Research Interviewing: The Range of Techniques

By Bill Gillham | Go to book overview

1
Research interviewing:
key issues
The motivation for the present book comes from practical experience of the needs of postgraduate research students and others doing research in 'realworld' contexts who need to identify interviewing methods appropriate to their topic. There is more than one way of carrying out an interview, some more costly in terms of time and resources; and all of them more so than the universally popular questionnaire. In the main, interviews and questionnaires serve different purposes: to carry out a large-scale or preliminary survey you use questionnaires; to achieve a depth of understanding, you use an appropriate form of interview.Interviews are inherently more flexible, whatever the level of structure, ranging as they do from 'listening in' and asking questions in a real-life setting to the standardized recording schedules used by market researchers. Questionnaires are difficult to do well and easy to do badly (Gillham 2000a: 1). In the latter case the data are worthless, and in the former they tend to be superficial but can point to further 'in-depth' research. Only limited inferences can be made because you cannot explore what lies behind the answers to the questions.How is an interview to be defined? Not all of the variety of interviews described in this book meet all of the following criteria, but these are the main features:
1. Questions asked, or topics raised, are 'open' with the interviewee determining their own answers. This is a key distinction from questionnaires where normally the researcher not only asks the questions but provides the answers in some sort of choice format, for example, ranking preferences in order, circling one item on a 'very satisfactory' to 'very unsatisfactory' scale, and so on.
2. The relationship between interviewer and interviewee is responsive or interactive, allowing for a degree of 'adjustment': clarification,

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