In-depth Interviewing

In-depth Interviewer Effects: Mitigating Interviewer Bias

The following is a modified excerpt from Applied Qualitative Research Design: A Total Quality Framework Approach (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015, pp. 83-84).

The outcome of a qualitative in-depth interview (IDI) study, regardless of mode, is greatly affected by the interviewer’s conscious or unconscious influence within the context of the IDIs—that is, the absence or presence of interviewer bias. The interviewer’s Interviewer Effects-Biasdemographic characteristics (e.g., age, race), physical appearance in face-to-face IDIs (e.g., manner of dress), voice in face-to-face and telephone IDIs (e.g., a regional accent), and personal values or presumptions are all potential triggers that may elicit false or inaccurate responses from interviewees. For example, imagine that an IDI study is being conducted with a group of public school teachers who are known to harbor negative feelings toward the district’s superintendent but who express ambivalent attitudes in the interviews as the result of the interviewers’ inappropriate interjection of their own personal positive opinions. In this way, the interviewers have caused the findings to be biased. In order to minimize this potential source of distortion in the data, the researcher can incorporate a number of quality enhancement measures into the IDI study design and interview protocol:

  • The IDI researcher should conduct a pretest phase during which each interviewer practices the interview and learns to anticipate what Sands and Krumer-Nevo (2006) call “master narratives” (i.e., the interviewer’s own predispositions) as well as “shocks” that may emerge from interviewees’ responses. Such an awareness of one’s own predispositions as an interviewer and possible responses from interviewees that might otherwise “jolt” the interviewer will more likely facilitate an uninterrupted interview that can smoothly diverge into other appropriate lines of questioning when the time presents itself. In this manner, the interviewer can build and maintain strong rapport with the interviewee as well as anticipate areas within the interview that might bias the outcome.

For example, Sands and Krumer-Nevo (2006) relate the story of a particular interview in a study among youth who, prior to the study, had been involved in drug use and other criminal behavior. Yami, the interviewer, approached one of the interviews with certain assumptions concerning the interviewee’s educational background and, specifically, the idea that a low-level education most likely contributed to the youth’s illicit activities. Because of these stereotypical expectations, Yami entered the interview with the goal of linking the interviewee’s “past school failures” to his current behavior and was not prepared for a line of questioning that was not aimed at making this connection. As a result Read Full Text

Distinguishing Between the Research IDI & Everything Else

The following is a modified excerpt from Applied Qualitative Research Design: A Total Quality Framework Approach (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015, p. 51).

The research in-depth interview (IDI) method has been compared to interviewing styles employed outside of qualitative research—such as the interviews used in journalism, psychotherapy, and law enforcement—with the assertion that “there are not necessarily hard-and-fast distinctions between these interview forms” (Brinkmann & Kvale, 2015, p. 4). It is true that, in every case, the IDI consists of an interviewer who enters into a one-on-one dialogue with an interviewee in order to discover some aspect of personal information about and from the interviewee. The interviewer is typically in control of the questions that are asked and, when the interviews are completed, the information is analyzed in order to create a story or narrative that conveys an understanding of some topic of interest. Whether it is an interview with a cancer survivor in a qualitative IDI study, the new city mayor for the local newspaper, a psychotherapist’s request for more details related to the patient’s mood disorder, or a police detective’s interrogation of a crime suspect, the IDI approach is “the method by which the personal is made public” (Denzin, 2001, p. 28) to the researcher and the information is used to convey a story about a person or phenomenon.

The qualitative research IDI does, however, differ from these other forms of interviews in two important aspects: the goals of the interview and the interviewing strategy. Whereas the goal of the journalist is to gather the facts for a news story, and the psychologist’s objective is to alleviate an individual’s mental suffering, and the police detective interviews witnesses and suspects to eventually gain a confession, the qualitative researcher conducts IDIs to obtain intricate knowledge, from a small number of members in a target population, based on a well-thought-out research design constructed to maximize credible and analyzable outcomes. Research IDIs are ultimately utilized to make changes or improve the lives of the target population as well as other target groups in similar contexts. With divergent interviewing goals, it is no wonder that qualitative researchers employ interviewing strategies that are partially at odds with especially those of the journalist or detective.

Interviewer training in the unique and necessary skills and techniques associated with the IDI method is mandatory. Unlike other variations Read Full Text

Strengths & Limitations of the In-depth Interview Method: An Overview

The following is a modified excerpt from Applied Qualitative Research Design: A Total Quality Framework Approach (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015, pp. 56-57).

Strengths

The potential advantages or strengths of the in-depth interview (IDI) method reside in three key areas: (1) the interviewer–interviewee relationship, (2) the interview itself, and (3) the analytical component Two people talkingof the process. The relative closeness of the interviewer–interviewee relationship that is developed in the IDI method potentially increases the credibility of the data by reducing response biases (e.g., distortion in the outcomes due to responses that are considered socially acceptable, such as “I attend church weekly,” acquiescence [i.e., tendency to agree], and satisficing [i.e., providing an easy “don’t know” answer to avoid the extra cognitive burden to carefully think through what is being asked]) and nonresponse, while also increasing question–answer validity (i.e., the interviewee’s correct interpretation of the interviewer’s question).

An additional strength of the IDI method is the flexibility of the interview format, which allows the interviewer to tailor the order in which questions are asked, modify the question wording as appropriate, ask follow-up questions to clarify interviewees’ responses, and use indirect questions (e.g., the use of projective techniques) to stimulate subconscious opinions or recall. It should be noted, however, that “flexibility” does not mean a willy-nilly approach to interviewing, and, indeed, the interviewer should employ quality measures such as those outlined in “Applying a Quality Framework to the In-depth Interview Method.”

A third key strength of the IDI method—analyzability of the data—is a byproduct of the interviewer–interviewee relationship and the depth of interviewing techniques, which produce a granularity in the IDI data that is rich Read Full Text