Edited by Larry Dwyer, Alison Gill and Neelu Seetaram
Chapter 18: Interview Techniques
Nancy Gard McGehee NATURE OF THE TECHNIQUE AND ITS EVOLUTION Throughout history, people have attempted to make sense of the human condition through narratives, putting words to their experiences. Some argue that the original paradigm of human inquiry and the archetypical research method is, in fact, the act of conversation between two people (Heron, 1981). Interviewing as a research technique has roots in anthropology and sociology (Seidman 2006) and has been well-regarded in those disciplines for decades. The term “interviewing” includes a broad range of techniques, spanning from highly structured, standardized, closed questions, to unstructured, open-ended conversations. The focus for this chapter will be upon the latter, most often referred to as in-depth interviewing. In-depth interviewing “uses individuals as the point of departure for the research process, assumes that individuals have unique and important knowledge about the social world that is ascertainable, which can be shared through verbal communication” (Hesse-Biber and Leavy, 2011, p. 94). With this approach, the researcher typically loosely follows an interview schedule of open-ended, broad questions, with the goal of guiding the informant toward her/his reconstruction and interpretation of the topic of study. Interviewing is primarily located within the qualitative epistemology of research methods, particularly the critical and interpretive paradigms (Goodson and Phillimore, 2004). Those who identify with these paradigms and engage in the interview technique believe that “all research is influenced by the philosophical position of the researcher, the nature of the project, and its intended audience” (Jordan and Gibson, 2004), and view research as...
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