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Religion and Political Theory: Secularism, Accommodation and The New Challenges of Religious Diversity, Edited by Jonathan Seglow and Andrew Shorten

WC101 - Qualitative Interviewing

Instructor Details

Instructor Photo

Lea Sgier

Institution:
University of Geneva

Instructor Bio

Lea Sgier is a senior lecturer at the University of Geneva and a senior researcher at the University of Applied Arts and Sciences in Geneva, in operational charge of a National Science Foundation project on Alzheimer policy (2017–21), and co-investigator on a project on elder people's political citizenship.

She has taught qualitative methods at various summer and winter schools (Essex, ECPR, WSSR Concordia, etc.) and numerous workshops and seminar throughout the world.

From 2010–17 she was an assistant professor of qualitative methodology at Central European University in Budapest, and since 2013 she has been a member of the Steering Committee of the ECPR Standing Group on Political Methodology.


Course Dates and Times

Monday 6 to Friday 10 March 2017
Generally classes are either 09:00-12:30 or 14:00-17:30
15 hours over 5 days

Prerequisite Knowledge

This is an intermediate-level course for participants who have some familiarity with qualitative research in general and ideally (but not necessarily) some experience with qualitative interviewing. Prospective participants in this course should: 

  • have some understanding of qualitative research in general (for example by having attended a Master's level methodology course covering some aspects of qualitative research, having done some preparatory readings or having had some previous experience with qualitative research)
  • have a basic knowledge of and ideally (but not necessarily) some practical experience with some form of qualitative interviewing
  • have a solid oral and written command of English (be able to grasp nuances, articulate fine-tuned questions etc.)

Participants with little prior knowledge of qualitative interviewing are advised to familiarise themselves with the topic by some introductory reading, such as for example: Arksey, Hilary and Knight, Peter (1999). Interviewing for Social Scientists. London: Sage. Kvale, Steinar (2008). Doing Interviews. London: Sage. (or similar introductory books on interviewing).

Short Outline

In-depth interviewing is a widely used method for data collection in the social and human sciences. This course is meant to a) refresh and deepen the participant's general understanding of in-depth interviewing, by discussing its theoretical and epistemological underpinnings (symbolic interactionism and communication theory in particular) and situating it within a reflection on power relations in the field; b) systematically go through the research process specific to interviewing, including testing specific interviewing techniques appropriate for dealing with uncooperative or otherwise "difficult" respondents, and/or for asking sensitive questions; c) introduce the participants to the logic of interpretive interviewing intended to yield data rich and deep enough to grasp constructions of meaning, discourses and narratives. This kind of interview is of interest to researchers who aim to understand how people make sense of their life and the world surrounding them, how they position themselves as individuals and social actors, and how they participate in wider social and political processes and discourses. Interpretive interviewing can be used as a method on its own (for research projects that, as whole, focus on the identification of discourses), or as a complement to more conventional types of interviewing (to become more sensitive to ambiguities, silences or contradictions in interviews that may hint towards layers of understanding that might escape our attention otherwise).

Long Course Outline

In-depth interviewing is a widely used method for data collection in the social and human sciences. It is the method of choice for research projects that aim to explore people's experiences, motives, opinions and perspectives in their depth and richness and without constraining the respondents' answers by a priori categories or pre-set reply options. In political science in particular, it is often also used for the purpose of reconstructing processes.

Although generally structured by a topic guide, in-depth interviews allow for flexibility and openness throughout the interview interaction and are based on open and non-leading questions that are designed to get the interviewee to talk freely and at length, and to explore the width and depth of his or her views and experiences (see for example Ritchie et al. 2013, Kvale/Brinkman 2008 or Hermanowicz 2002).

Although widely used, in-depth interviewing as a method is also often under-reflected, and consequently used too "naively" and with an insufficient understanding of its limitations, specificities and difficulties. This course offers an intermediate-level introduction to this method for participants who already have some knowledge of and, ideally, some experience with doing interviews, and who wish to deepen and sharpen their understanding of the method.

