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Qualitative interviews. Marika L üders [email protected] Structure of lecture. What are qulitative interviews and when are qualitative interviews appropriate? The hows of interviewing Analysis of qualitative interviews with and without software Ethical considerations.

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Qualitative interviews

Qualitative interviews

Marika Lüders [email protected]


Structure of lecture
Structure of lecture

  • What are qulitative interviews and when are qualitative interviews appropriate?

  • The hows of interviewing

  • Analysis of qualitative interviews with and without software

  • Ethical considerations

Department of Media and Communication


A research interview
A research interview

  • ”a purposeful conversatoin in which one person asks prepared questions and another answers them in order to gain information on a particular topic or a particular area to be researched” (Frey and Oishi 1995 How to conduct interviews by Telephone and in person: 1)

  • Structured (closed style) by a standard list of questions

  • Unstructured (open style) - autonomy for the informant to answer freely

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Qualitative interviews vs surveys
Qualitative interviews vs. surveys

  • Qualitative interviews

    • Few interviewees

    • Un/semistructured - open answers

    • Depth, detail

    • Complex phenomena

    • Qualitative analysis

    • Purpose: develop theory, analytical generalisations

  • Surveys

    • Many respondens

    • Structured - predefined answers

    • Overview

    • Causality

    • Quantitative analysis

    • Purpose: generalisations

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When are qualitative interviews appropriate
When are qualitative interviews appropriate?

  • ”Methods are mere instruments designed to identify and analyze the obdurate character of the empirical world, and as such their value exists only in their suitability in enabling this task to be done.”

  • Herbert Blumer (1969) Symbolic interactionism: Perspectives and Methods: 27.

  • Hence: when do qualitative interviews appropriate for analyzing the obdurate character of the world?

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When are qualitative interviews appropriate1
When are qualitative interviews appropriate?

  • The purpose of qualitative interviews is to collect data that reflect comprehensive life-world stories of the interviewees.

  • To obtain an in-depth, lively and nuanced understanding of the phenomena being studied.

  • Statistics have their very essential purpose, but strips away contexts, letting go of the richness and complexity of the reality.

  • Some things can be counted (political preference), others cannot as easily be subject for surveys (worldview, values, experiences).

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When are qualitative interviews appropriate?

  • Qualitative interviews conducted to understand experiences and individual practices: How do journalists experience living and reporting from war areas such as Kongo, Afghanistan or Iraq?

  • For studying social and political processes, how and why things change.

  • For studying personal and intimate issues.

  • Main advantage: interviews are unique and can be tailored to fit the experiences of the informants.

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Research project design
Research project design

  • Topic

  • Research questions -> appropriate methods (book is kind of weird here)

  • Recruit informants

  • Prepare questions and how to ask them (can be compared to operationalisations in quantitative methods: how can you be sure your questions will actually provide you with answers to your research questions. The validity of the research project).

  • Are qualitative interviews appropriate for your research project (as explained intitially).

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Selecting a topic
Selecting a topic

  • How something happened, details of an event

  • Bring new light on a topic, uncover complicated relationshps and evolving events

  • Enquire how present situations of conflict or processes of peace are result of past decitions/incidents.

  • Clearly, in order to uncover complicated processes of societal developments, qualitative interviews with the right people have the potential to uncover new aspects and information.

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Selecting a topic1
Selecting a topic

  • Shed light on invisible problem

  • Give voice to the voiceles

  • Rubin and Rubing: a topic is important if it addresses some unsolved problem of considerable scope.

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Topic what do you want to research
Topic - what do you want to research?

  • In my case for my PhD-project (and forgive me for not choosing something more appropriate for this course):

  • Mediated personal expressions among adolescent users.

  • Where did this topic come from?Partly assigned - had to be concerned with personal mediaImportantly from curiosity: the interplay between forms of mediated expressions - how to understand the social and individual consequences of the individual becoming a producer of media content and of social life taking place in mediated spaces.

