The Interview

A Process of Qualitative Inquiry

Sue Robinson


The interview in qualitative inquiry extends to surveying, one-on-one in-depth investigation, impromptu ethnographic meetings, formal focus groups, and free-form dialogue, depending on the nature of the research puzzle. Researchers have called interviewing “an unfolding interpersonal drama,” “a marriage with hidden truths,” “a narrative practice,” and “an unfolding story.” At its heart, the interview entails an investigation into individual motivations, interpersonal and communal relationships, life engagement, as well as civic, familial, and other kinds of problems and resolutions. The interview's execution is both art and science, with the end result an unveiling of meaning construction, information processing, and knowledge documentation. This chapter describes the dynamics of the interview, including guidelines for building question templates (or not), navigating university institutional review boards, accessing informants, collecting the information, and then analyzing the data.

Interviewing as a mode of qualitative inquiry can unveil the process of meaning construction, the dynamics of relationships, and the formation of knowledge – if executed effectively. Called “the gold standard of qualitative research” (Silverman, 2000, pp. 291–292), the methodological technique must be approached as both a creative, malleable art form and a scientific technique that produces data. Ithiel de Sola Pool (1957, p. ...

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