Qualitative Research Mode Of Interviews

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Posted on Feb 11, 2016

Qualitative Research Mode Of Interviews


Qualitative Research Mode Of InterviewsThe success of any research, in arriving at objectives envisaged, depends on accuracy of method selection and on execution. While some projects require researchers to adopt a qualitative approach some requires adoption of quantitative approach. This selection is important because the approach will determine whether the researcher will be able to gather the kind of data required for analysis. Hence a fundamental yet very critical stage of any research design is selection of the approach to be adopted. When the aim of the researcher is to gather maximum possible information, perspectives and opinions qualitative method is the most suitable. However when the researcher is looking for data to validate or reject view points, quantitative method serves the best. Each method leads to specific outcomes and therefore researchers must clearly understand their specific requirements and decide on the desired approach.

Qualitative research is more used to develop an understanding about various aspects of society and social life (Bricki & Green, 2015). Such aspects are often plagued by knowledge limitation and therefore qualitative method is aptly suited because it leads to generation of wealth of information enhancing study opportunities (Bricki & Green, 2015). Through various approaches, researchers can gather much required inputs which facilitate subsequent analysis and conclusions. Therefore whenever study of experiences and attitudes are involved, qualitative methods are put to use. Responses to questions like what, why and how is what flows out thus enhancing knowledge availability. Hence the first step to undertaking any research project is to identify or determine the central question based on which the research method to be adopted is determined.

My selection of qualitative research approach was influenced by factors discussed above. The threat to female education due to rising religious extremism represents a societal situation arising from the interplay of evolving social realities and minority perceptions which are being thrusted upon the majority population. Therefore this research is a study of an important aspect of social life about which body of knowledge is still evolving. Since plethora of information and opinions are important for precise study of the chosen subject, qualitative research method was deemed most appropriate. The qualitative approach will provide insights in what factors contribute to rising extremism, why do they oppose female education and how can the situation be addressed. While the selection of the approach seems justified, success of the project will depend on the kind of information that can be generated for analysis and interpretation (Bricki & Green, 2015). If the depth and quality of information stands compromised or insufficient, even the best intentions will fade away. While the approach is important, its execution will be equally critical. Therefore developing a proper understanding about effective conducting of the research exercise is a prerequisite. This paper reflects on the all important interview process and discusses ways of making it impactful.

Qualitative research and interviews

In the domain of qualitative research, the most widely implemented approach is conducting of interviews. There are several types of interview formats at the disposal of researchers. Of these the most appropriate format is selected on the basis of the subject of research and desired outcome (Bryman 2012). Ethnography also involves extensive use of interviews and this probably has contributed to the dependency of qualitative researchers on this format. Interviews conducted in the course of qualitative research are highly flexible in nature and that is why it enjoys high degree of preference. This inherent flexibility allows researchers to generate significant amount of information which aids in-depth analysis and interpretation (Bryman 2012).  The flexibility aspect also aids researcher to conduct the study according to his or her convenience thereby reducing disruption in their personal lives. Each of the processes like preparing for the interview, conducting the interview, transcription of the exchange and subsequent analysis all require enormous time and effort commitment. But since the overall method is flexible, researchers find it easier to devote adequate time while doing justice to other commitments (Bryman 2012).

As has been indicated above there are several forms of interviews used in qualitative research. But all such forms can broadly be classified as semi-structured or unstructured formats. The semi-structured interview, often referred to as in-depth interview, is more conversational and allows the researcher to gather various new concepts and information (Grix 2001). In this approach the interviewer carries certain pre-determined questions but the actual conversation is allowed to steer beyond such specificity also. The questions are not put to the interviewee in a chronological order. The order is impromptu and is often determined by the course of the exchange.  New questions, which crop up in the mind of the interviewer from discussions, feature prominently in this approach and often leads to generation of additional information over and above what was envisaged. Digressing, by interviewee, is also allowed as it enhances chances of emergence of new insights and thoughts which value adds to the overall study (Grix 2001). Prominent advantage of this approach is it allows exploration of unexpected or unanticipated perceptions, thoughts and beliefs. Outcome of semi-structured interviews are apt for comparison, contrast and statistical interpretation. Unstructured interview refers to the method where the interviewer carries a set of concepts or thoughts based on which spontaneous questions are formed during the course of the interview (Grix 2001). Open ended questions are popularly used in this approach thus encouraging the interviewee to elaborate on his or her perceptions, beliefs and thoughts. When the intention of the researcher is to elicit as much information as possible, this approach works best. However the interviewer should keep an eye on the prepared aide-memoire to ensure that all intended points have been covered during the course of the interaction (Bryman 2012).

From the above discussion it flows that it is important for researchers to first and foremost decide on the approach they would like to adopt for their study. Depending on the kind of information being sought, the interviewer should select the most relevant approach which can either be semi-structure or unstructured or a combination of both.

Creating the interview guide

The first document that interviewer needs to prepare before proceeding on field work is the interview guide. In the case of semi-structured and unstructured interviews, which are adopted for most social science research and will also be adopted for the proposed thesis, the interview guide is kept flexible. It is not meant to a list of properly framed questions, like is done for structured interviews, but a compilation of the points the interviewer will seek information to during the field work (Bryman 2012).  To that extent the interview guide helps the researcher to ensure that the core areas are addressed and covered. In deciding the aspects to be included in the interview guide, the interviewer must self question about areas where he or she lacks clarity and seeks more information. This method helps in formulation of questions which can be put to the interviewee. Such areas can be identified from the thoughts and perceptions of the interviewer, from discussion with peers and experts and also from review of literature available on the subject (Bryman 2012). Questions should be open ended so that collateral enquiry can be facilitated. In preparing the most effective interview guide the interviewer should provide some order to the different topics to be discussed but should be flexible to change the order as per requirement during the interview. He or she would also ensure that each of the topics is determined in a way so that information gathered under each will lead to answering of the formulated research questions. During the course of the exchange, interviewer should keep referring to the guide and ascertain what has been discussed and what needs to be discussed.

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