Research methods- interviews


Research- interviews- types of interview- 1

What are the 2 different types of interview's?

  • Structured interviews- the interviewer is given a strict set of questions and strict instructions on how to ask the questions. The interview is conducted in the same standardised way each time, asking each interviewee the same questions, word for word, in the same order and the same tone of voice.  
  • Unstructured inerviews- like a guided conversation. The interviewer has complete freedom to vary the qustions, their wording and order from one interview to the next. Pursing whichever line of questioning seems appropriate and asking follow up questions if necessary.
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Research- interviews- structured interviews- 1

What practical advantages are there with structured interviews?

  • Training interviewers is relatively straightforward and iinexpensive, since all they are required to do is follow a set of instructions.
  • Surveys that use structured interviews can cover large numbers of people with limited resources as they are quick and cheap to administer.
  • Structured inerviews are suitable for gathering straightforward and factual information such as someones job. 
  • The results are easy to quantify as they are close ended questions with coded answers.

What practicial disadvantages are there with strcutured interviews?

  • They aare still more costly than simply emailing or poting a questionnaire to people.
  • They still cannot reach the potentially huge numbers which questionnaires can reach.
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Research- interviews- structured interviews- 2

Do structures interviews obtain a representative sample?

They do, as large numbers can be surveyed when using structure interviews, and they generally have a high response rate.

How can response rates be increased and what negative impact does this have?

They can be increased by the interviewer making several call backs to pursue those who failed to respond initially. However, this increases the cost of the survey.

How can thee view that strcutured inerviews are representative be criticised?

Those with the time or willingness to be interviewed may be untypical, therefore this will create  unrepresentative data and undermine the valadity of generalisations made from the findings. 

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Research- interviews- structured interviews- 3

Are structuured interviews seen as reliable?

It is seen as a reliable method as another sociologist could repeat the research and get the same results. They are seen as reliable as it is eaiser for the researchto standardise and control them, they are able to ensure that each interview is conducted in exactly the same way. Therefore meaning if each interviewer conducts each interview in exactly the same way, any other researcher follwoingthe same procedure should get similar results. 

Are structured interviews seen as a valid research method?

Critics argue structured interviews produce a false picture of the subjects they are trying to study.

  • They use close ended questions that restrict interviewees to choosing from a limited number of pre-set answers. If non of those answers fit what the interviewee wishes to say then invlaid data would be obtained.
  • They give interviewers limited freedom to explain questions and clarify misunderstandings. 
  • People may lie or exaggerate, these responses often produce false data. 
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Research- interviews- structured interviews- 4

How can the inflexibility of stuctured interviews cause them to lack validity?

The inflexibility will cause the findings to lack  validity because they do not reflect the interviewees concerns and priorities. Producing questionnaires beforehand and sticking to them makes it impossible to pursue any interesting leads that emerge in the duration of the interview. 

What criticisms do feminists have of structured interviews?

  • The researcher not the female interviewee is in control of the interview and decides the line of questioning to be followed, this mirrors womens subordination in wider society.
  • Survey methods treat women as isolated indiividuals rather than seeing them in the context of the power relationships that opress them.
  • Surveys imose the researchers catergories on women, making it difficult for them to express their own experience of opression, therefore concealing the unequal power relationships between the sexes.
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Research- interviews- unstructured interviews- 1

How does the abilty of the interviewer to build a rapport with the interviewee put unstructured interviews at an advantage? 

  • The informality of unstructured interviews allows he interviewer to buuild a rapport with the interviewee. This puts the interviewee at ease and encourages them to open up, more than they would in a formal structured interview. 
  • Unstructured interviews are particulary useful when reseraching sensitive topics, the empathy and encouragement of the interviewer will help the interviewees to feel comfortable discussing difficult and personal subjects. 

Do unstructured interviews produce valid data?

Unstructured interviews give interviewees opportunity to talk about things which are important to them. By allowing this greater freedom for interviewees to express their views, an unstructured interview is more likely to produce fresh insights and valid data.

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Research- interviews- unstructured interviews- 2

How is the ability to check understanding in unstrcutured interviews a major advantage?

  • If an interviewee does not understand a question, it can be explained.
  • If the interviewer is unsure what the interviewee's answers means, follow uup questions can be put in place to clarify matters. 

How is the flexibility of unstrcutured interviews an advantage?

The interviwer is not restrcited to a strict set of questions, and can instead explore whatever seems interesting and relevant, the researcher can formulate new ideaas and hypotheses and put them to the test as they arise during the course of the interview.

Why are unstrcutured interviews effective in exploring unfamiliar topics?

Because they are open-ended and more exploritory. By asking questions sociologists can learn about a topic as they go a long. 

