Research Interviewing: The Range of Techniques

By Bill Gillham | Go to book overview

13 The interview as a
qualitative experiment

Research methods are devised to meet the needs of research – to answer particular questions. What makes research so demanding is that you cannot always rely on 'off-the-shelf' techniques but frequently have to adapt them to fit a specific topic. And sometimes you have to devise something new (as far as you know).

What is described here are some simple techniques intended to meet the needs of research students in the area of design – specifically textiles and product design. Although developed for these purposes, one can see that they constitute approaches of wider application in any context where someone is showing a 'product' and asking, essentially: what do you think? Such approaches can also be combined with structured observation: that is, watching what people do as well as listening to their views and commentary.


What is an experiment?

True experiments are the province of the natural sciences but the social sciences often adopt their methodology which, when used in this way, commonly has its own peculiar difficulties and characteristics (chemical elements don't try to interpret or second guess what is going on as human subjects do). But the analytic style and precise procedures, with the promise of disentangling complex elements of behaviour, constitute a powerful appeal, even when the application is problematic.

But what exactly is a classic experiment in human terms? This is best answered by taking an example which involves people but where physiological measures are also involved. Let us assume that the purpose of the research is to evaluate the effects of a new drug on blood pressure levels. A large number of people (hundreds if not more) who suffer from varying degrees of hypertension are randomly assigned to an experimental group and a control group. Random allocation distributes individual characteristics so that the

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