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Qualitative Interviewing

By Mohammad AlaUddin

This chapter is aimed to give details of qualitative interviewing in communication for development research. It essentially addresses the questions of what why and how. In other words, the chapter presents an overview of the qualitative interview method, its purposes, application techniques, and strengths and limitations. A brief literature review is added in order to reflect the current scholarships in qualitative interviewing. The chapter is also an attempt to illustrate the method in C4D research. It sum up with pointing out the utility and implications of qualitative interviewing in C4D discipline. A. Brief Description of Method

Qualitative interviewing is a form of an open-ended conversation between two or more people, where questions are asked by an interviewer or a facilitator to obtain in-depth information about a topic from the research participant(s). It is alternatively called in-depth interviewing. Researchers conduct qualitative interviewing many ways like face-to-face, using telephone, email or other online methods. Telephone and online are used as alternative choices when the interviewees are hard to reach, conceivably in order to well-manage of time, labor and costs. Corresponding to the nature of research questions, in-depth interviewing is performed either one-on-one or a group setup. The former is used when the goal of a particular research is to reflect an individuals point of view while the latter is applied when the research goal is to study a groups interactions (a group consists of individuals who share at least one common characteristic based on gender, age, occupation, and so forth). Pattern of interview questions also vary in relation to the goal of a research project. In most cases, qualitative interviewing follows open-ended unstructured or semi-structured questions, thus keeping the inquiry process open for generating more on-the-spot situational questions. Regardless of its structural or spatial variations, qualitative interviewing facilitates the participant(s) to spontaneously share their world views. According to Rubin and Rubin (2012), in-depth interviewing is a pervasive social technique that explores others world in detail and indepth, and accordingly reconstructs the knowledge system. This method is used as a means of obtaining the knowledge, experience, beliefs and perspectives of an individual or a specific group over a particular idea, service or product using a set of questions (Lindlof & Taylor, 2011). In a word, qualitative interviewing attempts to reflect the subjective realities from the subjects viewpoints. As a qualitative research tool, in-depth interviewing is often used in all other social science disciplines. Admittedly, the issues of investigation through this method may adjust to the characteristics of that particular discipline; but ideally the depth and decoration of the research process remains the same. Let's say, you may have measured an increase in adolescent girls music consumption via mobile phone in a culturally and religiously conservative society, and using in-depth interviewing you come to know that a girl noted that she subscribed for the mobile music because she herself was free to operate the phone and her family enforced no restriction on listening to music. You might also interview parents to find out their attitude for a girl to mobile phone use as well as listening to music. Here, a student of economics may test some hypotheses on the scale of music consumption or a student of sociology may explore the

social impacts of mobile phone use on adolescent girls; but a development communication researcher would primarily examine the role of mobile phone and the associated factors (e.g. sense of ownership, liberal family) that enabled the girls freedom of communication and consumption. However, all these three researchers might use a similar structure of interviewing for gathering three different types of data. Types of Qualitative Interviewing Based on the range of topics, length and depth of study, most commonly five types of interviewing are discussed in communication research. They are ethnographic, informant, respondent, narrative, and focus group interviews. First, ethnographic interviewing follows relatively more natural and spontaneous approach of data production. This form of interviewing has also been called a situational conversation, an informal conversational interview, or the goalong method. It digs into a cultural scene. Researchers conducting this interview type familiarize and accommodate themselves within that scene. Secondly, informant interviewing involves a selective group of people from a given community (e.g. community leaders, professionals or residents), who are able to assist the researcher with valuable information about the background, history, identities, customs, lingo, values and beliefs of the community Among the other three types, respondent interviewing is aimed to bring out open-ended responses. Researchers use this for of interview to find answers to how type questions like how people perceive their world. While the informant interviews report the world around the informants, respondent interview enables the participants to express their opinions for and about themselves from their subjective standpoints. Next is narrative interviewing. It involves studying of the whole story. It presents the narrators point of view, and the narrative story is loose in fasion and composed by audience interactions. In communication scholarship, two types of narrative are frequently discussed: personal and organizational. Finally, focus group is one most common interview style. It is used to study the interactions and perspectives of a specific group that share a common issue (same gender, age or occupation etc.). A moderator conducts the group session. It has also been called group interview or focus group discussion (FGD). A focus group is usually composed of 6 to 12 individuals who have agreed to participate. Using open-ended unstructured questions (also pre-determined structured questions are widely used) group interviewing helps generate broad explanation, amplification and supplementary comments on a particular issue (Leslie, 2010). This method is applied when the particular research data cannot be gathered by other means such as observation, one-on-one interview, and so forth.
B. Literature Review

