SSH 301 – LECTURE SIX – Interviewing
Monday, October 28 , 2013
Interviewing and different research designs
Interview guides and questions
Challenges with interviewing
Interviewing & power relations
Less structured and tends to be more open ended
Allows greater freedom to modify and add research ideas once the investigation has
Greater interest in interviewee’s perspectives and concerns.
Interview is driven mainly by the research agenda of the person conducting the
Going off on a tangent is often encouraged
Interviewer uses memory aid: A small set of self-prompts to investigate certain
Interviewer asks questions that connect to the theme
Interviewer may ask a single question: Interviewee is then allowed to respond
freely, with the interviewer pursuing point that seem worth to follow-up.
Interviewer has a list of questions (an interview guide) – but interviewee still has a
great deal of leeway in deciding how to reply.
Questions may not follow in exact order in the guide and some questions not
included on the list may be asked in response to the interviewee.
Used in in-depth interview studies
INTERVIEWING AND RESEARCH DESIGN:
An in-depth interview study: “a research design where qualitative interviewing is
the primary means of data gathering” (Babbie & Benaquisto 2014, p. 328)
Focus group interview/group interviewing
Within a mixed methods research design – ie. Doing a survey which leads to a follow
up focus group.
Within photo voice & photo elicitation research designs
Babbie and Benaquisto (2014) give 7 stages in the interviewing process:
o Thematizing: You develop the resreach question but you also explain why
interviews are the best way for answering the questions.
o Designing: What kind of sampling could you use? o Interviewing: Semi-structured or unstructured, what kind of questions are
you going to ask? Justify them.
o Transcribing: Taking your audio tape and turning it into text Crucial
because your interviews need to be transcribed so that you can analyse
them in depth You need to quote directly from the interview. It allows
the interviewer to learn skills of analysing as they transcribe
o Analysing: Analyse all data Look for themes (how the participants are
making sense of your questions)
o Verifying: Helps to give research validity sending a transcript of the
interview to the participants to ask them if you are representing what they
said (could be the transcript or could be your analysis) they are allows to
dispute your analysis
o Reporting: Why are you doing this research in the first place? Where do you
want it to go? What do you want it to do? Some place to impact? Help people
understand the answer to the question?
Interviews lead to co-production of knowledge
o Some of the skills that are required are about being nice but there are some
o Teaching people to interview is hard because you learn to do it by having a
lot of bad ones.
Both researcher and interviewee learn from and shape the interview
o They are being prompted to think about things in a new way.
This is how we understand interviewing to be a collaborative
o The interviewer should learn enough to ask good questions but not too
much because it is about them.
Interviewers should be
o More interested than interesting
The biggest mistake is talking too much, when we say little but
prompts their interviewee to open up.
o About asking them questions to make them the object.
o Socially acceptable incompetents (socially acceptable questions)
Might seem obvious questions but getting them to answer it opens
up their perspective which is what you are gathering and analysing
The interviewer may take the interview in different directions, move
with the interviewee and redirect, middle ground, and respond to
what they say, don’t just go onto the next question.
Listen to answers, will lead to having smooth transitions.
Kvale’s 9 types of questions (from Bryman et al)
Introducing questions: Set context, get people comfortable, and don’t just jump
into what you’re after.
Follow-up questions: These get the interviewee to elaborate on an answer (e.g.
What do you mean by that?) Also, repeating significant words in an answer to
stimulate further explanation. Probing questions: These follow up what has been said through direct questioning
(e.g. Can you say something more about that?)
Specifying questions: Refers directly to what was said. Clarification on an event
that the subject describes. (e.g. What did you do then?)
Direct questions: Ask them specific questions about their lives. Questions about the
subject’s reflection on what has been described. (e.g. Do you feel exploited in your
job?) Such questions are better left until later in the interview, in order not to
influence the direction of the interview too much.
Indirect questions: Ask about context, and make it more general. Ask questions in
a round-about way. Questions about the interveiwee’s view about the perception of
others. (e.g. How you do personally find working here for the wages you get? How
do you people feel about working here?) Be sure to ask the interviewee for his/her
Structuring questions/statements: Ask short questions – one thing at a time –
don’t add leading questions – avoid bias’s/negative terms be open that don’t imply
different positions – be very clear/understandable. Shifting to a different
topic/issue. (e.g. I would like to move on to a different topic)
Silence: A pause will give the interviewee an opportunity to reflect and amplify an
answer; just don’t pause for so long that the interviewee feels embarrassed.