The course will:

  1. refresh and deepen the participant's general understanding of in-depth interviewing, by reviewing its basic principles and steps, discussing its theoretical and epistemological underpinnings (symbolic interactionism and communication theory in particular) and situating it within a reflection on power relations in the field. In this context, we will namely reflect on key differences between interviews with different types of respondents (elites, experts, "ordinary" people, vulnerable groups, etc.) and different interviewee/interviewer constellations (issues of gender, age, social class, race, etc.). We will also strive to understand the interview as "journey" which, to be completed successfully, needs a particular type of cooperation between interviewer and interviewee.
  2. review and put into practice the research process specific to in-depth interviewing (conceptualisation in the spirit of 'sensitising questions', topic guide construction, selection of interviewees, etc.), including the discussion and testing of specific interviewing techniques appropriate for dealing with sensitive questions and/or with "difficult" respondents. In this context, and depending on the participants' interests, we might also discuss specific issues such as on-line interviewing, interviewing with the help of a translator, etc.
  3. introduce the participants to the logic of interpretive interviewing intended to yield data rich and deep enough to grasp constructions of meaning, discourses and narratives (that typically manifest themselves in the form of more or less implicit categorisations, demarcations, framings, particular types of wording, etc.). This kind of interviews is of interest to researchers who aim to understand how people make sense of their life and the world surrounding them, how they position themselves as individuals and social actors, and how they participate in wider social and political discourses that both constrain and enable them as social actors. Interpretive interviewing can be used as a method on its own (for research projects that, as whole, focus on the identification of discourses etc.), or as a complement to more conventional types of interviewing (to become more sensitive to ambiguities, silences or contradictions in interviews that may hint towards layers of understanding that might escape our attention otherwise).

To give a simple example: PhD students speaking of what it is to them to be PhD students often draw on implicit understandings of "work" to situate their research (as constituting or not constituting "proper" work) - and themselves - in a moral and social space (as "good" or "bad" students); similarly, policy-makers, when speaking of their views of the role of social policy, typically deploy latent understandings of what a "proper" citizen and a "deserving" welfare state beneficiary is in their understanding.

While the general principles of in-depth interviewing are helpful in making this kind of often implicit categorisations emerge, they are often insufficient: the 'interpretive interviewer' needs to develop an even sharper sense for how to tap into systems of meaning (without ever pushing the interviewee in a particular direction) and for detecting clues signalling the presence of more implicit or latent layers of meaning underneath the respondents' explicit statements. This course aims to develop the participants' capacity to "hear" such clues, and to design and carry out interviews that are able to tap into more latent layers of discourse too.

We will start with a review of the general principles and feature of in-depth interviewing (and from the participants' own experience with it) and locate it within a deeper theoretical and epistemological understanding. In addition, some "warm-up exercises" will be used to sensitise the participants to various ways of "hearing" interview data, including more interpretive ways (day 1). We will then go through the research process typical of an interview research, starting from conceptualisation in the spirit of 'sensitising' concepts and the elaboration of an interview topic guide (days 2-3). After some testing and refining of the topic guide, and a review and deepening of interviewing techniques (days 3-4), the participants will then carry out a full interview, critically re-listen to it and transcribe selected passages (day 4) that we will use for a discussion of data analysis from various angles, including interpretive analysis.

Throughout the week, we will discuss key issues of in-depth interviewing, such as the importance of non-directivity and of not imposing pre-set categorisation upon the respondents, ways of exploring the width and depth of the respondents' views while nevertheless staying on track and the crucial importance of probing into the "right" issues. There will also be room to discuss the participants' own interviews (or planned interview research), both during class hours and outside, and to raise various ethical issues specific to in-depth interviewing.

The participants in this course should please bring with them a digital recording device with download function (such as: digital recorder, mp3, iPhone or iPad etc.). If they intend to work on their own laptop, they can also usefully install a transcription assistance software (such as ExpressScribe, F4/F5, or similar).

They should be prepared to put in some hours of daily work for readings and practical exercises (interviewing, transcribing etc.), in addition to the daily class meetings. Daily assignments will be given at the end of each class meeting, for the next day.

