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Expert Interviews for Qualitative Data Generation

Alenka Jelen
alenka.jelen@stir.ac.uk

University of Stirling

Alenka is Senior Lecturer at the University of Stirling. She holds a PhD in Sociology-Communication Sciences from the University of Ljubljana.

She has extensive international experience in interview research and teaching, and has been an ECPR Instructor since 2008.

Her research interests are in public relations, health and political communication, with a focus on academic development, gender, loss and intersections between media and politics.

  @alenkajelen

Course Dates and Times

Monday 1 to Friday 5 August 2016
Generally classes are either 09:00-12:30 or 14:00-17:30
15 hours over 5 days

Prerequisite Knowledge

Knowledge of philosophical, epistemological and theoretical underpinnings of qualitative research and its differences from quantitative research. Good command of digital recorders/players and word processor software.


Short Outline

The course introduces participants to theoretical underpinnings of qualitative expert interviews, provides practical training in designing and conducting interviews and outlines approaches to interview data management. Theoretical discussion covers philosophical assumptions, methodological underpinnings, ethics and reflexivity in interview research. Different strategies and practical considerations in designing and conducting interview research are discussed, including sampling, gaining access, designing and asking questions for achieving breath and depth and the use of technology. Stages of the interview process and the influence that dynamic interactions and relationships established between the interviewer and interviewees have on the data generation process are explored in-depth. The course concludes with an overview of potential interview data management approaches and preparation of ‘raw’ data for analysis, but does not focus on data analysis as such. A special emphasis of the course is on developing interview knowledge and skills through practical experience of designing and conducting expert interviews.


Long Course Outline

Qualitative expert interviews are one of the most popular research methods in political and social research, yet often lack critical understanding and, consequently, run a risk of misrepresentation and under-theorisation of data. They are often assumed as an unproblematic method that can easily uncover social realities and simply extract the information from the participants. On the contrary, interviews – like any other qualitative research method – require in-depth understanding, solid theoretical basis, skills and careful validation for the reconstruction of latent meanings. Drawing on these assumptions, the course aims to: (1) introduce participants to theoretical underpinnings of (expert) interviews; (2) train them in practical interview design and data generation process; and (3) demonstrate approaches to interview data management. An emphasis of the course is on data generation process and development of interview skills through practical experience of designing and conducting expert and to a lesser extent other forms of interviews. It is particularly suited for participants with little or no experience in qualitative interviewing.

 

The course begins with the introduction to scholarly approaches, paradigms, and traditions surrounding interview research. Different types and forms of interviews are discussed with an emphasis on expert interviews as one of the most common interview methods in political and social research. According to European (German) research tradition, expert interviews (which by definition use experts as a form of information source) can be seen as a separate method and should not be confused with other forms of interviews, particularly elite interviews. We draw on the assumptions of sociology of knowledge to define ‘experts’ and distinguish them from ‘elites’, ‘specialists’ and other social actors. The questions, such as who is an expert, what characteristics constitute an expert, and what constitutes expert knowledge and distinguishes it from other types of knowledge, are discussed. Drawing on principles and meanings of concepts ‘expert’ and ‘expertise’, the specifics, risks and ethical dimensions of expert interviews as well as their broader function as a source of knowledge production in ‘an interview society’ are addressed. The typology of expert interviews, which can be divided to exploratory interview, systematising interview and theory-generating interview, and their implications for data generation and analysis are covered.

 

As other qualitative methods, interviews do not just have data at their disposal; they need to generate it. At this central stage of the course, we move from general theoretical concepts to concrete and practical discussion of interview design and data generation. The practical methodological discussion begins with a thorough consideration of sampling strategies and gaining access. The ethical issues involved in the two processes are addressed. We examine different qualitative sampling strategies, including convenience sampling, purposive sampling, theoretical sampling, and snowball sampling. The latter is of a particular importance in expert interviews, as it has a potential to effectively overcome the difficulties with gaining access to an extended circle of respondents and reach a saturation principle. To experience the unpredictable and complex process of gaining access, the participants engage in a practical exercise, in which they strive to persuade potential respondents to participate in their research project.