In the literature review that follows, a critical scholarly review will be presented along with some of the skills required for an interviewer and the ethical dilemmas interviewers may face. The section concludes with some of the strengths and limitations of the interview as a qualitative research method. Qualitative interviewing, as it is today, has evolved through a sustaining academic debate. While many social scientists would approve the assertion that qualitative interviewing has been a pervasive social technique of data collection, they also hold varied perspectives over the theory and practice of this resesarch method. They expalins the method, its format, structure and application from diverse viewpoints. For example, In his book, Interviews: an introduction to qualitative research interviewing, Kvale (1996) presents a broad explanation about qualitative

interviewing involving various angles. He conceptualizes in-depth interview as a conversation, a hermeneutics, phenomenology and dialectics. The author outlines seven applied stages for qualitative interviewing: thematizing, designing, interview, transcribing, analyzing, verification and reporting. To his addition, Bergers (2011) chapter could be fairly comprehesive in relation to learning the practical know-how and dynamics of interviewing in media and communication research. Almost in the same zone, Lindlof and Taylor (2011) elaborate the purpose and common typology of this qualitative method in communication inquiry. Interesting aspect of their chapter is the accounts of practical components of interview exercise such as question design and use, building rapport, recording and transcribing interview data, and so forth. Another worthwhile writing comes from Leslies (2010) work. The author presents a postmodern perspective on focus group research along with a practical guideline of conducting a group session and addressing the potential field challenges. Beyond the philosophical compass of interviewing, Creswell (2009) gives an overview of qualitative research design in general, and the data collection and recording procedures in particular. This chapter could be practically considered qualitative research design. Of all the titles reviewed above, Rubin and Rubins (2012) work, Qualitative Interviewing: The Art of Hearing Data is remarkably practical for development communication researchers. In their book, the authors take a philosophical standpoint based on their long-term experience in qualitative research. According to them, indepth interview is now on a move towards a responsive interviewing model, one element of which is viewing research participants as conversational partners, not as research subjects. Interviewing Style and Sills In the above literature, researchers emphasize on a large set of practical skills and considerations as elements of qualitative interview style. Lindlof and Taylor (2011) points out the (in)formality of interviews. According to them, Qualitative interviewers often try to emulate the form and feel of a talk between friends (p. 171). Their idea of informality is also attuned by Rubin and Rubin (2012) who see the participants as conversational partners instead of research subjects. In-depth interviewing also involves diverse interpersonal and technical skills. For instance, in case of cross-cultural encounters, fluency in local languages and sensitivity in crossborder travelling would help draw equally more quality data. Qualitative interviewing is considered an artful way of asking, listening and telling data (Lindlof & Taylor, 2011; Rubin & Rubin, 2012). Dillon et al. (1994) lists six fundamentals for the interview practitioners: 1) must not give an impression of superiority or condescending, and only use unfamiliar words; 2) must place questions indirectly and informatively; 3) remain objective and detached; 4) avoid yes or no questions; 5) keep exploring until relevant details, emotions and attitudes are expressed; 6) must create a congenial atmosphere for spontaneous response and at the same time remain focused on the researching area (pp. 124-125). In addition to the aforesaid skills, time and place are two crucial agents in qualitative research method although standard time and place selection may vary across people, culture, and situations. Lindlof & Taylor (2011) uses a notion of protected time and protected place for a good interview. The authors assert that interview should be conducted when the participants are in a relaxed mode, neither highly energetic nor fatigued, or not anxious to leave immediately for their next work schedule. Admittedly, it is not easy to predict the participant situation, but a sensitive interviewer can sense it from looking around. Most people prefer to be interviewed at their convenient time. Secondly, a researcher should consider is a private setting, because, people speak freely and frankly in a comfortable and confidential setting. A public messy place with much of background noise produces poor quality

