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 qualitative research literature. It is often assumed that interview guides are merely a list of questions used to guide a qualitative interview. The background analysis and preparation necessary to prepare an appropriate and effective guide cannot be dismissed, however, as they are integral aspects of the interview process. The current study on mental models of Malaysian smallholder farmers employed in-depth interviews as its primary approach to data generation. This paper details the initial processes undertaken to develop the interview guide based on preliminary data generation. The results included seven main steps to interview guide development. Key Words: Malaysian Farmers, Interview Guide, and Mental Model

Introduction

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 megabusinesses 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. …

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