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Selecting a topic2
Selecting a topic

  • Access

    • To institutions, key persons

    • To material

    • To resources, time, money

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Selecting a topic summing up
Selecting a topic - summing up

  • Intererst

  • Own experience

  • Social consciousness, wanting to influence

  • Relevance and broader significance

  • Will access be a problem?

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3 minute discussion what topics would you consider for a research project
3 minute discussion: what topics would you consider for a research project?

  • Discuss in groups of three and four what kind of topic you would be curious to research (as a collaborative research project).

  • Make sure qualitiative interviews are the suitable method to choose.

  • After three minutes I will ask for suggestions.

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From topic to research questions
From topic to research questions research project?

  • Might require some initial interviews: do your potential research question resonate with the interviewees?

  • What can you learn from previous research (research being cumulative)?

  • The research questions help to keep the project focused, but might be modfied and rewritten throughout the research project.

  • In my case: article-based, five articles with different questions to be answered. One example:

  • How do digital network technologies affect possibilities to shape representations of selves, and how do users create convincing representations?

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From research questions to interviews
From research questions to interviews research project?

  • Obviously, I could not ask my adolescent informants ”how they represent themselves in mediated spaces”.

  • Questions need to be lucid and understandable for your informants.

  • Several overlapping questions might be needed, as well as probing for more in-depth answers.

  • Develop an interview-guide, specifically for each informant. The interview guide should not restrict the flow of the interview!

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Design analysis and theory
Design < analysis and theory research project?

  • You need to anticipate the end of the project: what are your aims, how do you want to contribute?

  • Implies reading articles and reports from similar research projects.

  • Anticipating the anlysis, and learning from early interviews: your focus may change throughout the process - research is a hermeneutic process! Reformulating research questions.

  • Means interviews must be analysed while the project is underway.

  • The aim of qualitative interviewing is not statistical generalisations but analytical generalisations - developing theories.

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Design analysis and theory1
Design < analysis and theory research project?

  • The aim of qualitative interviewing is not statistical generalisations but analytical generalisations - developing theories.

  • If your theory is right, similar projects should come up with similar findings.

  • In my case: hyperpersonal communicationInterrelations between mediated and face-to-face communicationwith significant consequences for sociability in network societies.

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Flexible design
Flexible design research project?

  • Adjusting as you go along: necessary part of qualitative research

  • You may discover that your initial thesis is wrong, and consequently need to alter your approach and questions in interviews.

  • If you already knew all the answers beforehand, why conduct interviews at all?

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An iterative process
An iterative process research project?

  • A process towards a model of the phenomenon

  • Beginning: gathering themes and ideas

  • Middle: focusing, winnowing

  • End: analysing, forming theories

  • ”The iterative design stops when the information you are putting together supports a small number of intergrated themes and each additional interview adds no more ideas or issues” (Rubin and Rubin: 47)

  • Theoretical saturation

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Continous design
Continous design research project?

  • Allows exploration of new topics while keeping the research organised and focused

  • Allows the researcher to be flexible yet organised.

  • Understandig you need to talk to other informants.

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Recruiting interviewees
Recruiting interviewees research project?

  • ”To enhance credibility, you choose interviewees who are knowledgable, whose combined views present a balanced perspective, and who can help you test your emerging theory” (Rubin and Rubin 2005: 64).

  • First-hand knowledge

  • Whose views reflect different perspectives

  • Who can help you develop and modify your theory

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Recruiting interviewees1
Recruiting interviewees research project?

  • Experienced: Relevant, first-hand experience: after all your empirical knowledge of the phenomenon of study stems from those you interview.

  • Talk to the people concerned.

  • Knowledgable: preliminary research is often indicative.But you will rarely find one individual with comprehensive knowledge. Piecing togeher information from different interviews to depict the overall picture.

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Preparing an interview guide
Preparing an interview guide research project?

  • Unique to each informant as each informant will have different experiences and perspectives (yes, means you need to be very well prepared).

  • Themes?

