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Political Science 3N06 2012 L14 .docx

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McMaster University
Political Science
Todd Alway

Political Science 3N06 2012 Lecture 14 Interviewing  There are a number of different types of interviews  Different types are useful for different purposes 1. Structured interviews  Think of them as being like closed-ended surveys  Where the survey is delivered by the researcher rather than through the mail  heavily scripted/highly controlled  Given that they are like surveys, the same concerns regarding question wording and question order must be addressed  Useful for gathering standardized data that can be used for quantitative analysis Guidelines:  1. The purpose of the study should be explained in the same way, as written, by all interviewers o everyone is setting the same initial process  2. Interviews should follow the question script as written – both question wording and question order o In effect, this means that both the interviewer and the interviewee are rigidly controlled o should follow the script o in a controlled manner  3. Only the respondent should provide answers to survey questions (directly or indirectly) o This means that the interviewer must keep her personal opinions to herself o avoid tainting the interviewee o She must appear apolitical and non-judgemental  4. Where clarification and elaboration are required, this should be provided through the use of neutral probes In effect, the interviewer is to be a neutral recording machine Any interviewer-effects should be carefully eliminated Feminist critique:  There are hierarchies of power embedded into this type of interview  It engages in pseudo-conversation  All take and no give  “A masculine paradigm (Oakley, 1981), embedded in a masculine culture and stressing masculine traits while at the same time excluding from interviewing traits such as sensitivity, emotionality, and others that are culturally viewed as feminine. (Denzin)”  This is a problem ethically  It is also a problem methodologically  Providing very partial answers – answers that meet the pre- conceived needs of the interviewer, but that do not, perhaps, reflect the lived world of the interviewee  dehumanizes the interviewee  the interviewee is instrumental-ized  talk about how women are being marginalized  a sense of one side of their opinions The alternative?  “We need to hear what women implied, suggested and started to say but didn’t. We need to interpret their pauses and, when it happens, their unwillingness or inability to respond. We need to consider carefully whether our interviews create a context in which women feel comfortable exploring the subjective feelings that give meaning to actions, things, and events, whether they allow women to explore unwomanly feelings and behaviours, and whether they encourage women to explain what they mean in their own terms (Anderson and Jack – Learning to Listen)”  What’s true of women is also true in the case of other marginalized groups  establishes a context  like a quantitative survey  Do structured interviews allow them to speak? 2. Unstructured interviews  Used more frequently by qualitative and interpretivist researchers  attempt is to engage in genuine conversation  you have to break down artificial hierarchy  Note: Not all unstructured interviews are interpretivist  But this type of interview aligns better with the interpretivist epistemological pole  Unstructured interviews are not based upon a rigid questionnaire  They are based on the assumption that many relevant questions will emerge during the process of interacting with interviewees – the questions cannot be rigidly predetermined at the office  The limitations of this approach o Lacking standardized questions, it is difficult to generalize your findings o Since each interview will likely involve different questions being asked in a different order and at different times  How do you aggregate the interview data across interview subjects? o The problem of interviewer effects (reactivity) still exists o The interviewees are aware that you are a researcher o That you are recording what they are saying o So how true to their real concerns are you actually going to get? o there is a b
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