Interviewing and Questioning. Hugh Willmott Research Professor in Organizational Analysis Cardiff Business School Home Page : http://dspace.dial.pipex.com/town/close/hr22/hcwhome.
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Research Professor in Organizational Analysis
Cardiff Business School
Home Page : http://dspace.dial.pipex.com/town/close/hr22/hcwhome
`If there is one thing that distinguishes the social sciences from natural science, it is that while both rely on questions to guide inquiry, only social scientists ask questions in order to produce data. We may want to know about atoms and molecules but asking them how and why they behave as they do is not an option’ (Thomas, 2004: 151, emphasis added)
What is the ontology of a question posed in a questionnaire or by an interviewer?
1. Question as a consistent stimulus
2. Question as a meaningful utterance
`What matters is not the that same words are used, or that questions are presented in the same order, but that the questioner and questioned share the same frame of reference and understand the meanings of their communication in the same ways’ (Thomas, 2004: 151)
Exercise: How likely is it that `the questioner and questioned share the same frame of reference and understand the meanings of their communication in the same ways’?
What are the likely barriers? How might these barriers be lowered? How does one know when a shared understanding has (genuinely) been reached?
Adapted from Thomas, 2004, p 151
These kinds of limitations, which are compounded by the use of closed-ended questionnaires - where respondents are required to use the researcher’s categories and scales of evaluation rather than their own – lead researchers to favour other (e.g. interviews) ways of asking or exploring questions.
Interviewing, especially more open-ended methods, is valuable for
Adapted from J. Mason (2002), Qualitative Researching, London: Sage, pp 69-70Example of Planning and Preparation of Qualitative Interviews (1)
1. Identification of big research question(s), such as:
a. How do families handle issues of inheritance?
2. Specification of mini-research questions that are subcategories of the big question(s), such as:
a. Are negotiations about inheritance treated as part of a wider set of negotiations about support in families or are they treated separately?
b. Do people in any way take into account the possibility of inheritance when formulating their own life plans?
3. Articulation of specific topics and questions that could address 2), such as:
a. What happened in practice in relation to specific events?
b. Do people have life plans? Have people thought about inheritance in relation to such plans?
Adapted from J. Mason (2002), Qualitative Researching, London: Sage, pp 69-70Example of Planning and Preparation of Qualitative Interviews (2)
4.Check that the topics and questions really do address the big question(s)
5. Develop a loose and flexible structure for the interviews that covers the topics in a logical manner.
6. Refine the structure through doing some `pilot’ interviews.
Mason prepared (i) an index card containing a flow chart of a possible interview structure (see 2002, p. 71) and a series of index cards containing notes/issues on specific topics. For example, one topic card was titled `Experience’. It included the following key terms or memory joggers: `personal/others – as testator, beneficiary, executor; patterns characteristic of own family; how many generations; experience of legal procedures and services; expected and unexpected; experience of will making; when and why….’ (Mason, 2002:71)
There are numerous possibilities:
Whatever the basis of interviewee selection, the number of interviews will be limited by the resources available and/or by an assessment of when there are diminishing returns (or `saturation’). That occurs when you find that little new is emerging from interviews : that is, you appear to have reached `saturation’.
Multitasking : listening, interpreting, assessing, reflecting, anticipating, note-taking, etc.
`At any one time you may be:
(Mason, 2002: 74)
Unobtrusive, flexible, forces discipline, manageable
Selective collection, distraction during interview, not verbatim
`Complete’ record, reassuring to interviewee, concentrate on interviewing rather than note-taking
Obtrusive, time-consuming to transcribe, reliance upon technology, data overload
Acknowledgement: Adapted from Sarah Jenkins’ notesNote-taking or Recording? – Some Pros and Cons
Tip: Even if you decide to use a recorder, take brief notes so that you have a readily accessible summary of key points and a basis for determining which parts of the tape to listen to or to have transcribed, assuming that you have limited time and resources for undertaking transcriptions, much of which will probably never be used.
You may choose semi-structured or open-ended interviewing because you…
`conceptualize yourself as active and reflective in the process of data generation, and seek to examine this rather than aspiring to be a neutral data collector. While most qualitative researchers have this kind of aspiration, it is important not to underestimate the reflexive challenge posed by analysing your own role within the research process’ (Mason, 2002, p. 66, emphasis added)
`have a particular view of research ethics and politics which means that you believe interviewees should be given more freedom in, and control of, the interview situation than is permitted with “structured” approaches’ (Mason, 2002, p. 66)