 

Prior to conducting interview research, the course addresses the importance of fieldwork preparation strategies, including designing an interview guide, framing interview questions, designing a consent form, and thinking through potential effective enquiry and response strategies. To prepare for an interview comprehensively, we need to be familiar with stages of interview interaction, respondents and roles likely to be played, language and discourse likely to be used, perceptions likely to be formed, and relationships likely to be developed. Since the role of the interviewer and the relationship with the interviewee are crucial to the method, we need to be conscious of key interview skills, qualities and responsibilities. From research preparation strategies we move to the examination of the interview as a conversational, face-to-face social interaction, which is – like any other form of interaction – influenced by many factors that require careful examination in the research process. Variety of socio-demographic, personal, cultural, gender and other factors inevitably influence the type of information revealed and knowledge communicated. In addition, complex issues of relationships, power, social inequality, truth and ‘objectivity’ come to the surface in interview situations. Another important element to consider in terms of influencing data generation is the use of technology (particularly recording equipment, tablets, phones and computers) in recording and storing interview data. If these factors are acknowledged, carefully considered, and systematically managed, then the data generation process can be significantly enhanced. In the opposite case, they have a potential to significantly hinder or even jeopardise the research process. The relevance of prompt note-taking and research memos is emphasised. Following from this discussion, the participants prepare an interview guide and conduct ‘real life’ interviews with peers and an actual expert, on the basis of which they write interview protocols and transcripts. Drawing on their interview and transcription experience, they are expected to identify interactional factors of influence and critically evaluate their impact on quality of generated data. 

 

After the interview exercise, attention is turned to the most ignored requirement of good qualitative research: handling what comes as generated data. No matter how organised the research process is, the qualitative data is always large, voluminous, rich, complex, contextualised, and above all overwhelmingly messy. In the light of this, we examine different approaches to interview data management, which are the key requirement for efficient data analysis. While this course does not offer a comprehensive view of qualitative data analysis, it provides an introduction to the principles and practice of data management and analysis preparation. Guidelines and implications of transcribing or ‘translating’ the generated data from speech to text are discussed. Common steps from this form of ‘raw’ to analysable data are outlined. We will emphasise that the data management (and consequently analysis) approach mainly depends on the research purpose, questions and the interview type. We briefly address the issues related to ethical data handling, plurality of interpretations as well as risks and consequences of invalid understanding. The strengths and limitations of traditional ‘by hand’ vs. computer assisted qualitative data management are discussed. The participants are briefly introduced to NVivo software for qualitative data analysis with an emphasis on possibilities it offers for interview data management process.

 

The course concludes with critical reflection on interview research. We adopt ethical theory to summarise and (re)consider the ethical risks and dilemmas emerging from interview research, and transactional theory to examine the role of reflexivity, critical self-assessment, researcher’s influence on the research process and ‘truthfulness’ of data. Current methodological debates evolving around interviews and their quality assurance are reviewed. Special emphasis is devoted to strengths, risks and limitations of interviews research as well as the concepts of validity, reliability and generalisability and their different understandings in qualitative and quantitative traditions.

 

The course offers solid theoretical knowledge of qualitative expert interviews and data generation processes with an emphasis on theoretical application and development of interview skills through practical experience, including designing interview research, fieldwork preparation strategies, conducting interviews and data management. The course also provides a comprehensive foundation for participants who wish to pursue ECPR Sumner/Winter School courses on qualitative data analysis.

Day Topic Details
Monday Introduction to (expert) interviews as a qualitative research method

Lecture (90 minutes):

  • Aims and overview of the course
  • Interviews in research and social context
  • Understanding interview research: philosophy, theory and methodology
  • Functions and forms of interviews
  • Specifics of expert interviews

 

Workshop (90 minutes):

  • Introduction of participants and their research interests/projects
  • World café discussion

 

Assignment:

Interview research in your field

Tuesday Interview design and field preparation strategies: sampling, gaining access and designing questions

Lecture (60 minutes):

  • Defining sample framework with sociology of knowledge: ‘Who is an expert?’
  • Sampling strategies
  • Gaining access
  • Designing an interview/topic guide and framing questions
  • Interview ethics: informed consent and ‘interview contract’

 

Workshop (120 minutes):

  • Practical exercise: designing access strategies and interview guide

 

Assignment:

Preparation of interview guides

Wednesday Interview process and interactional factors of influence

Lecture (60 minutes):