Interpreting questions: Getting clarification that you have interpreted an answer
properly. (e.g. Do you mean that your leadership role had to change from one of
encouraging others to a more directive one?)
o FROM BYMAN ET AL: VIGNETTES/SCENARIOS
The Interview Guide:
(Figure 10.1, p. 169)
Lays out what is going to be said
In a unstructured interview you may have cue cards with themes and strategies to
get people to talk
In a semi-structured interview there will be specific questions written out in an
order (having introduction questions, follow up, etc. 6-12 direct questions, some
indirect, scenarios, vignette questions
General research area – specific questions – interview topics – formulate interview
questions – revise – pilot study – identify issues – revise – finalize
Unexpected participant behaviour: Must be flexible (eating breakfast, insisting on
houses although they are distracting for an interview.
Consequences of research’s actions and subjectivity: The researchers created the
problem (e.g. hving confusing instructions/questions, unclear, leading questions,
talking to much [general standard for talking should be 80-20]
Phrasing and negotiating questions
Dealing with sensitive issues: Not knowing how to respond to crying, changing topic,
offer reassurance, asking questions about sensitive topics. Be upfront so that it is
not a surprise
Useful/Unuseful Interview Talk:
From Roulston, DeMarrais and Lewis (2003)
o Assessments o Formulations
o Closed questions
“A method that uses indepth interviews as a means of gathering data about the past
from individuals’ recollections typcailly focusing on specific events or periods of
time” (Babbie & Benaquisto 2014, p. 336)
“Subjects are invited to look back in detail across their entire life course, and to
report their experiences and how they understand their world” (Bryman et al 2012,
P. SUGIMAN (2004) “MEMORIES OF INTERNMENT: NARRATING JAPANESE CANADIAN
WOMEN’S LIFE STORIES” THE CANADIAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY:
Interviewed over 50 Nisei women in Canada
Analyzed Japanese Canadian community newspapers
HOW DO SECOND GENERATIONS UNDERSTAND THE EXPERIENCES OF THIS TIME?
Time: During interview: She found that time was different for them (not as much
Domestic loss: They lost their household role and lost their identity (losing dishes,
houseware, sewing machine)
Relational memory: Young woman at the time understood though their mothers and
relation through others, and compared their pain and suffering.
Redemptive memories: Finding silver linings, happy endings, didn’t want to be
presented as victim.
Redeeming Qualities: In her study, she was interested in how people talking. How
they said what they said. Some instances they talked freely, sometime they were
more timid (this was difficult). We can personalize the experience because we know
how it was experience by people there.
FOCUS GROUP RESEARCH:
What others say often prompts others
Can produce v. naturalistic conversations about topics in question
“the focus group setting also allows the researcher to examine how people make
sense of issues in a collective manner” (Babbie & Benaquisto 2014, p. 334)
Pros and Cons
o Cost effective, time saving
o Members may feel less targeted o Produces specific insights through group interaction
o Allows researcher to develop an understanding of why people feel the way
o Interviewee’s are able to feed off each others reasoning’s and answers, and
argue and challenge one another’s view, which produces a more realistic
account of what people think (forces them to defend and possibly revise
o May be impractical
o Keeping groups on task is difficult
o Lots of transcribing
o Negotiating group dynamics
o Researcher probably has less control over the proceedings.
o Unwidely amount of data is sometimes produced.
o Could result in inaudible group recordings because participants may be
sitting too far from microphone.
o Can take longer to transcribe to identify who said what.
o The data may be difficult to analyse: Difficult to find themes and patterns of
o Difficult to arrange: May be hard to get people to participate, and harder to
get them to show up.
o Group effect may be a problem: Can have people that are too shy to speak up
or too outgoing and hog the stage.
How many focus groups should be in a study?
How many participants should be in a focus group?
Should the participants know each other or be strangers?
FOCUS GROUP ACTIVITY:
Organize yourselves into groups of four.
Choose a letter from A-B-C-D
o A research question
o Focus group questions
Conduct a 4-5 minute focus group
Write 2 paragraphs
o Describing your findings
o Discussing mediation challenges
Can access dispersed populations
Transcribing not required; audio recording not required
Anonymity easily guaranteed
Could be easier for shy people
Interviewee’s are able to respond as soon as question is asked. People who are inaccessible and dispersed are especially suitable for online focus
Able to read answers over and over again if needed, and are more accurate
Interviewees are less influences by others around them, and their characteristics.
No one person has to enter an unsafe environment that they do not feel comfortable
Requires a lot of time
Difficult to establish rapport
Missing a lot of body language
Requires certain technological competencies
Moderating focus groups is more difficult; administrative problems.
Sometimes difficult for participants to participate in larger online groups because of
they keyboard skills.
Taking turns in regular conversations is largely side lined.
Replace face to face counterparts
Difficult for interviewers to probe other questions, because questions may not be
read or just ignored.
Less spontaneity in responses, b