Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Preliminary Investigation and Interview Guide Development for Studying How Malaysian Farmers' Form Their Mental Models of Farming

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Preliminary Investigation and Interview Guide Development for Studying How Malaysian Farmers' Form Their Mental Models of Farming

Article excerpt


The development of the interview guide is an integral aspect of the process of conducting qualitative research, yet one that receives little attention in the literature. It is often stated that in qualitative research, the researcher him or herself is the research instrument (Pyett, 2003; Fink, 2000), as it is through the researcher that qualitative data is generated or collected, analyzed and interpreted. One important aspect of the data collection process is the research interview; specifically the questions that the researcher uses to probe and generate data with his or her respondents. This process is typically guided by an interview guide or guide, which helps the researcher...

... direct the conversation toward the topics and issues you want to learn about. Interview guides vary from highly scripted to relatively loose, but they all share certain features: They help you know what to ask about, in what sequence, how to pose your questions, and how to pose follow-ups. They provide guidance about what to do or say next, after your interviewee has answered the last question. (Kennedy, 2006, para. 1)

Though there is much information available for students and researchers in qualitative research on the concept of the interview guide (Creswell, 2007; Merriam, 1998; Bogdan & Biklen, 1992; Patton, 1990), few have attempted to outline the process undertaken to arrive at one, particularly in the context of larger, team-based qualitative research studies. This is of concern because the interview guide is an integral tool in the process of collecting data in qualitative research. Though the researcher is the instrument in the research process and may stray from the guide in the midst of interviewing, the guide is a valuable aid that provides the researcher with needed consistency, and a pathway for using questions that can generate data. The interview guide likewise provides the invaluable link between the research problem, research questions, past relevant literature and the sought after data that can fill the gap identified by the researcher.

The current paper aims to outline the interview guide development process, based on the authors' experiences in the context of a team-based qualitative study on the development of Malaysian farmers' mental models and how they influence farm profitability and viability. Through our experiences, we outline the process and discuss in detail our rationale for using the selected approaches along with examples from the research itself. The paper aims to assist qualitative research students as well as other researchers by illustrating in detail one approach for developing a useful and relevant interview guide.

Background of the Study: Malaysian Farmers' Mental Models

The recent revival of agriculture in Malaysia has seen the rebirth of a few mega-businesses that implement and maximize profits by utilizing new technologies and innovations. While this transformation is seen by many as the way ahead for the agriculture sector in Malaysia, it is set against the backdrop of a large number of poorer small-scale farms. As Malaysia's agriculture sector continues to develop in line with the nation as a whole, it is of concern to policy makers and agricultural educators to ensure that small-scale farms and farmers are not left behind in the push for development.

Years of our own personal experiences in the field of extension education indicate that getting a Malaysian farmer to adopt new technology and innovation can be daunting, as the majority of farmers continue to farm using traditional methods. Among the few highly successful small farmers, individual ingenuity appears to be the key to success, or at least an important factor in their level of proficiency, profitability and sustainability (Zanariah, Azimi, Turiman, & Krauss, 2008). Ingenuity enables farmers to see possibilities, take advantage of market niches, and anticipate and solve problems. …

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