e.g. market researchStructured Interviews – Conditions for UsageIt is much harder for the interview to be deflected from the topic in hand.Speedy administration, it provides a relatively quick and easy way of obtaining data 2
  3. 3. Jayadeva de Silva (Humantalents International)is economical with the interviewers time. Respondents may feel more ready to participategiven low time/effort commitmentInterviewers need not have all the skills and experience required for unstructured proceduresas there is no need to try to think of the next question to ask. Interviews can be replicated.Data is more objectively verifiable. Results can be reviewed (compared and analysed) byother researchers. Results are more generalisable. and there is reduction of interpersonal biasfactors.Disadvantages and Limitations of structured InterviewParticipant limited to a structured response.Data obtained can be trivialNarrow range and quality of information gathered, respondents cannot express complexitiesand subtleties of an issue.Interviewer is prevented from following any new directions for the inquiryDoes not engage participant on a personal level and therefore may feel more like aninterrogation than an interviewSocial desirability bias - Most people want to present a favourable impression of themselvesto other people, and this may lead them to distort their answers to personal questions.Unstructured InterviewsUnstructured interviews have very little structure at all. The interviewer goes into theinterview with the aim of discussing a limited number of topics in great detail, sometimes asfew as one or two. The respondent takes over more of the direction of the interviewThere is no set wording to questions and the researcher may explain the question quite fully.The interviewer decides what questions to ask from moment to moment and frames thequestions on the basis of the information volunteered by the informant.The interview might begin with the interviewer saying: Id like to hear your views on_________& when the flow of ideas in answer to that first question comes to an end theresearcher may ask further questions to obtain clarification of some pointsRelatively natural conversation here produces:Richer, fuller more genuine, more realistic information on interviewees own terms;enables capture of respondents construction or unique perspective (interviewees can talk intheir own terms)Not constrained by fixed-answer questions which produce rather narrow information.Interview questions can be adapted to context, interviewees style and thoughts, and thegeneral flow of answers.Interviewer is allowing the respondents answers to influence the questioning process.Much more flexible approach to interviewingRelaxed, more informed and involved respondent.Disadvantages and Limitations of Unstructured Interviews –Not standardized. differences in procedure could make data comparison less fair andreliable. Difficulties in analysis of wide variety of qualitative information.May not be generalisable, and are not amenable to statistical analysis to test hypotheses 3
  4. 4. Jayadeva de Silva (Humantalents International)Are costly in time, both for participants and researcher, and therefore may have to be limitedin number undertaken during a study;Interviewers may lack some of the skills necessary to conduct interviews successfully -Should be able to make an interview seem natural, be sensitive to non-verbal cues, and theyhave well-developed listening skills.May be subject to biases (invalidity and unreliability), both because participants may not tellthe truth or may hide aspects of their experiences, and because the interviewer may have anunintended influence on what participants say.Semi-structured interviews:Combine the advantages of structured and unstructured interviews and still follow the sameorder of presentation and the same wording for the main questions in the interviewschedule.Allow the interviewer the freedom to elaborate on the original response or to follow a line ofinquiry introduced by the interviewee.An example would be:Interviewer: “Has changes in Company policy changed your work?Interviewee: Absolutely! The workload has increased for a start.Interviewer: In what way has it increased?Different kinds of questions can be used to expand answers and to discuss some topics inmore detailDescriptive questions:Prompt the respondent to give a general account of ‘what happened’ or ‘what it feels liketo....’ anecdotes, life histories etc.Structural questions:Prompt respondent to identify structures and meanings to use to make sense of the world(e.g. what does it mean to your life to suffer from AIDS?)Contrast questions:Allows the respondent to make comparisons between events and experiences (e.g. Did youprefer being in that company or the other?)Evaluative questions:Are about the respondent’s feelings about someone or something. (E.g. did you feel afraidwhen the HIV test was taken?)Semi structured interviews tend to work well when the interviewer has already identified anumber of aspects he wants to be sure of addressing. The interviewer can decide in advancewhat areas to cover but is open and receptive to unexpected information from theinterviewee. This can be particularly important if a limited time is available for each interviewand the interviewer wants to be sure that the key issues will be covered. 4
  5. 5. Jayadeva de Silva (Humantalents International)Semi-structured Interviews – Conditions for UsageThe semi-structured interview has the advantages of the structural approach (the form anddirection of the questioning is determined in advance), but more flexibility in the interviewallows the interviewer to select aspects of the discourse to follow up.Richer and thicker data is obtained by semi-structured interviewsExplanations of wording can be offered when required.Allows for analysis in a variety of ways because it is compatible with many methods of dataanalysisEasier to arrange than other forms of data collection (fewer logistical difficulties to arrange aseries of semi-structured interviews with a small number of participants)Disadvantages and Limitations of Semi-structured InterviewsThe advantages of the semi-structured interview are finely balanced against disadvantages ofweak reliability.Still places limits on what is asked and expected of the researchers.Still not fully conversational and therefore might