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Research Interviews


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  • 1. Communicating Culture interviewing
  • 2. Interviewing: Definition
      • Interviewing is a meeting of two persons to exchange information and ideas through questions and responses, resulting in communication and joint construction of meaning about a particular topic.
      • Janesick (2004): 72
  • 3. Interviewing: preliminary thoughts
    • Material gathered through interviews is one of the most common methods in field research
    • Often used as a primary method or a way of further focussing participant-observation
    • Interviews allow material to be accessed from social situations where the researcher was not/cannot be present
    • Key participants are individuals who appear to have a wide knowledge of the social situation you are interested in
    • Sometimes they are individuals who stand at the of the ‘culture’ you are investigating
    • Useful in establishing the most important research questions
    • May enable access to other situations, people or organisations
    • Dangers: Do interviews offer a biased view? Do interviewees have their own agenda?
    • Ethical issues: Are interviews exploiting these individuals?
  • 4. Interviewing: procedures (1)
    • Establishing relationships
      • The key is ensuring the person you are interviewing is at ease. How do you do that?
        • Tell them what you are doing and why
        • Ask for permission to use a tape recorder/take notes
        • Ensure confidentiality …
        • Be sensitive to body language and tone of voice
        • Ask non-threatening questions first
  • 5. Interviewing: procedures (2)
    • Use a schedule which specifies the topics or themes to be covered
      • For structured interviews this lists the questions to be asked
      • For unstructured interviews it reminds you which topics/issues to cover (these might not occur in the same order in the interview).
  • 6. Types of interview
    • Interviews range from:
      • Structured Semi-structured Unstructured
      • (directed) (non-directed)
  • 7. Structured Interviews
    • Structured Interviews
      • have explicit research goals
      • Are similar to a verbal approximation of a survey questionnaire
      • Allow for easy comparison between participants
      • Responses are shaped by the researcher
  • 8. Unstructured Interviews
    • Unstructured Interviews
      • have an implicit research agenda
      • Are similar to ‘steered conversations’ or ‘conversations with a purpose’
      • Questions emerge typically from the conversation
      • Skill is in finding the most appropriate time to ask questions
    • Choosing which type of interview to use depends on the nature of the research and who you are interviewing.
    • Interviews can move from being structured at the beginning to more unstructured at the end
  • 9. Interview Task
    • Find someone you know to interview. The interview should last approximately 15 minutes.
      • What are your beliefs about friendship?
  • 10. Types of Interview Questions (1)
    • Degree of focus
      • ‘ grand-tour questions:
        • Could you show me around the building?’
        • ‘ What are the general purposes of this room?’
      • These enable a broad picture to be obtained
      • Specific questions:
        • ‘ Please tell me more about …’
      • These help to find out more specific information
  • 11. Types of Interview Questions (2)
    • Degree of open-endedness
      • Open-ended
        • ‘ How do you feel about …’
      • Used to discover participant’s perception of the situation. Allows participants to interpret questions their own way. Allows new questions to be generated.
      • Closed questions
        • ‘ Do you agree with the idea that …’
      • Restricts participant’s response. Useful to confirm findings
  • 12. Types of Interview Questions (3)
    • Types of information
      • Descriptive
        • Could you tell me what happened that evening?
      • Structured
        • ‘ What factors do you think are involved in …?’
      • Contrast
        • ‘ In what way has the course improved since last year?’
      • Clarification
        • ‘ You talk about how objects represent people. Can you clarify for me what you mean?’
      • Follow-up
        • ‘ You mentioned organising space in the gallery. Can you tell me how you organise the display space?’
  • 13. Understanding interview material
    • Knowledge is gained from the interviewee’s viewpoint
    • Research material is gathered from the interaction between the interviewee and the researcher
    • The primary goal is to understand and interpret these materials in terms of the context in which they were produced:
      • Was the interview pre-arranged?
      • Was the interviewee at ease?
      • What type of questions were asked?
      • When and how were they asked?
      • We will do more work on what to do with material collected from interviews in a later session