Qualitative Research
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Reflexive accounts about qualitativ...
A RT I C L E

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      Frey, 2000; Gubrium and Holstein, 2002). Given this significance of inter-
      v...
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The study within its socio-political context...
450   Qualitative Research 7(4)


      the main data-gathering method. A first set of interviews was carried out with
   ...
Mertkan-Özünlü: Reflexive accounts about interviewing                   451


boundaries are realities in the field (Atkin...
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      this would put me in a threatening position. Demographical issues, migration
     ...
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of parents were common. While head teachers ...
454   Qualitative Research 7(4)


      and Glassner (2004: 127) note, ‘knowledge of social world emerges from the
      a...
Mertkan-Özünlü: Reflexive accounts about interviewing                   455


influenced by the interview context. As Mill...
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      of trust and good rapport on every aspect of the research process from data
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REFERENCES

Atkinson, E. (2001) ‘Deconstruct...
458   Qualitative Research 7(4)


      Gubrium, J.E. and Holstein, J.A. (2002) ‘From the Individual Interview to the Inte...
Mertkan-Özünlü: Reflexive accounts about interviewing                   459


Seale, C. (1998) ‘Qualitative Interviewing’,...
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Organizational Behavior

  1. 1. Qualitative Research http://qrj.sagepub.com Reflexive accounts about qualitative interviewing within the context of educational policy in North Cyprus Sefika Mertkan-Ozünlü Qualitative Research 2007; 7; 447 DOI: 10.1177/1468794107082301 The online version of this article can be found at: http://qrj.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/7/4/447 Published by: http://www.sagepublications.com Additional services and information for Qualitative Research can be found at: Email Alerts: http://qrj.sagepub.com/cgi/alerts Subscriptions: http://qrj.sagepub.com/subscriptions Reprints: http://www.sagepub.com/journalsReprints.nav Permissions: http://www.sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav Citations (this article cites 21 articles hosted on the SAGE Journals Online and HighWire Press platforms): http://qrj.sagepub.com/cgi/content/refs/7/4/447 Downloaded from http://qrj.sagepub.com at Middlesex University on February 22, 2008 © 2007 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
  2. 2. A RT I C L E Q 447 Reflexive accounts about qualitative interviewing within the context of educational policy in North Cyprus R Qualitative Research Copyright © 2007 SAGE Publications (Los Angeles, London, New Delhi and Singapore) vol. 7(4) 447–459 S E F I K A M E RT K A N - Ö Z Ü N L Ü University of Nottingham, UK ABSTRACT Located within policy studies and politics of education in North Cyprus, this article is a medium through which methodological quandaries about reflexive accounts of qualitative interviewing arise in a dialogic fashion within the arena of education reform. Relying primarily on field notes, it explores the two-way management and negotiation of identity work, its effects on data gathering, and the public and private sides of interviewing. The researcher, present author, argues through numerous examples that both interviewees and the interviewer are actively engaged in identity crafting. These co-constructed identities influence the data-gathering process and the emerging intersubjective narratives of lived experiences in social worlds. She also makes a case that reflexive accounts of identity work are intersubjective, co-constructed identities are not genuinely knowable and the identity work is not genuinely comprehensible. KEYWORDS: interviewing, identity work, policy research, research methodology A mutual friend and an experienced ethnographer encouraged me to take a journey that would last long. ‘Why don’t you research something your community would benefit from? Why don’t you explore home where your heart beats even when you are miles away?’ she asked one day while driving in North Cyprus. ‘You would be a perfect match,’ she said, letting the idea grow in me. She was right. Here I am a year later writing reflexively about my initial field experiences at home. Can I authenti- cally represent my self and my experience? I do not think so! The complex interre- lationship among the self and the potential other(s) would not allow me to do so (Morson and Emerson, 1990). And nor would the ‘double vision’ (Rosaldo, 1993). I start a new journey with these issues and concerns in mind. (Journal entry) Introduction Interviewing is a key research method the qualitative researcher often employs and research students are trained to use. It is an important feature of the ‘interview society’ we live in (Atkinson and Silverman, 1997; Fontana and DOI: 10.1177/1468794107082301 Downloaded from http://qrj.sagepub.com at Middlesex University on February 22, 2008 © 2007 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
  3. 3. 448 Qualitative Research 7(4) Frey, 2000; Gubrium and Holstein, 2002). Given this significance of inter- viewing, it is not surprising that there is an ongoing search for the advance- ment of our knowledge of the interviewing process. To the potential student of the past, literature presented tips and strategies to be employed prior to and during the interview process, but did not demonstrate the complexities of interviewing, experiences of interviewers and the pitfalls of the research process (Ball, 1993; Coffey, 1999; Darlington and Scott, 2002; Davies, 1999; Delamont, 2002; Powney and Watts, 1987; Walford, 2001). To the potential research student of today, it presents a much more complex and interactive research process during which meaning is co-constructed through the inter- play among the researcher, respondents and the context. Even though ‘uncomfortable reflexivities’ advocated by Pillow (2003) are not yet widely exercised, self-conscious, reflexive accounts of the research process in general and interviewing in particular are no longer uncommon (Coffey, 2002; Denzin and Lincoln, 1994). This article reflects this trend and seeks to contribute to the fast growing knowledge base on qualitative interviewing as interactive and reflexive practice. Located within policy studies and politics of education in North Cyprus, it reflex- ively explores the complex nature of qualitative interviewing within policy set- tings as the main data-gathering method employed during the study revisited. It is, thus, a medium through which methodological quandaries about qualitative interviewing arise in a dialogic fashion within the politicized arena of educa- tional reform in North Cyprus. It stresses three interrelated theoretical positions in relation to the current analysis of the interviewing process it represents: 1. Interviewing is an interactive process during which representations of social world experiences are conditioned by the socio-political and socio-historical context of the interview process. No absolute truth claims can be held on these representa- tions (Hammersley, 1992; Holliday, 2002; Miller and Glassner, 2004). 2. Interviewing is a medium influenced by identity work (Cassell, 2005; Seale, 1998). It is imperative to reflect on the interviewer’s role in identity construction (Rapley, 2001). 3. The act of writing involves transformation of ‘I-for-myself ’ to an image for the other in relation to the image of ‘the-other-for-me’ in Bakhtinian terms (Morson and Emerson, 1990) and transformation of my crafted self to another through informed interpretations of different readers at different times in different places (Crotty, 2003; Straw, 1990). It is, thus, impossible, to achieve fully transparent and truthful reflexive accounts. These positions have already informed previous research and so some readers are already aware of the complexity of the issue. However, reflexive accounts located within policy studies and politics of education are rare. In addition, research on interviewing does not often distinguish elites from non-elites and presents generic difficulties. This article seeks to address this area and to do so through reflection on my experiences of researching elites in a highly politi- cized and contested context – that of North Cyprus. Downloaded from http://qrj.sagepub.com at Middlesex University on February 22, 2008 © 2007 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
  4. 4. Mertkan-Özünlü: Reflexive accounts about interviewing 449 The study within its socio-political context Cyprus was parted by the green line in 1964 due to growing intercommunal hostility and violence, and physically divided into North and South in 1974. This partition is a visible scar of the historic ‘Cyprus Problem’ resulting from diverse nationalist realities and aspirations and bi-polar nationalism (Bryant, 2001). Today Turkish Cypriots live in the north governed by the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) founded in 1983; Greek Cypriots reside in the south controlled by the Republic of Cyprus established in 1960. TRNC has not been recognized as legitimate and the north has suffered from inter- national embargoes seriously threatening its economic, political, and social well-being. Soon after the ‘Cyprus Problem’ took its place within the European political agenda with the application of the Republic of Cyprus to the European Union in 1990, the world witnessed heated international interventions in the island to find a solution to the ‘Dispute’. Turkish Cypriots united to pressure all par- ties involved to reach a workable solution and in the early 2000s North Nicosia, Ínönü Square in particular, saw mass demonstrations for peace, reunion and EU membership: Gathered in Ínönü Square in north Nicosia were over 70,000 people in early 2004. Speakers emphasized the need for social and political reengineering, peace and EU membership. People agreed wholeheartedly. I was one of them. And so was one of the policy makers sitting in front of me. (Personal notes) As I discuss in more detail later, supporting the political and social ideals people now in power stand for helped to establish a common ground that proved invaluable for gaining access, building trust and yielding more truthful data. I trust discourses around my political ideas played a significant role in the construction of my identity by the participants. The new political agenda was dominated by two critical objectives: social and political reengineering and EU membership. This new agenda resulted from long-lasting social and political dilemmas and was pregnant with impor- tant changes. Supported by a large majority, supporters of the new political agenda came to power in the North. One of the objectives was achieved. The other, finding a solution to the ‘Cyprus Problem’ and becoming a member of the EU as an undivided island was not. UN interventions culminated in 2004 with the approval of the final comprehensive UN plan by Turkish Cypriots and the rejection of it by Greek ones (UN Press Release SC/7723, 2003). ‘Cyprus’ joined the EU in 2004 as a divided island. Soon after the government came to power, large-scale education reform ini- tiatives took significant importance in the political agenda. As a doctoral stu- dent, I commenced an assignment to explore these initiatives within a socio-political framework. My main objective was to investigate the recent large-scale reform initiatives at the policy level and the impact of public policy dilemmas on these change efforts. Qualitative interviewing was employed as Downloaded from http://qrj.sagepub.com at Middlesex University on February 22, 2008 © 2007 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
  5. 5. 450 Qualitative Research 7(4) the main data-gathering method. A first set of interviews was carried out with five members of the educational elite from the Ministry of Education to observe the opening stage of the initiatives and the impact of public policy dilemmas on their efforts. A second set of interviews was carried out with three school heads and six teachers from schools most affected by demographic fluctuations, a critical matter of policy concern. Everyday conversations were also held with economists, politicians and researchers to further investigate the public policy dilemmas raised by the educational planners during the first set of interviews conducted. Interviews and planned ‘conversations’ differed from everyday conversations in the degree of planning and structure imposed (Kvale, 1996; Radnor, 1994; Rubin and Rubin, 2005; Warren, 2002). As the research lens was on educational planners’ experiences, generating data on a range of experiences was deliberately avoided. Adopting a more inclusive case approach would undeniably add variation and depth to the study (Corbin and Strauss, 1990), but would change the research emphasis. A critical motivator for this study was to contribute to the construction of a knowledge base on education in Cyprus that was more democratic and more representative of the practical realities on the island. A review of scholarly lit- erature reveals representations that reduce education on the island to the one in the south, and present scenarios recognizable only to Greek Cypriots and untrue to the practical realities on the island (Mertkan-Ozunlu and Thomson, in preparation). The other significant motive was to illuminate the unques- tioned and unchallenged aspects of North Cyprus and help Turkish Cypriots to be heard. This attempt to give voice to the voiceless, an important aspect of qualitative research (Rubin and Rubin, 2005), was thus the main backbone of the study this article revisits. In attempting such work, I inevitably found myself forced to reflect on my own identity and how this shaped my motivation and knowledge gathering. Identity work in the policy research process A Turkish Cypriot myself, my longing was that of an insider provided with advanced inside knowledge of Turkish Cypriot culture, historical developments, and political and social structures in the North. This advanced knowledge came from lived experiences; the emotions I was loaded with were products of these experiences. My positionality comes with some power, but not the ability to paint a fully portrayed picture of any kind. My partiality is undeniable. It is informed by dynamic, ever-changing historical culture and my partial stance to it (Clifford, 1986; Rosaldo, 1993). Not coming from the institutions I investi- gated, at some other level I am an outsider. I lack the knowledge available to the ones embedded in these organizational cultures. During the research process, my positionality shifted and the boundaries blurred as the study progressed. This multiplicity of selves, judging status on a continuum in relation to the phenomenon studied is critical, and shifting positionalities and blurred Downloaded from http://qrj.sagepub.com at Middlesex University on February 22, 2008 © 2007 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
  6. 6. Mertkan-Özünlü: Reflexive accounts about interviewing 451 boundaries are realities in the field (Atkinson, 2001; Brayboy, 2000; Chaudhry, 1997; Christensen and Dahl, 1997; Deutsch, 1981; Labaree, 2002; Mullings, 1999; Sherif, 2001). The first half of this research work has been conducted with the planners of education. Interviewing people in power, I had expected the research identities to be defined by a sense of power and hierarchical difference; I was wrong. Having presented myself as a doctoral student studying Educational Leadership and specializing in large-scale educational reform, I self-defined my identity as a student willing to learn about planners’ experiences of large- scale reform. From my first initial meeting with the director responsible for planning and research, however, I was positioned differently due to my privi- leged educational background abroad and my over five years of teaching expe- rience in higher education. Assumptions were made that I could help planners convey their message and contribute to the reform efforts by playing an active role as a teacher trainer. They constructed me as an experienced professional equipped with advanced knowledge. My MPhil in Teaching and Teacher Education from the University of Cambridge must have influenced the construction of these assumptions. So must have the lack of human capital in the country. Accounts of the difficul- ties caused by lack of well-trained human capital were often made by the plan- ners of education. Accounts of the difficulties resulting from previous governments’ recruitment policies were also not uncommon. Among these accounts were civil servants employed for their political views rather than their knowledge and skills. Planners’ identities in this context were defined by these difficulties and were constructed as depowered by previous policy actions. I was invited to have a more insider position than my positionality at the time of the study permitted. Accepting the request would help to establish good relationships and provide the opportunity to help; denying it without any apparent reason would decrease the likelihood to do so. I accepted the offer. I was positioned as a professional researcher learning about policy while help- ing policy to develop. While researching in policy settings at the time of the study, no one could avoid discussing socio-political dilemmas in the north. It was the most contro- versial topic. I had previously protested together with those currently in power and voiced political views slightly to the left during the initial meetings I held with the planners. Assumptions defined by these positioned me as belonging to the same or a similar political camp as the planners, and as a politically unthreat- ening researcher to support and confide in as the following experience illustrates. One of the public policy dilemmas voiced by the planners was demographic changes and their impact on education. Having grown up in North Cyprus, I was fully aware of how difficult it would be to look into demographics on the island. Migration has long been the most controversial issue and research of any kind into migration was not traditionally welcomed. I was interested in looking into schools most influenced by demographic fluctuations. I assumed Downloaded from http://qrj.sagepub.com at Middlesex University on February 22, 2008 © 2007 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
  7. 7. 452 Qualitative Research 7(4) this would put me in a threatening position. Demographical issues, migration in particular, were long used by opposition parties to attack those in power. I was partially right, partially wrong: The director was very positive. Not to my surprise, he admitted that it would not be very easy to get the permission to carry out such research in schools and that even though the study would lead to important insights, he was not authorized to give me the permission to look into schools without consulting the directors and experts for primary and secondary education. I was also warned that getting the informed consent of the interviewees would be difficult due to the sensitivity of the topic. I easily got permission from the Department of Secondary Education. My expe- riences with the Department of Primary Education were not, however, so straightforward as the following footnote stresses: As soon as I handed in the interview themes, I was approached by one of the experts. He said I needed to submit a highly structured interview agenda to get the permission sought. He insisted this was to prevent me from focusing on politically inappropriate themes. I was very reluctant to do so. I do not believe structured interviews are most suitable to gathering in-depth data on experiences of daily life. After some discussion, I was told to wait while the expert talked to the director in private. I felt at a crossroad. I would either stop here or switch to an interview type that would not be appropriate to the research objectives. About 10 minutes later, the director came back and I was informed that I could do the research and that he would take the responsibility for granting me the permission to do so. At that moment, I better understood the burden and the responsibility I had had on me and the significance of the gift I had been given by the director. Perceived as unthreatening by the director, I was positioned as threatening by the expert working in the same organization. As Walford (2001) stresses, discourses around my political views and ‘shared experience’ were significant in the con- struction of my identity as a threatening researcher to be monitored closely or an unthreatening one to be confided in. So were initial meetings and interviews in establishing a degree of trust and comfort (Corbin and Morse, 2003). I conducted the second set of interviews with three school heads and teachers. My identity in this context was defined primarily by the attribute that I was a researcher willing to understand practical realities within schools most affected by demographic fluctuations. During these interviews, I was treated very differ- ently and positioned as someone expected to challenge planners of education with her findings and to impact policy, as the following account illustrates: Doing interviews in schools like ours is very important for us, for the country and for our future. Most people think we over exaggerate when we say these things, but we see the reality from inside. If migrants from mainland Turkey, such as the ones situated around our school, are going to stay on the island and live with our people, some serious work on the issue must take place. I hope your research will guide some people to do so. Accounts of difficult conditions within these schools due to demographic fluctuations, very low socio-economic conditions and educational background Downloaded from http://qrj.sagepub.com at Middlesex University on February 22, 2008 © 2007 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
  8. 8. Mertkan-Özünlü: Reflexive accounts about interviewing 453 of parents were common. While head teachers constructed an identity almost identical to heroes achieving the best possible within these conditions, teach- ers projected an image of hopelessness, disappointment and helplessness. As is clear from ‘most people think we over exaggerate when we say these things, but we see the reality from inside’, I was positioned in this context as an out- sider to listen and learn about the realities of people working in these schools. My identity was constructed as a researcher sensitive to socio-political con- cerns in the north and skilled to represent the inside realities of the intervie- wees and to inform policy. There seems to be a hidden concern that I could observe things as over exaggerated and was warned that this has happened many times before. There seems also to be a hidden hope that I would not do so and that my findings would guide others to take these issues more seriously. Earlier research has shown that identity work is an important part of the research process (Cassell, 2005; Warren and Fassett, 2002). Identities are crafted out of a dialogic relationship among the researcher, respondents and the context, are viewed differently by different people in different places at dif- ferent times, and different scripts for a self can be written by different people involved in this process (Baker, 2004; Cassell, 2005; Coffey, 1999; Crotty, 2003). Self-defined identities could differ from the ones defined by others and the positionality intended might differ from the positionality constructed because any impersonation of the second consciousness essential for viewing oneself from the perspective of another is socially constructed a process through which many voices of one’s culture, experiences and feelings are heard (Morson and Emerson, 1990). This identity work influences the narratives crafted in the research process and leads to the placement of the self in narra- tives in ways that are socially more acceptable and sympathetic (Measor, 1985; Sikes, 2000). Being highly skilled and experienced in self-presentation and narrative crafting, elites find it easier to do so (Ozga, 2000; Ozga and Gewirtz, 1994). Where elites are involved, identity work becomes more signif- icant, particularly in the knowledge-gathering process. Knowledge-making work in the research process Qualitative interviewing and field notes were two main data-gathering meth- ods used due to their methodological and theoretical appropriateness for pur- pose. The design of the study concurs with earlier work stressing methodological and theoretical appropriateness for purpose, and agreement between research techniques and research interests (Darlington and Scott, 2002; Hatch, 2002; Kvale, 1996; Patton, 2002; Pring, 2000; Seidman, 1991). They were employed because I was interested in documenting and understanding others’ experiences from their viewpoints. Elaborate insights into their views were thus imperative to my partial representation, the result of multiple representations from the moment I hear interviewees’ subjective sto- ries of their lived experiences in social worlds they operate within. As Miller Downloaded from http://qrj.sagepub.com at Middlesex University on February 22, 2008 © 2007 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
  9. 9. 454 Qualitative Research 7(4) and Glassner (2004: 127) note, ‘knowledge of social world emerges from the achievement of intersubjective depth and mutual understanding’. Access to research sites does not automatically grant access to narratives (Miller, 2004). Identities constructed in the field and beyond and the social categories we are a member of influence interviewees’ responses and thus the understanding achieved (Baker, 2004; Miller and Glassner, 2004; Riessman, 1993). From the outset of the research process, I was aware that my ambiguous insider status would help in gaining access to the research site, but would not automati- cally grant access to interviewees’ accounts situated in social worlds outside the interview context. For political reasons, gathering truthful accounts on some issues such as challenges arising from demographic dilemmas would be particularly diffi- cult. Establishing rapport and building feelings of comfort and competence would be important. With these concerns, I employed every opportunity to convey a non- judgemental status and communicate my concern about the privacy of the inter- viewees and the confidentiality of the data both prior to and during the interviews. Researching within policy contexts provided many opportunities to do so. Due to limited time and the exceptionally busy agendas of the interviewees, interviews did not often start on time and some were postponed to a later date. This meant extended waiting time in and many visits to the research site to con- duct an interview. Though tiring, these were valuable opportunities to convey my enthusiasm and interest in the topic. Challenges around time management were not limited to the pre-interview stages. Interviews and meetings were also often interrupted by phone calls and visitors. These made each interview last longer than planned or made it essential to continue later. They also provided opportunities to express my concern about privacy and confidentiality. When interviewees received phone calls or visitors, I immediately stopped the inter- view temporarily and offered to go outside to provide more privacy. As the inter- view extract below illustrates, this helped to engender trust and comfort: You asked questions that helped me better organize my thoughts. I received lots of phone calls, but you did not get disappointed or angry when I answered. You stopped the tape-recorder and I made the call. These are very important. Tight agendas are often presented as one of the main challenges policy researchers face. In my case, they presented themselves as opportunities to seize to establish mutual trust and understanding rather than challenges to overcome. Likewise, challenges arising from resistance to disclose some infor- mation were perceived as opportunities to establish mutual trust and exerting pressure was deliberately avoided. Exerting pressure on such issues would posi- tion me as a threat to privacy and would jeopardize my efforts to establish mutual trust and understanding. I rephrased my questions in ways that would allow me to elicit the information I needed and that would permit the intervie- wees to avoid disclosing the information they did not feel comfortable about. Narratives that emerged in interview contexts were not full and uncensored representations, but partial and censored representations of private in public Downloaded from http://qrj.sagepub.com at Middlesex University on February 22, 2008 © 2007 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
  10. 10. Mertkan-Özünlü: Reflexive accounts about interviewing 455 influenced by the interview context. As Miller and Glassner (2004: 127) note, ‘a story-teller’s narrative…must be partial because it cannot be infinite in length, and all the more partial if it is not to be unbearably boring’. Off-record data are as important as recorded information for crafting a narra- tive that better represents interviewees’ subjective experiences in a social world (Warren, 2002; Warren et al., 2003). Similar to earlier research experiences, off the record associations that emerged once I stopped the tape-recorder sig- naling the end of the interview were often the case for the interviews I con- ducted. These ‘informal’ conversations with the interviewees before or after interviews and spending time in research sites provided the opportunity to observe the multiple identities in operation and to check the truthfulness of interviewees’ narrative accounts, an action imperative to judge the credibility of qualitative research (Silverman, 2001). I trust having access to numerous unrecorded accounts and the opportuni- ties to observe events at the time of happening were the result of my immense efforts to establish rapport, my established identity as a politically unthreaten- ing researcher, and conducting research in a small country where many people know each other. When interviewees were called or visited in the mid- dle of the interview, I was proactive in reacting to the situation and offered to go outside to provide more privacy to the interviewees. Most often, before I had time to offer to do so, interviewees introduced me to their visitors and some- times asked for my views on the topic being discussed. These visits were some- times by other interviewees to discuss some of the issues we were talking about during the interviews. Some other visits were by other people involved in the reform process, particularly teachers and committee members planners of education had worked with or by people from other units in the Ministry. I was privileged to have earned trust. I was also self-conscious of my responsibilities as a researcher to be worthy of this trust. During the informal conversations observed, interviewees’ identities shifted from interviewees to colleagues, advi- sors, school principals, committee leaders and back to interviewees soon after I repressed the record button on the tape-recorder. Different situations invoked different sets of membership categorization devices (Baker, 2004). I had met some of the interviewees earlier. One of them had earlier attended one of the workshops I presented as part of a bicommunal training initiative funded by the United Nations Office for Project Services; the others had known me since I was a teenager. During the informal conversations I had with them prior to and after the interviews, I was positioned as an acquaintance even though we all were aware of my role as a researcher. As soon as the interview started, I sensed the identity work in progress and my new position as a researcher result- ing from it. Informal conversations were more intimate and detailed. Details were hidden in names disclosed and in emotions expressed. Recorded informa- tion was not a distorted and contradictory version of the private, but a censored one. This contradicts previously reported experiences of the ‘validity’ of responses and of explicit ‘lies’ (Sikes, 2000). Russell (2005) stresses the impact Downloaded from http://qrj.sagepub.com at Middlesex University on February 22, 2008 © 2007 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
  11. 11. 456 Qualitative Research 7(4) of trust and good rapport on every aspect of the research process from data generation to data analyses, and Stanley and Slattery (2003) emphasize the impact of the characteristics of research on the levels of access, rapport and trust between the researcher and the researched. Experiences I had within pol- icy contexts and schools most affected by demographic fluctuations and politi- cal issues resulting from and leading to them illustrate this interplay among the researcher, researched and the research context further. It also illustrates that the impact of trust and rapport is not limited to what happens in the interview process, but goes beyond. It extends to time spent at the research sites. A concluding note Throughout this article, I have argued that identities are co-constructed through the interplay among the interviewer, interviewees and the context. Both interviewees and the interviewer are actively engaged in identity crafting and co-constructed identities influence the data-gathering process and the emerging intersubjective narratives of lived experiences in social worlds. This process is multidirectional, multidimensional and active. It involves a multi- faceted interrelationship between the researcher’s intended identity in relation to other selves, available discourses and contexts. Managing the elements we can control is an important aspect of this process. So is learning to live with the elements we have no control over and with the discomfort of acknowledg- ing that research identities can be pre-planned, but not pre-crafted. Though researchers might desire to construct particular self-identities and position themselves accordingly, the range of discourses available for interviewees to drive on makes this impossible. Pre-planned identities are transformed soon after participants meet. Another intriguing issue is the extent to which we are certain about our interpre- tation of the identity work and its effects on the research process. Would other research participants ascribe to me the same identity for the same or some other rea- sons? Would they agree with my reading of the identity work in progress? I do not know. Identities crafted at any time in any setting are not genuinely knowable, nor is the identity work genuinely comprehensible. I can only impersonate the second con- sciousness imperative for viewing myself from the perspective of another. Any impersonation I am able to achieve is socially constructed through which many voices of my culture and my feelings are heard. My own self cannot be the same for someone else (Morson and Emerson, 1990). Not can someone else’s be for me. AC K N OW L E D G E M E N T S The author would like to acknowledge Professor Christopher Day, Dr Simon McGrath, Dr Andy Hobson and Dr Dorothy Turner for their invaluable com- ments on the earlier versions of this article. Downloaded from http://qrj.sagepub.com at Middlesex University on February 22, 2008 © 2007 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
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  14. 14. Mertkan-Özünlü: Reflexive accounts about interviewing 459 Seale, C. (1998) ‘Qualitative Interviewing’, in C. Seale (ed.) Researching Society and Culture, pp. 202–16. London: Sage. Seidman, I.E. (1991) Interviewing as Qualitative Research. New York: Teachers College Press. Sherif, B. (2001) ‘The Ambiguity of Boundaries in the Fieldwork Experience: Establishing Rapport and Negotiating Insider/Outsider Status’, Qualitative Inquiry 7(4): 436–47. Sikes, P. (2000) ‘“Truth” and “Lies” Revisited’, British Educational Research Journal 26(2): 257–70. Silverman, D. (2001) Interpreting Qualitative Data: Methods for Analysing Talk, Text and Interaction. London: Sage. Stanley, C.A. and Slattery, P. (2003) ‘Who Reveals What to Whom? Critical Reflections on Conducting Qualitative Inquiry as an Interdisciplinary, Biracial, Male/Female Research Team’, Qualitative Inquiry 9(5): 705–28. Straw, R.B. (1990a) ‘Challenging Communication: Reader’s Reading for Actualization’, in D. Bogdan and S.B. Straw (eds) Beyond Communication: Reading Comprehension and Criticism, pp. 21–47. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook. UN Press Release SC/7723 (2003), URL: http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/ 2003/sc7723.doc.htm Walford, G. (2001) Doing Qualitative Educational Research. London: Continuum. Warren, C.A.B. (2002) ‘Qualitative Interviewing’, in J.F. Gubrium and J.A. Holstein (eds) Handbook of Interview Research: Context and Method, pp. 83–101. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Warren, C.A.B., Barnes-Brus, T., Burgess, H., Wiebold-Lippisch, L., Hackney, J., Harkness, G., Kennedy, V., Dingwall, R., Rosenblatt, P.C., Ryen, A. and Shuy, R. (2003) ‘After the Interview’, Qualitative Sociology 26(1): 93–110. Warren, J.T. and Fassett, D.L. (2002) ‘(Re)Constituting Ethnographic Identities’, Qualitative Inquiry 8(5): 575–90. SEFIKA MERTKAN-ÖZÜNLÜ is a doctoral student studying Educational Leadership at the University of Nottingham. Previously, Sefika was a senior instructor and course organizer at the Eastern Mediterranean University where she also acted as a researcher and team leader in the European Higher Education Harmonization Committee. She completed her MPhil in Teaching and Teacher Education at the University of Cambridge as a Cambridge Chevening Scholar. She also participated in the Cyprus Intercultural Training Initiative funded by UNOPS as a trainer and education group leader. Her research interests are in educational change, educational policy, school improvement and research methods. Her current research focuses on large-scale edu- cational reform initiatives in North Cyprus and the representation of education in Cyprus within scholarly literature. Address: Flat 16, Seymour Court, Eversley Park Road, London N21 1JG, UK. [email: smertkan1@yahoo.co.uk] Downloaded from http://qrj.sagepub.com at Middlesex University on February 22, 2008 © 2007 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.

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