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Interviews as Method of Data Collection in Times of Polarisation

Course Dates and Times

Monday 7 – Friday 11 August 2023
Minimum 2 hours of live teaching per day
13:00 – 15:30 CEST

Annemarie Walter

University of Nottingham

This course offers an interactive online learning environment using advanced pedagogical tools, and is specifically designed for advanced students, researchers, and professional analysts. The course is limited to a maximum of 16 participants, ensuring that the teaching team can address the unique needs of each individual.

Purpose of the course

To gain an in-depth understanding of interviewing as a data collection method in political science research. You will develop your skills through practical experience in designing and conducting interviews, to introduce approaches to interview data management and analysis and stimulate methodological refection.

The course focuses on one-on-one, expert and elite interviews. It is appropriate for researchers wishing to use interviewing as stand-alone data collection method or as part of a mixed method approach.

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • know when to make use of interviewing as a data collection method;
  • design your interview study and defend your methodological choices;
  • independently prepare and conduct interviews;
  • maximize the data generated through conducting interviews;
  • have basic knowledge on how to analyse interview data;
  • report your interview data appropriately.
ECTS Credits

4 credits - Engage fully in class activities and complete a post-class assignment

Instructor Bio

Annemarie Walter is an Assistant Professor in the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of Nottingham. She obtained her PhD in political science from the University of Amsterdam.

Her research interests are parties’ campaign strategies, elite (moral) decision-making, misperceptions and conspiracy beliefs and voters’ responses to politicians’ transgressions. Her work has been published in international journals such as Political Communication, Political Behaviour and Political Psychology. Her most recent book is an edited volume entitled Political Incivility in the Parliamentary, Electoral and Media Arena: Crossing Boundaries.

Her research is based on data collected by conducting survey questionnaires, online survey-embedded experiments, content analysis, (elite) interviews and archival research. She has ample experience interviewing campaign managers, politicians, bureaucrats, and journalists.

Key topics covered

Day 1: Introduction to Interviewing as a Data Collection Method

When is interviewing as a data collection method appropriate? What are the different methodological approaches to interviewing and what are the strengths and weaknesses of interview data? You will analyse the use of interview data in a diverse array of political science studies. Is interviewing the best data collection method for your research question?

Day 2: Designing your Interview-based Study

Both for expert and elite interviews, you will learn how to identify your interviewees, different sampling strategies, how to recruit interviewees and the best mode to conduct these interviews. You will reflect on the ethical considerations of conducting interviews, such as anonymity, confidentiality, data security, withdrawal, debriefing, informed consent, vulnerable interviewees, and distressing topics. You will explore how to write an information sheet, informed consent forms and an ethics application.

Day 3: Preparing your Interviews

The quality of the data yielded is strongly dependent on your preparation, the structure of your interview protocol and the questions asked at the various interview stages. In this session, you will cover different interview protocols, question development and pre-testing and subsequently revising your interview protocol and questions. You will learn about methods of documenting interviews, such as recording, transcription and storage.

Day 4: Conducting Interviews

Focusing on the interaction between the interviewer and the interviewee, what power, culture and gender dynamics are potentially at play? What is professional behaviour for an interviewer? How does the interviewer create trust? How can social desirability and interviewer biases be limited in the data generation? What to do in complex situations and unexpected events? There will be in-depth discussion on conducting interviews in polarized contexts, such as societies and groups divided by political conflict and heightened (partisan) identities. As online interviewing is gaining in popularity due to cost efficiency and the ability to collect data in unique circumstances such as the pandemic, you will reflect on the challenges of conducting interviews online.

Day 5: Analysing Generated Interview Data

You will explore different methods of analysing interview data, manual and computer-assisted, inductive, and deductive analysis strategies, such as thematic content analysis, narrative analysis and content analysis. In addition, you will learn about the importance of cross-referencing and conducting validity and reliability checks and risks of misunderstanding and under-theorisation of data. You will also look at the best practices and common pitfalls of presenting interview data in publications.

How the course will work online

The course combines asynchronous pre-class assignments, such as readings and pre-recorded videos, along with daily 2.5 hour live online sessions. In these sessions, you will have focused short discussions about the preparatory readings and pre-recorded videos, conduct and discuss group assignments. You will be able to book one-to-one consultations with the instructor, over the duration of the course.

Online interactions include small lectures, classroom feedback, and group exercises in breakout rooms. All online interaction will be via Zoom.

Any prior knowledge of research design and methods is an asset, but not required.

It is recommended, but not required, to bring your own research project to the course. You are expected to conduct approx. 3 hours of preparatory work for each session, which includes readings and pre-recorded videos.