ECPR Winter School
University of Bamberg, Bamberg
2 - 9 March 2018




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 (CEU) 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 5 to Friday 9 March 2018
25 hours over 5 days
09:00-12:30 and 14:00-16:30

Prerequisite Knowledge

A critical requirement for participation in this course is that (1) you are using some form of qualitative interviewing in your current research (PhD thesis, project etc.) and (2) that you are already familiar with the basics of qualitative interviewing, as this course is not a beginners' course.

  1. This Master course is suitable for two types of participants:
    1.  participants who have not yet collected their own interview data, but are planning to start their interviews in the near future – they can use this workshop to a) actively work on the preparatory steps of their study (topic guides, access strategies, "sampling"/selection procedures, etc.), b) enhance their understanding of interviewing by learning from more advanced participants who have already collected more data, and from readings and common discussions;
    2. participants who have already done a number of interviews that they will bring along to the workshop – for them the workshop can be an opportunity to reflect on and fine-tune their data collection, in the light of their and other  participants' experiences, and also with an eye on data analysis.
  1. All participants in this workshop are assumed to be familiar with the basics of qualitative interviewing. At the very least they will be acquainted with the basic literature on interviewing; ideally they should have some practical  research interviewing experience as well (this experience may be acquired in a context other than their current research, such as a Master's thesis, project work, or some pilot stage data collection). Beware that this is not an introductory course that will take the participants step-by-step through the whole process of an interview research or teach interviewing techniques.

The course requires submission before the course of a well elaborated (draft) research design that makes clear how qualitative interviews are intended to be used; of a tentative topic guide that should have been discussed with their supervisor and (if at all possible) pre-tested or at least submitted to a few other people for preliminary feedback); and for those participants who have already collected some of their data, an interviewing transcript (a full transcript if the data are in English, German, French, Italian or Spanish; a partial transcript of 5-6 pages translated into English, German or French if the original data are in any other language).

More information about the documents to be submitted ahead will be circulated well in advance of the course. Prospective participants will be asked to fill out a short questionnaire to make sure they have the pre-requisites for the course.

Participants who are unsure whether they have the required perquisites for this course are advised to contact the instructor before enrolling.

 

Short Outline

This hands-on Master Course aims to provide participants with methodological tools and with a space for critical reflection to refine their use of qualitative interviewing in their own research. It assumes that the participants are already familiar with the basics of some form of qualitative interviewing. Part of each teaching day will be devoted to lectures and discussions about key methodological issues. Their aim is to broaden the participants' methodological horizon and their understanding of how data collection through interviewing fits into the overall research design (whether qualitative or mixed methods), and how it relates to epistemological and theoretical as well as practical and ethical questions. The other part of the day are used to discuss particular aspects of participant projects (collectively) and thereby to give participants ideas on how to move forward with their projects.

To benefit from this course, participants need to be willing to be very actively engaged throughout the week, and to engage in methodological discussions beyond their own specific projects – a lot of learning will happen through collective engagement with the participants' projects.

Tasks for ECTS Credits

  • Participants attending the course: 4 credits (pass/fail grade) The workload for the calculation of ECTS credits is based on the assumption that students attend classes and carry out the necessary reading and/or other work prior to, and after, classes.
  • Participants attending the course and completing one task (see below): 6 credits (to be graded)
  • Participants attending the course, and completing two tasks (see below): 8 credits (to be graded)
  1. To receive 4 credits, you will be asked to be an active participant, doing the readings, submitting the presentation material (research design; draft topic guide(s), transcript (if applicable), at least three weeks in advance of the course, and doing the in-class presentations.
  2. An additional 2 credits will be awarded with daily assignments that are assigned after class every day.
  3. An additional 2 credits will be awarded upon the submission of a take-home paper of about 10 pages, for which you will do one full interview with your own topic guide; transcribe it and provide a short methodological as well as substantive analysis.
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 and events. A yet less frequent, but equally interesting use of interviews is to use them as tools for accessing collective and cultural discourses. 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 hands-on Master Course aims to provide participants with methodological tools and with a space for critical reflection so as to refine their understanding of the method and help them fine-tuning the use they make of it. It assumes that the participants are familiar with the basics of some form of qualitative interviewing (such as semi-structured in-depth interviewing, biographic interviewing or other forms of un- or loosely structured interviewing, oral history interviews, expert interviews, etc. (Experience with focus group interviewing or even with journalistic or clinical interviewing might also be fine, provided that the participants are familiar with the literature on research interviewing as well). Whether this experience has been acquired through formal training or/and hands-on experience is secondary – what counts is that the participants do have a concrete sense of what research interviewing entails.