  • Interview as a social interaction
  • Interview stages
  • Strategies of achieving breadth and depth
  • Interviewer-interviewee relationship, trust and openness
  • Factors of influence: perceptions, socio-demographics, personality, culture, language, power, gender
  • Key qualities and responsibilities of the interviewer

 

Practical exercise (120 minutes):

  • Interview guide discussion and feedback
  • Conducting peer interviews

 

Assignment:

Interview protocol with critical reflection

Thursday Qualitative data management: from ‘raw’ texts to analysis

Lecture (90 minutes):

  • Recording and storing data: technological and ethical practicalities
  • Transcribing interviews
  • The role and management of supporting materials (diaries, field notes, memos etc.)
  • Computer-assisted vs. ‘by hand’ data management

 

Practical exercise (90 minutes):

  • Interview with an expert
  • Group discussion and critical evaluation

 

Assignment:

Interview transcript with basic coding and critical reflection

Friday Critical reflection on interview research

Lecture (60 minutes):

  • Ethical theories and considerations in qualitative interviewing
  • Reflexivity and qualitative interviewing
  • Transactional theory in interviewing: what kind of ‘truths’ do you get?
  • Scientific criteria and their meanings: validity, reliability, generalisability
  • Advantages, risks, limitations of interview research

 

Workshop and discussion (120 minutes):

  • Introduction to data management with NVivo
  • Critical reflections, questions and feedback

 

Summative assignment:

Interview report

Day Readings
Monday

Compulsory:

King and Horrocks, 2010, Chapter 2 (pp.6 – 25)

Philosophical assumptions

 

Legard, Keegan and Ward (in Ritchie and Lewis), 2003, Chapter 6 (pp. 138 – 169)

In-depth Interviews

 

Borer and Fontana (in Gubrium et al.), 2012, Chapter 3 (pp. 45 – 60)

Postmodern Trends: Expanding the Horizon of Interviewing Practices and Epistemologies

 

Recommended:

Denzin and Lincoln (in Denzin and Lincoln), 2011, Chapter 1 (pp. 1 – 20)

Introduction: The Discipline and Practice of Qualitative Research

 

Snape and Spencer (in Ritchie and Lewis), 2003, Chapter 1 (pp. 1 – 23)

The Foundation of Qualitative Research

 

Gubrium and Holstein, 2003, Chapter 2 (pp. 21 – 49)

From the Individual Interview to the Interview Society

Tuesday

Compulsory:

King and Horrocks, 2010, Chapter 3 (pp. 25 – 41)

Designing an interview study

 

Littig (in Bogner, Littig and Menz), 2009, Chapter 4 (pp. 98 – 113)

Interviewing the Elite - Interviewing Experts: Is there a Difference?

 

Arthur and Nazroo (in Ritchie and Lewis), 2003, Chapter 5 (pp. 109 – 137)

Designing Fieldwork Strategies and Materials

 

Ritchie, Lewis and Elam (in Ritchie and Lewis), 2003, Chapter 4 (pp. 77 – 108)

Designing and Selecting Samples

 

Recommended:

Dexter, 2006, Chapter 2 (pp. 31 – 71)

Suggestions for Getting, Conducting and Recording an Interview

 

Rapley (in Flick), 2014, Chapter 4 (pp.49 – 63)

Sampling Strategies in Qualitative Research

 

Mikecz, 2012

Interviewing Elites: Addressing Methodological Issues (article)

 

Obelené (in Bogner, Littig and Menz), 2009, Chapter 8 (pp. 184 – 200)

Expert versus Researcher: Ethical Considerations in the Process of Bargaining a Study

 

Meuser and Nagel (in Bogner, Littig and Menz), 2009, Chapter 1 (pp. 17 – 42)

The Expert Interview and Changes in Knowledge Production

Thursday

Compulsory:

Kowal and O’Connell (in Flick), 2014, Chapter 5 (pp.64 – 79)

Transcription as a Crucial Step of Data Analysis

 

Kvale and Brinkmann, 2008, Chapter 10 (pp. 177 – 188)

Transcribing Interviews

 

King and Horrocks, 2010, Chapter 9 (pp. 142 – 174)

An introduction to interview data analysis

 

Recommended:

Spencer, Ritchie and O’Connor (in Ritchie and Lewis), 2003, Chapter 8 (pp. 199 – 218)

