Structured Interviews- Theories and Methods

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  • Structured Interviews
    • Types: Structured- same questions, same wording, order etc. Unstructured- informal, free to vary questions, can pursue answers. Semi-structured- same set of questions but interview can probe for more info.
    • Practical Advantages: can cover quite large numbers of people e.g. the 933 people Young and Willmott interviewed is evidence of this. Good for gathering factual info, easily quantified and therefore good for hypothesis test. Training interviewers is quite straightforward and inexpensive. Response rates tend to be higher than questionnaires.
    • Practical Limitations: Inflexible because the schedule is drawn up in advance and the interviewer must stick to it. Must have some knowledge of the subject. Only snapshots taken at one moment in time.
    • Positivism: Believe structured interviews can achieve the main goals of scientific sociology.
      • Hypothesis testing: can establish correlations between variables and allows us to make generalisations. Can construct a hypothesis about a cause and this can be further tested.
      • Reliability: Easy to standardise and control. Pre-coded questions answers to questions mean that a later researcher will categorise answers in the same way as the original researcher.
      • Representativeness: Large numbers can be surveyed. But those with the time or willingness to be interviewed may be untypical and this makes for unrepresentative fundings
    • Interpretivism:Argue that they tend to produce a false picture because they use closed-ended questions and this means a limited set of answers. Little freedom to explain questions, people may lie or exaggerate and the researcher has to decide in advance what is important.
    • Feminism: Many reject interviews because they argue that the relationship between the researcher and researched reflects the exploitative nature of gender relationships in patriarchal society. Hilary Graham (1983) claims that questionnaires and structured interviews give a distorted and invalid picture of women's experience because they impose the researchers categories on women.

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