  • Specific questions? Helpful for the unexperienced researcher

  • Interview guides, if followed too mechanically, can easily interrupt the conversational flow of the interview. Should be kept as a background check-list.

  • Start with information about the research project, then easy to answer questions, before taking up more sensitive issues.

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Topical interviewing
Topical interviewing research project?

  • Exploring what, when, how and why something happened.

    • Examples from R&R: what is wrong with welfare programs, why immigration policy is ineffective, how health care can be improved.

  • Piecing together perspectives from different people to a coherent narrative.

  • Researchers must have comprehensive factual knowledge on the matter in question. Be prepared!

  • Researcher more actively guide the questioning.

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Interviewees as conversational partners
Interviewees as conversational partners research project?

  • Unlike survey interviews where repondents are more passive and less able to elaborate.

  • Conversational partner: the uniqueness of each person with whom the researcher talks.

  • The aim is to discover his or her distinct knowledge.

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Qualitative interviews as extenstions of conversations
Qualitative interviews as extenstions of conversations research project?

  • Similar to and different from conversations:

  • Similar as a conversation of questions and answers (though the interviewer must learn to keep quiet)

  • Different: relies on the interviewer being able to proces what the informants says. Hearing the meaning requires specific skills: think of appropriate questions, stay focused (both the interviewer and informant), trust, persuading people to be interviewed, specificity of questions.

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Qualitative interviews as extenstions of conversations1
Qualitative interviews as extenstions of conversations research project?

  • A conversation between strangers.

  • Some strangers are more accustomed to talking than others (interviewing journalists as opposed to interviewing teenagers).

  • Clifford Geertz (1973): Thick descriptions - the depth, detail and richness

  • Requires main questions, probes and follow-ups. Intense listening. Informants do not know when they have said enough. The responsibility of the researcher to probe for more depth and detail.

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Structuring the interview
Structuring the interview research project?

  • Starting out with a selection of preplanned main questions, which in turn may stimulate probes and follow-up questions.

  • -> how much time to spend on each topic, you need to cover all areas of interest within a restricted time span (important people are busy!)

  • The aim: complete a narrative from various perspectives, resolve contradictions.

Department of Media and Communication


Structuring the interview main questions
Structuring the interview: main questions research project?

  • Breaking the subject into smaller parts

  • Prepared based on studying background information or preliminary interviews. Though not to be followed rigidly.

  • The answers you obtain will reflect the quality of your questions: again emphasising the importance of being prepared and to think through and analyse your interviews throughout the research project.

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Structuring the interviews probes
Structuring the interviews: probes research project?

  • Encouraging the interviewee to expand on narratives, explain in more depth: nodding, uh-huhing.

  • Steering the interview back on track: keeping the interview on track.

  • Getting the details right and trying to understand the narrative your interviewee offers.

  • Asking for examples.

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Structuring the interview follow up questions
Structuring the interview: follow-up questions research project?

  • To get richer, more in-depth answers

  • Asking for details and examples

  • Filling in narrative blanks, discovered when you study already conducted interviews. Follow-up interviews or in the same interview.

  • Figuring out slant, interviewees will be biased, follow-up questions will help you understand their perspective and point of view.

  • Following up contradictions,

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Credibility through transparency
Credibility through transparency research project?

  • The future reader must be able to see the process by which the data were collected and analysed.

  • Keep notes and recordings, but ensure anonymity and confidentiality are protected.

  • Encourages the researcher to stay close to the data in writing up a report. Quotes are good (and interesting to read).

  • The research process must be visible in the analysis.

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3 minute discussion analysing qualitative interviews
3 minute discussion: Analysing qualitative interviews research project?

  • Discuss in groups of three and four how you would go on to analyse the interviews.

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Analysing qualitative interviews
Analysing qualitative interviews research project?

  • Preliminary analysis after each interview.

  • Fine-grained analysis when interviews have been completed:Making sense of the narratives you have ended up with.