Analysis: Practices, Principles and Processes

 

Roulston (in Flick), 2014, Chapter 20 (pp. 297 – 313) 

Analysing interviews

 

Bogner and Menz (in Bogner, Littig and Menz), 2009, Chapter 2 (pp. 43 – 80)

The Theory-Generating Expert Interview: Epistemological Interest, Forms of Knowledge, Interaction

 

Fontana, Chapter 6, 2007 (pp. 69 – 76)

Framing and Interpreting Interviews

 

Richards, 2005, Part II (pp. 65 – 121)

Working with the Data

Wednesday

Compulsory:

King and Horrocks, 2010, Chapter 3 (pp. 25 – 41)

Designing an interview study

 

Littig (in Bogner, Littig and Menz), 2009, Chapter 4 (pp. 98 – 113)

Interviewing the Elite - Interviewing Experts: Is there a Difference?

 

Arthur and Nazroo (in Ritchie and Lewis), 2003, Chapter 5 (pp. 109 – 137)

Designing Fieldwork Strategies and Materials

 

Ritchie, Lewis and Elam (in Ritchie and Lewis), 2003, Chapter 4 (pp. 77 – 108)

Designing and Selecting Samples

 

Recommended:

Dexter, 2006, Chapter 2 (pp. 31 – 71)

Suggestions for Getting, Conducting and Recording an Interview

 

Rapley (in Flick), 2014, Chapter 4 (pp.49 – 63)

Sampling Strategies in Qualitative Research

 

Mikecz, 2012

Interviewing Elites: Addressing Methodological Issues (article)

 

Obelené (in Bogner, Littig and Menz), 2009, Chapter 8 (pp. 184 – 200)

Expert versus Researcher: Ethical Considerations in the Process of Bargaining a Study

 

Meuser and Nagel (in Bogner, Littig and Menz), 2009, Chapter 1 (pp. 17 – 42)

The Expert Interview and Changes in Knowledge Production

Friday

Compulsory:

King and Horrocks, 2010, Chapter 7 & 8 (pp. 103 – 141)

Ethics in qualitative interviewing

Reflexivity in qualitative interviewing

 

Christians (in Denzin and Lincoln), 2011, Chapter 4 (pp. 61 – 80)

Ethics and Politics in Qualitative Research

 

Silverman, 2010, Chapter 15 (pp. 268 – 291)

Quality in Qualitative Research

 

Maxwell and Chmiel (in Flick), 2014, Chapter 37 (pp. 540 – 554)

Generalization in and from Qualitative Analysis

 

Recommended:

Bazeley, 2007, Chapter 1 (pp. 1 – 20)

Perspectives: Qualitative Computing and NVivo

 

Davidson and di Gregorio (in Denzin and Lincoln), 2011, Chapter 38 (pp. 627 – 644)

Qualitative Research and Technology: In the Midst of a Revolution

 

Lewis and Ritchie (in Ritchie and Lewis), 2003 Chapter 10 (pp. 263 – 286)

Generalising from Qualitative Research

 

Finlay (in Gubrium et al.), 2012, Chapter 22 (pp. 317 – 332)

Five Lenses for the Reflexive Interviewer

 

Dexter, 2006, Chapter 6 (pp. 115 – 131)

Toward a Transactional Theory of Interviewing: Self-Assessment in the Interview Process

 

May and Perry (in Flick), 2014, Chapter 8 (pp.109 – 123)

Reflexivity and Practice of Qualitative Research

 

Mertens (in Flick), 2014, Chapter 35 (pp. 510 – 524)

Ethical Use of Qualitative Data and Findings 

Software Requirements

The participants are recommended to install QSR NVivo 11 on their laptops (free trial version can be downloaded for the period of 14 days for Mac and Windows from the QSR website: http://www.qsrinternational.com/product).

Hardware Requirements

Participants need to bring their own laptops, audio recorders or smart phones (with audio recorder applications) and headphones. This equipment is needed for recording, listening to, transcribing and evaluating interviews in practical exercises and assignments.

Literature

Bazeley, P. (2007). Qualitative Data Analysis with NVivo. Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore: Sage.

 

Bazeley, P. & Jackson, K. (2013). Qualitative Data Analysis with NVivo. London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi, Singapore: Sage.