Day-to-Day Schedule

Day-to-Day Reading List

Software Requirements

For this workshop we need a transcription software such as Express Scribe (full version), for PC and Mac. http://www.nch.com.au/scribe/de/, or F4/F5.

Hardware Requirements

The participants need a digital recording device that allows for data downloading (digital recorder, iPhone, mp3, etc.). Participants who bring their own laptop might want to install a transcription software such as ExpressScribe or F4/F5.

Literature


Further literature.

Foddy, William (1994). Constructing Questions for Interviews and Questionnaires: Theory and Practice in Social Reseach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gillham, Bill (2005). Research Interviewing. The Range of Techniques. Maidenhead: Open University Press/MacGraw-Hill.

Holstein, James A. and Gubrium, Jaber F. (1995). The Active Interview. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Keats, Daphne M. (2000). Interviewing. A Practical Guide for Students and Professionals. Buckingham: Open Unviersity Press.

Kvale, Steinar and Brinkmann, Svend (2014). InterViews: Learning the Craft of Qualitative Research Interviewing. London: Sage, 3rd edition.

Lapadat, Judith & Lindsay, Anne (1999). "Transcription in research and practice: From standardization of technique to interpretive positionings". Qualitative Inquiry, 5, pp, 64-73.

Liamputtong, Pranee (2007). Researching the Vulnerable. London: Sage.

Mosley, Layna (ed.), Interview Research in Political Science. Ithaca/London: Cornell University Press.

Renzetti, Claire M. and Lee, Raymond, M. (éds.) (1993). Researching Sensitive Topics. Newbury Park etc.: Sage.

Ritchie, Jane, Lewis, Jane, McNaughton Nicholls, Carol and Ormston, Rachel (eds) (2013). Qualitative Research Practice. A Guide for Social Scienists and Researchers. London: Sage.

Rubin, Herbert J. and Rubin, Irene (2012). Qualitative Interviewing: The Art of Hearing Data. Thousand Oaks etc.: Sage.

Silverman, David (1993). Interpreting Qualitative Data. Methods for Analyzing Talk, Text and Interaction. London: Sage.

Weiss, Robert (1994). Learning From Strangers. The Art and Method of Qualitative Interview Studies. New York: The Free Press.

Yanow, Dvora and Schwartz-Shea, Peregrina (eds) (2006). Interpretation and Method. Empirical Research Methods and the Interpretive Turn. Armonk and London: M.E. Sharpe.

Reference Books.

Bevir, Mark (ed.) (2010). Interpretive Political Science. 4 vol. Los Angeles: Sage.

Gubrium, Jaber F. and Holstein, James A. (eds) (2001). Handbook of Interview Research. Context and Method. London: Sage, 1st edition.

Gubrium, Jaber F., Holstein, James A., Marvasti, Amir B. and McKinney, Karyn D (eds) (2012). Handbook of Interview Research. The Complexity of the Craft. Thousand Oaks: Sage, 2nd edition.

Fielding, Nigel G. (ed.) (2002). Interviewing. London: Sage, 4 vol.

Fielding, Nigel (ed.) (2008). Interviewing II, 4 vol. London: Sage.

The following other ECPR Methods School courses could be useful in combination with this one in a ‘training track .
Recommended Courses Before
  • Summer School: Qualitative Data Analysis
Recommended Courses After

Summer School:

  • Expert Interviews

Winter School:

  • Focus Groups
  • Advanced Qualitative Data Analysis
  • Writing Ethnographic and Other Qualitative-Interpretive Research: Learning Inductively Introduction to Qualitative Interpretive Methods

Additional Information

Disclaimer

This course description may be subject to subsequent adaptations (e.g. taking into account new developments in the field, participant demands, group size, etc). Registered participants will be informed in due time.

Note from the Academic Convenors

By registering for this course, you confirm that you possess the knowledge required to follow it. The instructor will not teach these prerequisite items. If in doubt, contact the instructor before registering.


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