data (Lindlof & Taylor, 2011, p. 188). In addition to time and place, signing or recording the consent of interviewees is another indispensable part of qualitative interviewing. The researcher should explain the purpose of the research and the procedure of interview before seeking consent. Interview practice may vary (e.g. face-to-face, telephone or online), but consent is required in some form (even if it is passive consent). Initial contact with participants by mail, email or in person, or using local contacts might make the process easier. While conducting the interview, proper taping of the interview is one major issue. Taped data follows transcribing. Thre are different approaches. According to Lindlof and Taylor (2011), interviewers tend to record the interview several ways: by either note taking or audio taping or doing both. Note taking is easier to manage, can be done anywhere, and less likely flat to technical failure. But, a researcher may lose information applying this method. Instead, he/she can jot down some highlights, summary, or some phrase of the interview, and transform the scratch notes into the fieldnotes immediately. On the other, audio recording is now widely used. A digital sound recording device can preserve all the data in varbatim. Interviewer can actively stay within conversation. They can peruse the content of the talk as well as its paralinguistic aspects- accents, dialects, laughter, sighs, pauses, stress on words, and so on (Lindlof &Taylor, 2011, p. 192). Still, a researcher has to remain cautious about the limiting aspects of digital recording (e.g. affecting natural atmosphere, technical failure, power failure). Regardless of approaches to taping and transcribing, a researcher may let the interviewee review the transcript and the final product of the researcher. The interviewee can send back the revised copy, or make oral comments on the transcript to the researcher. This follows maintenance of high-level of standard. Strengths and Limitations Lindlof and Taylor summarize six-dimension of in-depth interview use. First, it facilitates people to present their experience and perspective through stories, accounts, and explanations. Second, it helps the researchers bring forth the language forms used by social actors. Third, this method is used as a tool to study a social problem that cannot be explored by other means (see also Creswell, 2009). Fourth, participants can provide historical information or past experiences. And finally, it is a powerful instrument to verify, validate, or comment on information obtained from other sources (p.175, emphasis added by italic). According to Rubin and Rubin (2012):
When using in-depth qualitative interviwing, researchers talk to those who have knowledge of or experiences with the problem of interest. Through such interviews, researchers explore in detail the experiences, motives, and opinions of others and learn to see the world from perspectives other than their own By listening carefully to others, researchers can extend their intellectual and emotional reach across a variety of barriers (p. 3).

To sum up the qualitative interview purpose, it is an art of listening to the stakeholders of a researching issue, and recording their actions and reactions, knowledge and experience, and opinions and motives in relation to that issue. Despite the strengths of qualitative interviewing as demonstrated above, it deals with some limitations. For instance, qualitative interview requires high level of training and skills and data analysis part is challenging and time-consuming. Interview data not necessarily reflects global objective reality. Interviewer and interviewee, their power relations, interview settings, time and budget critically influence the research process. Creswell (2009) argue that interview data mainly reflects the interviewees own perspectives. Lindlof and Taylor (2011) contend, People often forget aspects of what they see and hear; they exaggerate, repress, and make mistakes about their experiences; and they lie about still others people do not narrate their

lived experiences from a neutral position (p. 173). In other words, humanistic weakness as well as the socio-economic and cultural situations intensely affects neutrality of qualitative data. Lewis (2002, cited in Nind, 2008) points out three fundamental concerns in in-depth interviewing: authenticity, validity, and reliability. They are connected with interview setting, actors, events, and processes (Miles &Huberman, 1994, cited in Creswell, 2009). Despite these affecting factors or ethical concerns, qualitative interview is considered as the most powerful method in social research for its level of credibility and authenticity.
C. Illustration of Method

Generally, dynamics of in-depth interviewing are crucially utilized in the planning, designing, implementation and evaluation of development interventions. Development practitioners and C4D researchers use this method to uncover the knowledge, beliefs and communication patterns of the targeted communities. Admittedly, they do not employ all the qualitative interviewing techniques in the same research project. Therefore, several programs or research projects may be used to illustrate the method. Secondly, it is to remind that the common information source for C4D research include community members, project staff, policy makers, program participants, other opinion leaders, and experts. For this chapter, I have taken the Formative Research for a Community-Based MessageFraming Intervention as an ideal example in which in-depth interviewing and focus group discussion were applied. Results from the formative evaluation provided a context for designing a message-framing intervention that would promote physical activity and fruit and vegetable consumption among the medically underserved adults (Martinez, 2012, p. 335). Formative research was aimed to find a) the existing behavior, knowledge, and attitude that enable physical activity and fruit and vegetable consumption; b) behavior and mediums of health information consumption; and c) multilevel network and resources of healthy living. This was conducted targeting the population and service providers from a medium- sized urban community in the northeastern United States. Key informants were purposively chosen from the community leaders serving in public and private sectors, clinic staff, local NGO staff, local political and business leaders. They were chosen because they were recognized as knowledgeable and familiar with the community. They were asked to reflect on the barriers to and support for healthy lifestyle behavior through semistructured questions. On the other, focus group participants were recruited from Hispanic adults aged 18 or above. Using semistructured questions, the group was asked to describe their knowledge, attitude, barriers and motivation for healthy lifestyle behavior. They were also asked to brief the available resources and information seeking behaviors. Results of Focus groups showed that acculturation, basic needs, and personal safety were all factors in determining levels of engagement in healthy lifestyle behaviors (Martinez, 2012, p. 335). However, based on the findings of in-depth interviewing and focus group, researchers recommended some community-based health communication interventions that have to address neighborhood realities, the levels of literacy of the target population, and other challenges regarding the existing resources and networks of providers and consumers.
D. Utility of Method for Communication and Development