 

Bogner, A. Littig, B., & Menz, W. (Eds.). (2009). Interviewing Experts. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, New York:  Palgrave /MacMillan.

 

Denzin, N. K. (1989). The Research Act. A Theoretical Introduction to Sociological Methods (3rd ed.). Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.

 

Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (Eds.). (2005). The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research (3rd ed.) Thousand Oaks, CA, London: Sage.

 

Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (Eds.). (2011). The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, London, New Delhi, Singapore: Sage.

 

Dexter, L. (2006). Elite and Specialized Interviewing. Colchester: ECPR Press.

 

Flick, U. (ed.) (2014). The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Data Analysis. London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi, Singapore: Sage.

 

Fontana, A. P. (2007). Interview: From Formal to Postmodern. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.

 

Gubrium, J. F., & Holstein, J. A. (Eds.). (2001). Handbook of Interview Research: Context and Methodology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

 

Gubrium, J. F., & Holstein, J. A. (Eds.). (2003). Postmodern Interviewing. Thousand Oaks, London, New Delhi: Sage Publications.

 

Gubrium, J. F., Holstein, J. A., Marvasti, A. B., & McKinney, K. D. (Eds.) (2012). The SAGE Handbook of Interview Research: The Complexity of the Craft (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, London, New Delhi, Singapore: Sage.

 

Kezar, A. (2003). Transformational Elite Interviews: Principles and Problems. Qualitative Inquiry, 9 (3), 395-415.

 

King, N., & Horrocks, C. (2010). Interviews in Qualitative Research. London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi, Singapore: Sage.

 

Kvale, S., & Brinkmann, S. (2009). InterViews: Learning the craft of qualitative research interviewing (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, New Delhi, London, Singapore: Sage.

 

Mason, J. (2002). Qualitative Researching (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage.

 

Mikecz, R. (2012). Interviewing Elites: Addressing Methodological Issues. Qualitative Inquiry 18(6): 482–493.

 

Moyser, G. & Wagstaffe, M. (Eds.) (1987). Research Methods for Elite Studies. London: Allen and Unwin.

 

Padfield, M., & Procter, I. (1996). The Effect of Interviewer’s Gender on the Interviewing Process: A Comparative Enquiry. Sociology, 30 (2), 355-366.

 

Richards, L. (2005). Handling Qualitative Data: A Practical Guide. London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi: Sage. 

 

Ritchie, J. & Lewis, J. (Eds.). (2003). Qualitative Research Practice. A Guide for Social Science Students and Researchers. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

 

Roulston, K. (2010). Reflective Interviewing: A Guide to Theory and Practice. Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Washington DC: Sage.

 

Rubin, H. J. & Rubin, I. S. (2012). Qualitative Interviewing: The Art of Hearing Data (3rd ed.). London: Sage.

 

Silverman, D. (2010). Doing Qualitative Research: A Practical Handbook (3rd ed.). London: Sage.

 

Silverman, D. (Ed.). (2011). Qualitative Research: Issues of Theory, Method and Practice. Los Angeles, London, New Delhi: Sage.

 

Seidman, I. E. (1991). Interviewing as Qualitative Research: A Guide for Researchers in Education and Social Sciences. New York: Columbia University.

 

Strauss, A. L., & Corbin, J. M. (2008). Basics of Qualitative Research: Techniques and Procedures in Developing Grounded Theory (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, London, New Delhi: Sage.

 

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

 

Wengraf, T. (2001). Qualitative Research Interviewing. London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi, Singapore: Sage,

 

Welch, C., Marschan-Piekkari, R., Penttinen, H., & Tahvanainen, M. (2002). Corporate Elites as Informants. Qualitative International Business Research, International Business Review, 11(5): 611–628.

Recommended Courses to Cover Before this One

<p>Introduction to Qualitative Interpretive Methods</p> <p>Introduction to Interpretive Research Designs</p>

Recommended Courses to Cover After this One

<p>Qualitative Data Analysis: Concepts and Approaches</p> <p>Advanced Qualitative Data Analysis</p> <p>Introduction to NVivo for Qualitative Data Analysis</p> <p>Introduction to Qualitative Data Analysis with Atlas.ti</p> <p>Introduction to MAXQDA a Qualitative and Mixed Methods Data Analysis Software</p>


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 at the time of change.

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, please contact us before registering.