Stages of interview research
Ethical issues in interview research
Interviews are becoming increasingly popular as a research tool – indeed, when we look at qualitative analysis later in this book, we will find that the research interview is by far the most common way of gathering qualitative data. But in fact, since the earliest days of psychology, psychologists have used interviewing as a useful way of gathering data. The method was disparaged to some extent by the behaviourist school of thought, but even they conceded that 'verbal behaviour' sometimes provides useful research data.
An interview occurs when a participant is asked questions which have been designed to elicit particular types of information. In almost all research cases, those questions will be asked by another person – the person conducting research, or others who have been employed to do the interviewing. Interviews can take many forms: they can vary in time from a couple of brief questions to an in-depth, probing experience which lasts for an hour or more; they can vary in the structure of the answers required, from tightly specified interview schedules which amount to little more than verbally administered questionnaires to schedules designed to obtain open-ended and free-ranging accounts; and they can vary in the amount of interpersonal balance between the person being interviewed and the interviewer.
As an example of the latter, Massarik (1981) discussed how interviews can vary along a number of interpersonal dimensions. These dimensions include how hostile or accepting the participants are of one another; how much trust or distrust exists between participants; how the roles of interviewer and interviewee are played out – for example, whether these roles are extremely unequal or not – and the amount of closeness or 'psychological distance' which exists between the interviewer and the interviewee. Using these dimensions, Massarik identified six different forms of interview, which are listed in Table 7.1.