Action Research and Organizational Development

By J. Barton Cunningham | Go to book overview
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7
Types of Interviews

Interviews are an important part of any action researcher's project. They can be used for resolving disputes and problem-solving, brain-storming creative options, gathering data, or as a tool for developing a better understanding of the types of variables and criteria that can be used in a questionnaire.

The importance of different approaches to interviewing was underlined as early as the Hawthorne studies in the 1930s. These studies were primarily concerned with trying to understand how morale and productivity were affected by various aspects of the organization's design. However, in attempts to gain a better understanding of these factors, the researchers found that direct questioning often led to superficial, specific responses. The interviewers tried a radically new experiment where they sat back and decided to let the interviewee direct the interviews. The employees launched into long tirades to which the interviewer patiently listened. More importantly, the researchers gained surprising understandings about human relations.

Interviews, especially unstructured interviews, provide the opportunity for the researcher to investigate further, to solve problems, and to gather data which could not be obtained in other ways. This chapter provides an overview of how open-ended or unstructured interviews can be used for different purposes. It first outlines some general problems with interviews and then describes four types of interviews which can be used by the action researcher.


PROBLEMS WITH INTERVIEWS

There is a long and well-documented set of difficulties with open-ended or unstructured interviews. School teachers might assess the intelligence of the same five children and feel very confident about the accuracy of their assessments. However, they can disagree widely between themselves. 1 In selection evaluations,

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