Part of each teaching day will be devoted to lectures, discussions and exercises revolving around key methodological issues (in the light of, but not necessarily limited to the participants' own projects) such as: elaborating efficient topic guides that ensure both theoretical soundness and communicative quality; interviewing techniques and ways of handling "difficult" respondents, topics, groups or situations (for example un-talkative or evasive respondents; specific respondents groups such as high-level political elites or vulnerable respondents; sensitive topics such as corruption or violence;  specific situations such as interviewing in non-democratic or cross-cultural contexts); strategies for negotiating access and for selecting respondents in a way that results in a meaningful "sample"; ensuring research ethics on issues such as confidentiality and informed consent; or criteria of scientific soundness (such as internal validity and process transparency), how they should manifest themselves during data collection, data analysis and writing up, and how to pre-empt and confront methodological criticism on the part of external agents such as PhD committees or editors. Data analysis will also be briefly considered in the course of the week, mainly with the aim of making the participants aware of how to "hear" data beyond explicit contents, and how to deal with the specific dilemmas inherent in interview data (such as participants making contradictory statements at different points of the interview, or discrepancies between what respondents say and what documents show). This is not a full data analysis course though – participants mainly interested in data analysis are advised to attend a specific data analysis course.

Their general aim of this part of the course is to broaden the participants' methodological horizon and their understanding of how data collection through interviewing fits into the overall research design (whether qualitative or mixed methods), and how it relates to epistemological and theoretical as well as practical and ethical questions.

The other part of the day will be used to discuss particular aspects of participant projects (collectively) and thereby to give participants ideas on how to move forward with their projects. The participants will be invited to give short presentations (to the whole group or sometimes - possibly - to a sub-group having similar issues). These presentations will oblige the participants to make their assumptions and strategies explicit and confront critical questions. They will hopefully also gain new insights into how they could enrich their approach, or ground or streamline it better.

After each day the participants will be given a homework task for the next day (such as: work on their topic guide; articulate their theoretical/epistemological understanding of interviewing; reflect on practical and ethical issues related to their planned interviews, etc.), which will feed into next day's activities.

To benefit from this course, participants need to be willing to be actively engaged throughout the week, and to engage in methodological discussions beyond their own specific projects – a lot of learning will happen through collective engagement with the participants' projects.

By the end of the week, each participant will have had various opportunities to present her/his project and submit her/his emerging ideas for discussion and feedback.

Day-to-Day Schedule

Day 
Topic 
Details 
  

Provisional – will be adjusted with an eye on the participants' projects.

An additional bibliography will be distributed subsequently.

1 

Morning

Introductory structured exercise with participant presentations(1) (9-10:45)

Introductory lecture: challenges of qualitative interviewing throughout the research process  (in the light of the participants' projects) (11-12:30)

Afternoon

"good" and "bad" interviewing – sensitising exercises on the basis of interview transcripts (14-15:15)

Lecture/discussion: Interviewing techniques (15:20-16:30)

Homework: work on topic guide; do exercise in interviewing techniques.