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Research- interviews- unstructured interviews- 3

What practical problems are there with unstructured interviews?

  • Unstrcutured interviews can take a long time to complete as they require in depth explorations.This limits the number of interviews that can be carried out  and means the researcher will only research a relatively small sample. 
  • Training needs to be more thorough for researchers carrying out unstructured interviews. They need a background in sociology to be able to recognise  when the interviewee has made a sociologically important point so they can probe further with an appropriate line of questioning. 
  • Interpersonal skills are required by individuals carrying out unstructured interviewss, so they are able to establish a rapport that is essential if interviewees are to answer questions fully and honestly.

Are unstructured interviews representative?

The smaller numbers involved means it is more likely that the sample interviewed is not representative. Making it harder to make vlaid generalisations.

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Research- interviews- unstructured interviews- 4

Are unstructured interves reliable?

They are not reliable as they are not standardised, each interview is unique and interviewers are frree to ask questions if they believe it is relevant to do so. Thiis makes it impossible for another reseacher to replicate the interview. 

Can unstructured interviews be quantified?

They use openended questions so answers cannot be precoded, making it difficult to count up and quantify the umbers of interviewees giving this or that answer. This makes them less usefuul for establishing cause and effect relationships. 

Are unstructured interviews valid?

They are seen as producing valid data. However, critics argue that the interaction between the interviewer and the interviewee distorts information obtained.

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Research- interviews- the interview as a social in

How does interviewer bias effect the validity of interviews?

They interviewer may ask leading questions, where the wording tells the interviewee how to answer. Interviiwers may als conciously or unconciously influence the answer by their facial expression, tone of voice or body langauge. Another source of interview bias is where the interview identifies themselves too closley with the interviwees. This can cause the data to be invalid as it does produce a true picture of the interviewee. 

How does the artificiality of interviews effect validity?

It is still an interview, where one side asks the questions and the other side gives the answers. Therefore it is doubtful that truthful answers can be obtained, therefore making interviewers  invlaid.  

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Research- interviews- the interview as a social in

How does inequality between the interviewer and interviewee cause a lack of validity?

It maay affect the interviewees honesty or willingness to answer the given questions, the bigger the status difference the less valid the data. For example childre often try to please the interviewer. 

How do cultural differences undermine the validitiy of interviews?

  • There may be misunderstandings as a result of different meanings being given to the same words. 
  • The cultural gap may also mean that interviewers cannot tell when they are being lied to.

Are there ethical issues with interviews?

  • There are few ethical issues with interviews. However, because the interview is a social interaction interviwees may feel under pressure to answer questions. 
  • Interviewers should gain interviewees informed consent, garunteed anoymity and make it clear they have the right not to answer questions. 
  • Interviews on sensitive topics may risk cuaing psychological harm.
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Methods in context- interviews- 1

What practical issues are there with interviewing children in education?

Young peoples lingustisc and intellectual skills are less developed than those of adults which may pose practical problems for interviewers. Young interviewees may be:

  • Less articulate or reluctant to talk.
  • Not understnad long complex questions or abstract topics.
  • Have a more limited vocab and use words incorrectly or differently to adults.
  • Have a shorter attention span and poorer memory retrival than adults.
  • Read body language differently to adults. 

How can the practical issues with interviewing children lead to problems with validity?

These factors can lead to misunderstandings and incorrect data being obtained, which undermines the validity of the data obtained.

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Methods in context- interviews- 2

What other practical issues are there with using interviews to study children?

  • Children often have difficulty with keeping to the point. Children are also more literal minded and often ppay attention to unexpected  details in the question, they may use a diffferent logic to the adult interviewers. Therefore, training must be more thorough for someone interviewing children, which adds to the cost of the research. 
  • Schools also have very active informal communication channels, this means that the content of the interview may get around most pupils and teachers after only a few interviews have taken place. This may influuence the responses given by later interviewees therefore reducing the validity of the data. 
  • The location of the interview may also be problematic, interviews being conducted on school premisies may effect how comfortable the pupil or parent feels. The schools represents a higher status of authroity which can be offputting to pupils and parents, as well as teachers who may fear their collegues opinions. 
  • The time consuming nature of unstructured interviews means parents and teachers may be less willing to take part in them. 
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Methods in context- interviews- 3

Why would using structured interviews in schools show a different picture of validity?

Structured interviews are seen as reliable as they produce standardised data. However, they may not produce valid data when used in schools, as young people are unlikely to respond favourably to such a formal style- as it makes the interviewer seem too much like a teacher. 

How do schools make acess for sociologists more difficut?

  • Schools are hierchal institutions which can cause problems when seeking to interview teachers and pupils. For example to interview a pupil consent is needed from the headteacher, teachers, parents and the pupil themselves. 
  • