The Nature of Qualitative Interviews


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The session explores the ways in which interviews can be effective tools for social research

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The Nature of Qualitative Interviews

  1. 1. Qualitative Research: Interviewing Interview procedures Types of interview
  2. 2. Interviewing: Definition <ul><ul><li>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. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Janesick (2004): 72 </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. Interviewing: preliminary thoughts <ul><li>Material gathered through interviews is one of the most common methods in field research </li></ul><ul><li>Often used as a primary method or a way of further focussing participant-observation </li></ul><ul><li>Interviews allow material to be accessed from social situations where the researcher was not/cannot be present </li></ul><ul><li>Key participants are individuals who appear to have a wide knowledge of the social situation you are interested in </li></ul><ul><li>Sometimes they are individuals who stand at the of the ‘culture’ you are investigating </li></ul><ul><li>Useful in establishing the most important research questions </li></ul><ul><li>May enable access to other situations, people or organisations </li></ul><ul><li>Dangers: Do interviews offer a biased view? Do interivewees have their own agenda? </li></ul><ul><li>Ethical issues: Are interviews exploiting these individuals? </li></ul>
  4. 4. Interviewing: procedures (1) <ul><li>Establishing relationships </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The key is ensuring the person you are interviewing is at ease. How do you do that? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Tell them what you are doing and why </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Ask for permission to use a tape recorder/take notes </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Ensure confidentiality … </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Be sensitive to body language and tone of voice </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Ask non-threatening questions first </li></ul></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Interviewing: procedures (2) <ul><li>Use a schedule which specifies the topics or themes to be covered </li></ul><ul><ul><li>For structured interviews this lists the questions to be asked </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>For unstructured interviews it reminds you which topics/issues to cover (these might not occur in the same order in the interview). </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. Types of interview <ul><li>Interviews range from: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Structured Semi-structured unstructured </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(directed) (non-directed) </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Structured Interviews <ul><li>Structured Interviews have explicit research goals </li></ul><ul><li>Are similar to a verbal approximation of a survey questionnaire </li></ul><ul><li>Allow for easy comparison between participants </li></ul><ul><li>Responses are shaped by the researcher </li></ul>
  8. 8. Unstructured Interviews <ul><li>Unstructured Interviews have an implicit research agenda </li></ul><ul><li>Are similar to ‘steered conversations’ or ‘conversations with a purpose’ </li></ul><ul><li>Questions emerge typically from the conversation </li></ul><ul><li>Skill is in finding the most appropriate time to ask questions </li></ul><ul><li>Choosing which type of interview to use depends on the nature of the research and who you are interviewing. </li></ul><ul><li>Interviews can move from being structured at the beginning to more unstructured at the end </li></ul>
  9. 9. Interview Task <ul><li>Find someone you know to interview. The interview should last approximately 15 minutes. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What are your beliefs about friendship? </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Types of Interview Questions (1) <ul><li>Degree of focus </li></ul><ul><ul><li>‘grand-tour questions: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Could you show me around the building?’ </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>‘What are the general purposes of this room?’ </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>These enable a broad picture to be obtained </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Specific questions: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>‘Please tell me more about …’ </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>These help to find out more specific information </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. Types of Interview Questions (2) <ul><li>Degree of open-endedness </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Open-ended </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>‘ How do you feel about …’ </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Used to discover participant’s perception of the situation. Allows participants to interpret questions their own way. Allows new questions to be generated. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Closed questions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>‘ Do you agree with the idea that …’ </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Restricts participant’s response. Useful to confirm findings </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Types of Interview Questions (3) <ul><li>Types of information </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Descriptive </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Could you tell me what happened that evening? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Structured </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>‘ What factors do you think are involved in …?’ </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Contrast </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>‘ In what way has the course improved since last year?’ </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Clarification </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>‘ You talk about how objects represent people. Can you clarify for me what you mean?’ </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Follow-up </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>‘ You mentioned organising space in the gallery. Can you tell me how you organise the display space?’ </li></ul></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Understanding interview material <ul><li>Knowledge is gained from the interviewee’s viewpoint </li></ul><ul><li>Research material is gathered from the interaction between the interviewee and the researcher </li></ul><ul><li>The primary goal is to understand and interpret these materials in terms of the context in which they were produced: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Was the interview pre-arranged? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Was the interviewee at ease? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What type of questions were asked? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>When and how were they asked? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>We will do more work on what to do with material collected from interviews in a later session </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. Next session <ul><li>Reading for 19 th November </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Van Maanen, J. (1988). Tales of the Field, On Writing Ethnography . London, University of Chicago Press. Ch. 5 </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Clifford, J. (1986). On Ethnographic Allegory. Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Writing Culture . J. Clifford and G. E. Marcus. London, University of California Press. </li></ul></ul></ul>