Handbook of Qualitative Research in Education
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Handbook of Qualitative Research in Education

Edited by Sara Delamont

The Handbook of Qualitative Research in Education offers both basic and advanced discussions of data collection, analysis and representation of all the best qualitative methods used in educational research.
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Chapter 26: Interviewing Individuals

Martin Forsey


Martin Forsey* 1 STARTING WITH THE END IN MIND Interviews are arguably the most used instrument in qualitative research (Briggs, 1986, p. 11; Alvesson, 2002; Elliot, Chapter 20; Currie, Chapter 29, this volume). Reasons for this are manifold: they offer expedient ways of gathering richer data than a pen and paper survey can offer; they make sense in an ‘interview society’ (Atkinson and Silverman, 1997); and provide tangible, ‘work-withable’ data in a field of endeavour that oft times feel abstract, difficult to pin down. More positively, or at least less pragmatically, the research interview provides an opportunity for creating and capturing insights of a depth and level of focus rarely achieved through surveys, observational studies, or the majority of casual conversations held with fellow human beings. We interview in order to find out what we do not and cannot know otherwise. And we record what we hear in order to systematically process the data and better understand and analyse the insights shared through the dialogue. It is tempting to portray listening as the most significant skill for an interview project (Seidman, 2006, p. 78; Elliott, Chapter 20, this volume). If all we did was talk with people I would not argue with this proposition, but the project requires a wide variety of social, organizational and academic skills. Writing, for instance, is vital. Without ‘good enough’ research reports, all of the excellent listening that helped produce the data in the first place was for naught. ‘Keep the end point in sight’...

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