  • Interview data must be coded and structured in order to develop theory and an overall explanation.

  • CODING

  • +

  • REASSEMBLING for comparing narratives

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Coding
Coding research project?

  • The process of grouping responses into categories that bring together similar (or contradictory) ideas, concepts, or themes.

  • Coding unit: a word, a sentence, a paragraph

  • Using brackets, underline or otherwise mark coding unit.

  • Requires close-reading and re-reading the material.

  • Your analysis will only be as reliable and good as your coding.

  • Material with the same codes are ultimately put together and compared.

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Final stages of analysis
Final stages of analysis research project?

  • Organise data that help you formulate themes, refine concepts and link them together to create a description or explanation.

  • Material is interpreted in terms of literature and theory within the field.

  • Your research project should increase the knowledge level of the studied phenomenon within the field.

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Analysing with software
Analysing with software research project?

  • Computer-assisted qualitative data analysis (CAQDAS) supports the resercher in the process of coding and retrieving data.

  • The actual analytical process of analysing the data can only be done by the researcher.

  • Methods that accelerate the routine and mechanical tasks -> more time and effort can be devoted to the depth of the analysis.

  • The coding process remains very much the same, only made more efficient.

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Analysing with software1
Analysing with software research project?

  • TAMS Analyazer

  • A selection of codes that I applied to the interviews.

  • A total of 190 codes.

  • Codes were defined to secure a coherent coding process.

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Analysing with software research project?

  • Oversimplifying the process of analysing complex qualitative data?

  • ”It is important for qualitative researchers to keep interviews in the context in which it was gathered” (Roberts and Wilson 2002: ”ICT and the research process”: paragraph 11)

  • Well, the context is never lost even if the researcher uses software, rather it is very easily accesssible

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Analysing using software
Analysing using software research project?

  • CAQDAS facilitates a multifaceted and creative analysis

  • Several codes can be applied to the same text elements

  • Software only supports the researcher in the process of comparing and consequently discovering patterns, similarities and differences between the interviewees.

  • The interpreting role of the researcher remains the most fundamental part of the data analysis process.

  • Compare with Rubin & Rubin’s chapter on analysing data - the similarities in analytical process are evident.

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Analysing using software1
Analysing using software research project?

  • For mac, open software: TAMS analyzer http://www.macupdate.com/info.php/id/8358

  • For PC

  • MaxQDA: http://www.maxqda.com/

  • Nud*ist: http://tinyurl.com/2b4qnc

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Ethical considerations
Ethical considerations research project?

  • Informed consent: received from the subject after s/he has been carefully informed about the research

  • Right to privacy: protecting the identity of the subject

  • Protection from harm: physical or emotional.

  • Always ask for permission to record interviews.

  • Behave ethically.

  • For the most famous example of how not to:

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Ethical considerations1
Ethical considerations research project?

  • Laud Humphrey’s Tearoom Trade (1970)

    • ”Humphrey studied homosexual encounters in public restrooms in parks (”tearooms”) by acting as a lookout (”watchqueen”). This fact in itself may be seen as ethically incorrect, but it is the following one that has raised many academic eyebrows. Unable to interview the men in the ”tearooms”, Humphrey recorded their car license plate numbers, which he used to trace the men to their residences. He then changed his appearance and interviewed many of the men in their homes, without being recognized.” (Fontana and Frey: ”Interviewing: The Art of Science”: 71)

  • Which is why we have NSD:

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Reporting your project to nsd
Reporting your project to NSD research project?

  • Norwegian Social Science Data Services (NSD) is the Privacy Ombudsman for Research for all Norwegian universities, colleges and research institutions. Concerns students as well as researchers.

  • Research projects that imply the collection of personal and confidential information must be reported to the Privacy Issues Unit at NSD. The unit ensures that collection, safeguarding, storing and reusing personal data comply with ethical and legal standards.

  • http://www.nsd.uib.no/personvern/melding/pvo_melding.cfm

  • Letter of consent must be signed by all informants.

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