2 

Morning

Warm-up discussion of topic guides/interviewing techniques (9-9:45)

Lecture: Topic guides – from theoretical coherence to efficient communication (9:45-10:45)

Lecture and discussion: theoretical understandings of research interviewing and their practical implications for data collection and analysis. (10:45-12:30)

Afternoon

Participant presentations (2)

Homework: work on topic guides/interviewing techniques, and on the methods chapter (rationale for the use of interviews, pitfalls of using interviews in this particular case)

3 

Morning

Warm-up discussion of topic guides and interviewing techniques (2) (9:00-9:45)

Lecture: access and respondent selection in research interviewing (9:45-10:45)

Discussion of participants' issues with access and respondent selection (11-12:30)

Afternoon

Lecture: Interviewing and research ethics (14:00-15:00)

Participant presentations (3) on research ethics and access

Homework: work on topic guide/interviewing techniques and methods chapter (research ethics)

4 

Morning

Lecture: "Hearing data" – listening and analysing for content and discourse (implications for interviewing techniques and data analysis) (9-10:45)

Exercises in "hearing" data  and short discussion on emerging epistemological issues (the "truth" issue, respondent validation etc.) (11-12:30)

Afternoon

Participant presentations (3)

Homework: exercise in data analysis; writing up exercise (if applicable)

5 

Morning

(Interactive) Lecture: quality criteria in qualitative research – assuring rigour and being convincing (dealing with ethics boards, PhD committee members, editors, etc.) (9-10:30).

(Interactive) Lecture: writing up interview findings (10:45-12:30)

Afternoon

Wrapping it all up: final presentations (4) with roadmap,  next steps and pending issues

Day-to-Day Reading List

Day 
Readings 
1

Yeo, Alice et al. (2013). "In-Depth Interviews", in Ritchie, Jane, Lewis, Jane, McNaughton Nicholls, Carol and Ormston, Rachel (eds) (2013). Qualitative Research Practice. A Guide for Social Scienists and Researchers. London: Sage

Foddy, William (1993). Construction Questions for Interviews and Questionnaires. Theory and Practice in Social Research. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ch. 1-2.

Mosley, Layna (2013). " 'Just Talk to People'? Interviews in Contemporary Political Science", in Mosley, Layna (ed.), Interview Research in Political Science. Ithaca/London: Cornell University Press, pp. 1-28.

Additional Readings Rosenblatt, Paul C. (2002). "Interviewing at the Border of Fact and Fiction", in Gubrium, Jaber F. and Holstein, James A., (eds) The Handbook of Interview Research (1st ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage, pp. 893-910. Schwartz-Sea, Peregrine, and Yanow, Dvora (2012). Interpretive Research Design. New York: Routledge, ch. 1-2. Riessman, Catherine Kohler (2008). Narrative Methods for the Human Sciences. London: Sage, chap. 3. Kvale, Steinar and Brinkmann, Svend (2014). InterViews : Learning the Craft of Qualitative Research Interviewing. London: Sage, 3rd edition, ch. 12, 14. Coffey, Amanda and Atkinson, Paul (1996). Making Sense of Qualitative Data. London: Sage.
2

Keats, Daphne M. (2000). Interviewing. A Practical Guide for Students and Professionals. Buckingham: Open University Press, pp. 34-57.

Arthur, Sue et al. (2013). “Designing Fieldwork Strategies and Materials”, in Ritchie, Jane et al. (éds), Qualitative Research Practice. London: Sage, pp. 147-176.

Bowen, Glenn A. 2006. "Grounded Theory and Sensitizing Concepts." International Journal of Qualitative Methods 5(3), article 2. (Retrieved 5 from: http://www.ualberta.ca/~ijqm/backissues/5_3/pdf/bowen.pdf).

Hermanowicz, Joseph C. (2002). "The Great Interview: 25 Strategies for Studying People in Bed", Qualitative Sociology 25(4): 479-499.

Foddy, William (1993). Construction Questions for Interviews and Questionnaires. Theory and Practice in Social Research. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ch. 1-2.