Today, qualitative interviewing has its wide-ranging application in various levels of communication for development interventions. One simple use of this method is development

research. However, developmental process goes through multiple steps ranging from preintervention formative research to post-intervention evaluation phases. Since communication works as an integral part of all those steps, in-depth interviewing as one of the qualitative research methods that may help analyze the communication status at every level. It is used as part of design research, need assessment, formative evaluation, action research, monitoring and evaluation, impact analysis, and campaign design. In-depth interviewing is also conducted as a complementary method to survey research. It helps us to understand the communication ecology of a community, to assess the performance of certain communication channels, impact of the messages, and to track the changes in perception, knowledge, attitude, and behavior. Among the common used interview models are key informant interview, ethnographic interview, and focus group discussions. Key informant interview is applied as a part of the formative research in order to understand the audience, their media habits, and knowledge and beliefs system and so on and so forth. Both one-on-one in-depth interview and group discussion have become almost inseparable parts of baseline and endline studies. Lets say, your organization is planning to launch a climate change campaign engaging the people living in the coastal belts of southern Bangladesh. Now, imagine how qualitative interviewing can contribute to designing this program. You may consider a pre-intervention formative research for well planning the campaign. An in-depth interview with the riverside communities may help your organization to understand their Knowledge, Attitude and Practice (KAP) in relation to the harsh impact of climate change, and categorize the possible audience accordingly. Potential questions could be what they know about climate change and whether it has any impact on their lives, how they see it, and what they do (if they do) in relation to protecting themselves from climate change impacts. Based on the collected KAP data, audience of your future intervention can be profiled. A key informant interview perhaps with community leaders, local school teachers, religious leaders, may provide information regarding their local customs, rituals, practice, and power structure, and so forth. In the second phase, questions such as whether or not (or how fast and efficient ways) the selected communication channels disseminate campaign messages, and to what extent the messages are communicated can be answered and analyzed by the interview data. And in the third phase, what impact the campaign has left among the people of the coastal communities compared to their baseline data can be assessed through applying in-depth interviewing. Again the questions would be what they know at this stage about climate change and its likely impact on their lives, how they see the issue now, and what they do or would do to save themselves from the impacts of climate change. Insofar as is applied in qualitative social research, in-depth interviewing illustrates its level of strengths and applicability. Qualitative interview technique mainly attempts to discover the world in the eyes of those who are involved with or affected by an issue, an idea, a program or a social problem in general. It facilitates the stakeholders to share their attitude, beliefs and opinions on that particular issue. In other terms, qualitative interviewing is substantial when peoples communicational connection with a social problem cannot be profoundly examined by other research techniques. Indeed, this interview method helps explain the contemporary social processes. Admittedly, qualitative research tradition was not remarkably practiced in the study of communication for development (C4D) from the beginning; nor did the method per se lack some framework that could have been used for C4D analysis. But, given the complexity of societal issues, shifting paradigm of development from top to bottom, and development of democratic culture across the globe played important role in the integration of the qualitative methods in

C4D research. Looking at the recent trends of wide-ranging use of qualitative interviewing in communication research, it would not be much excessive to say that this method would be prevailing in the future. Two specific tendencies found in the contemporary development of the world would reinforce the utility of qualitative research approach like in-depth interviewing. First, world societies are becoming interconnected more firmly due to the constant arrival of newer and faster information and communication technologies. This momentum of communication and connectedness offers huge opportunities and flexible choices, which further plays a vital role in shifting the human expectations from quantitative to more qualitative gains. Secondly, international development seems to be adopting a cooperative model towards helping the local human efforts to sustainable development. People of developing world are now changing their status from development aid recipient to development authority; they tend to lose their confidence over numeric indicators of development. Thus, the communicational and co-operational trends of development demonstrate the persistent utility of qualitative interviewing. E. Bibliography
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Kvale, S. (1996). Interviews: an introduction to qualitative research interviewing. Michigan: Sage. Leslie, L. Z. (2010). Focus Group Research. In L. Z. Leslie, Communication Research Methods in Postmodern Culture: A Revisionist Approach (pp. 55-65). Boston: Pearson. Lindlof, T. R., & Taylor, B. C. (2011). Qualitative Data II: Qualitative Interviewing. In T. R. Taylor, Qualitative Communication Research Methods (3rd ed., pp. 170-208). Thousand Oaks, California: Sage. Martinez, J. L., Latimer, A. E., Rivers, S. E., & Salovey, P. (2012). Formative Research for a Community-Based Message-Framing Intervention. American Journal of Health Behavior, 36 (3), 335-347. Nind, M. (2008, November). Conducting qualitative research with people with learning, communication and other disabilities:Methodological challenges. Southampton, UK: ESRC National Centre for Research Methods. Rubin, H. J., & Rubin, I. S. (2012). Qualitative Interviewing: The Art of Hearing Data (3rd ed.). Los Angeles: Sage. 7