Interviewing and Representation in Qualitative Research

Interviewing and Representation in Qualitative Research

Interviewing and Representation in Qualitative Research

Interviewing and Representation in Qualitative Research


Too often interviewing is seen as simply a tool for data collection, while in reality it is a complex, subtle process that cannot be separated from the dynamic of the project or from the multiple and changing contexts of everyday life. In posing the question, what is research for?, Interviewing and Representation in Qualitative Research explores the processes of interviewing as itself a project intimately involved in contemporary debates around knowledge, freedom, power, ethics, modernism postmodernism, and globalisation.

What makes the book distinctive is its focus on interviewing not just as a tool to be used within other frameworks such as case study, action research, evaluation and surveys, but as an approach to organise a project as a whole, to provide frameworks for organising perspectives on the multiple 'worlds' of everyday life. It is argued that every project, every methodology, every theoretical perspective has its own rhetorical framework that interacts with the 'world' as subject of study or focus for intervention. The interview, as defined in this book, is both the process of constituting and de-constructing world views - it is the inter-view, the place between worlds. Without the 'inter-view' no dialogue and no alternatives as a basis for difference, change, and development would be possible. The inter-view as conceived in the book is fundamental to qualitative research as an emancipatory project.

Research practice is thus placed in the context of philosophical, theoretical and methodological debates, taking the reader beyond many introductory texts, making it suitable for all students and researchers who wish to advance the frontiers of their research and engage with contemporary social and political realities.


Don't be misled. The interview is not a simple tool with which to mine information. It is a place where views may clash, deceive, seduce, enchant. It is the inter-view. It is as much about seeing a world – mine, yours, ours, theirs – as about hearing accounts, opinions, arguments, reasons, declarations: words with views into different worlds.

Listening to the lives of others, then, is a curious kind of voyeurism. It is like having many lives by proxy. Vicariously the interviewer lives the memories told through anecdotes. Momentarily there is the thrill of being other than myself as the images, the personas, the actions of others fill my imagination with lives I might have led had I been luckier or less fortunate. There is a kind of pleasure there. But also more than that. There is the hope that somehow by listening enough, something might be learnt and something might be changed.

There's something very familiar about the interview. We submit to them when going for a job, or a place in a college, membership of a club, or as respondents to a street survey. We watch professional journalists attempt to wheedle statements from politicians who dodge and weave. We are entertained by fictional accounts of detectives and spies interrogating suspects. We are drawn into the accounts of the lives of 'stars' or of 'exotic' strangers from other cultures. In each case we know its purpose is to uncover 'truth', reveal 'realities', provide 'information'. We know too that people can lie, provide misleading impressions, or refuse to say anything. So we marvel at the skills of professional and fictional interviewers who seduce, trick, bully or as if by some magic 'empathy' ease the truth from their interviewees. No one can claim the innocence of 'just asking', 'just conversing', or even 'just following the rules of professional or scientific procedure'. Yet, what else do we do but ask questions, allow people to respond and glimpse their worlds? So, interviewing a 50 year old ex-police inspector for a project (Schostak and . . .

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