Goffman, Erving (1959). The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York: Doubleday Anchor Books, ch. 3 and 6.

3

Luborsky, Mark R. and Rubinstein, Robert L. (1995). "Sampling in Qualitative Research: Rationale, Issues, and Methods". Research on Aging 17:89-113.

Lilleker, Darren (2003). "Interviewing the Political Elite: Navigating a Political Minefield", Politics 23(3): 207-14.

Adler, Patricia A. and Adler, Peter (2002). "The Reluctant Respondent", in Gubrium, Jaber F. and Holstein, James A., (eds) The Handbook of Interview Research (1st ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage, pp. 515-535.

Ostrander, Susan A. (1993). “’Surely You’re Not in This Just To Be Helpful’ : Access, Rapport, and Interviews in Three Studies of Elites.” in R. Hertz et J.B. Imber (eds), Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 22: 7-27.

ASA Code of Ethics

4

Hammersley, Martyn (with Roger Gomm) (2008). "Assessing the Radical Critique of Interviews", in Hammersley, Martyn, Questioning Qualitative Inquiry. London: Sage, pp.  89-100.

Mikecz, Robert (2012). “Interviewing Elites: Addressing Methodological Issues”. Qualitative Inquiry 2012 18:482-493.

Ritchie, Jane and Spencer, Liz (2002). "Qualitative Data Analysis for Applied Policy Research", in Huberman, A. Michael and Miles, Matthew B. (eds), The Qualitative Research Companion. Thousand Oaks: Sage, pp. 305-329.

Alexiadou, Nafsika (2001). “Researching policy implementation: Interview data analysis in institutional contexts”, International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 4(1): 51-69.

McCormack, Coralie (2002). "From Interview Transcript to Interpretive Story: Part 1— Viewing the Transcript Through Multiple Lenses". Field Methods, Vol. 12, No. 4, November 2000 282–297.

5

Yanow, Dvora (2006). "Neither Rigorous nor Objective? Interrogating Criteria for Knowledge Claims in Interpretive  Science", in Yanow, Dvora and Schwartz-Sea, Peregrine (eds) (2006). Interpretation and Method. Empirical Research Methods and the Interpretive Turn. Armonk NY: M.E. Sharpe.

Mertens, Donna M. (2014). "Ethical Use of Qualitative Data and Findings", in Flick, Uwe (ed.), The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Data Analysis, London: Sage, pp. 510-523.

Literature

See daily schedule.

A more specific bibliography will be distributed during the course.

Prerequisites

Prospective participants interested in this course should be familiar with basic literature on interviewing such as those below. The very basics of interviewing will not be taught in this as they are presumed known. Participants who are unsure whether they have the required perquisites for this course are advised to contact the instructor before enrolling.

Arksey, Hilary and Knight, Peter (1999). Interviewing for Social Scientists. London: Sage.

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.

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

Ritchie, Jane, Lewis, Jane, McNaughton Nicholls, Carol and Ormston, Rachel (eds) (2013). Qualitative Research Practice. A Guide for Social Scienists and Researchers. London: Sage. (the first edition of the same book, 2003, is fine as well).

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

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

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

Interpretive research design
Mixed methods research
Expert Interviews

 

Recommended Courses After

Summer School

Qualitative Data Analysis/Advanced Qualitative Data Analysis

Winter School

Vignette Methods in Interpretive Research

Additional Information

Disclaimer

The information contained in this course description form may be subject to subsequent adaptations (e.g. taking into account new developments in the field, specific participant demands, group size etc.). Registered participants will be informed in due time in case of adaptations.

Note from the Academic Convenors

By registering to this course, you certify that you possess the prerequisite knowledge that is requested to be able to follow this course. The instructor will not teach these prerequisite items. If you are not sure if you possess this knowledge to a sufficient level, we suggest you contact the instructor before you proceed with your registration.


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