only be appropriate in market researchrather then trying to glean information about a personal or traumatic event.Data analysis is time consumingOne-to-One InterviewsThis is the most common method of interview. An interview conducted by one person toanother. The interviewer will sit down with the participant and try and build a relationshipthrough the course of the interview. This addresses the concerns of focus group situations.In general, one-to-one interviews allow a relationship to be built between interviewer andparticipant. This permits the interviewer to establish a good rapport with the respondent.This may allow:The interviewer to collect richer data.Participants to divulge personal information.Richer data as only one person is responding.Recording and transcription of data, however, is usually relatively straightforward.One-to-One Interviews – LimitationsIf a rapport cannot be established, then the quality of data will be severely diminished.Difficult to conduct well - Good interviewers are able to make an interview seem natural,they are sensitive to non-verbal cues, and they have well-developed listening skills.Researcher has to keep their subjectivity in check or report/reflect on it accuratelyThese can be time consuming and expensive.Conversational InterviewsA conversational interview takes the form of a discussion (no predetermined set ofquestions). It is loosely guided by the interviewer but also allows the participant free range inthe general direction that the conversation takes.Gives maximum flexibility to be able to pursue questioning in whatever direction appears tobe appropriate.The participant is encouraged to do most of the talking. 5
  6. 6. Jayadeva de Silva (Humantalents International)This interview style is chosen by the interviewer mainly because they can get moreinformation from people because they tend to be more honest and open because it is arelaxed atmosphere.Requires an interviewer knowledgeable and experienced in the content area and strong ininterpersonal skills, since he or she will have considerable discretion in directing theinterview.Can be used in a wide range of settings, but often used in humanistic based therapyinterviews.Conversational Interviews – StrengthsConversational interview is highly individualized and relevant to the individual.Conversational interviews are useful in that they are a more natural way of gaining data fromparticipants and have a greater ecological validity than more formal interviews.Likely to produce information or insights that the interviewer could not have anticipated.Conversational Interviews – LimitationsNot standardized.Since different information is collected from different people, they do tend to present morematerial that may not be relevant to the researchers’ aims. This kind of interview is notsystematic or comprehensive, and it can be very difficult and time-consuming to analyse thedataParticipant can take control of the interview if the researcher does not have proper trainingor experience.Candidates may also question ethics of the conversational approach. Small (Focus) Group InterviewsSmall group interviews usually involve a limited number of participants in one session andare often focused upon a topic.Focus groups can be:homogenous (share features) or heterogeneous (are different)pre-existing (friends or colleagues) or newFocus groups are further characterized by the presence of a moderator and the use of adiscussion guide.The moderator should stimulate discussion among group members – encouragedparticipants to express views on each topic as well / respond the other participants.Small (Focus) Group Interviews – CharacteristicsThe recommended size of a group is of 6 – 10 people.Smaller than this limits the amount of information gained.More than this makes it difficult for everyone to participate.Several focus groups should be run in any research project. It would be wrong to rely on theviews of just one group.The members of each focus group should have something in common, characteristicsimportant to the topic of investigation.Focus groups are usually specially pre formed groups.Qualitative information (feelings, perceptions and opinions). 6
  7. 7. Jayadeva de Silva (Humantalents International)The researchers require a range of skills: groups skills in facilitating and moderating,listening, observing and analysing.Small (Focus) Group Interviews – Conditions for UsageSmall Group Interviews can be useful when:The research aim is to produce data from several people who are often together in acommon situation or task.It is possible to identify a number of individuals who share a common factorLimited resources prevent more than a small number of interviews being undertaken.Triangulation is desired in focus groups due to the large size of the groups, usually rangingfrom 6-10. Since such interviews are in large groups, observation of the participants could behelpful in understanding and evaluating his or her actions and repliesSmall (Focus) Group Interviews – AdvantagesSmall group interviews can encourage more openness and more free and complexinformation when respondents stimulate ideas from each other.Relatively quick and convenient method to collect data from several individualssimultaneouslyResearcher can ask for clarificationProvides a setting that is natural, so it can be argued that it has higher ecological validity thanthe one-to-one interview.High face validitySmall (Focus) Group Interviews – LimitationsThe group may be subject to factors which will limit the insight gained.The members may be reluctant to participate or not interact well with each otherthe presence of others may inhibit some individuals.A mood of “keeping your mouths shut” may infect some groups.Recorded group interviews for groups are not easy – data collection and analysis is timeconsuming.Pre existing purpose of the group can lead to the group having a particular bias which limitstheir potential for providing information.Not appropriate for all research questions, e.g. – sensitive mattersE-mail and Telephone InterviewsEmail interviewsE mail interviews may be used when conducting an interview in person, or contacting viatelephone, is inappropriate due to location, schedule conflict, or different time zones.Telephone interview:Interviewers make phone calls to contact people 7

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