Nigel King. The Qualitative Research Interview
In Qualitative methods in organizational research
A practical guide
Edited by Catherine Cassel and Gillian Symon
(London, Sage Publications, 1994. 253 pp.)
Types of research interview and their uses
The qualitative research interview
The goal of any qualitative research interview covers a range of approaches to research interviewing. Its goal is to see the research topic from the perspective of the interviewee, and to understand how and why he or she comes to have this particular perspective. To meet this goal, qualitative research interviews will generally have the following characteristics: a low degree of structure imposed by the interviewer; a preponderance of open questions; a focus of ‘specific situations and action sequences in the world of the interviewee’ rather than abstractions and general opinions. (pp.14-15)
A key feature of the qualitative research interview method is the nature of the relationship between interviewer and interviewee. In a quantitative study using structured interviews, the interviewee is seen as a research ‘subject’. In contrast the qualitative researcher believes that there can be no such thing as a ‘relationship-free’ interview. The interviewee is seen as a ‘participant’ in the research, actively shaping the course of the interview rather than passively responding to the interviewer’s questions.
The diametrical opposite of the qualitative research interview is the structured interview. In this the interviewer uses a detailed schedule with questions asked in a specific order. Every effort is made to control the way these questions are asked in order not to bias the responses of different interviewees. Questions are mostly closed
The emphasis is heavily on easily quantifiable information (p.15)
Another type of research interview lies somewhere between the qualitative research interview and the structured interview. The authors refer to it as structured open-response interview. It uses an interview schedule (like the structured interview) Questions follow in a set order
However, many more of them are open-ended
There is flexibility in the order groups of questions are asked These interviews tend to focus on factual information and general evaluative comments.
The type of interview to be used in a study depends on the nature of the research question to be addressed.
The qualitative research interview is most appropriate:
1. Where a study focuses on the meaning of particular phenomena to the participants. 2. Where individual perceptions of processes within a social unit are to be studied prospectively, using a series of interviews. 3. Where individual historical accounts are required of how a particular phenomenon developed. 4. Where exploratory work is required before a quantitative study can be carried out. 5. Where a quantitative study has been carried out, and qualitative data are required to validate particular measures or to clarify and illustrate the meaning of the findings.
The structured interview is most appropriate:
1. Where testing of a formal hypothesis (-ses) is desired.
2. Where data gathered can be readily (and meaningfully) quantified. 3. Where factual information is to be collected and the researcher knows in advance the type of information the participants will be able to provide. 4. Where a postal survey would be likely to produce a very poor response rate. 5. Where the generalizability of previously obtained qualitative findings is to be tested.
The structured open-response interview is most appropriate:
1. Where a quick, descriptive account of a topic is required, without formal hypothesis-testing. 2. Where factual information is to be collected, but there is uncertainty about what and how much information participants will be able to provide. 3. Where the nature and range of participants’ likely opinions about the research topic are not well known in...
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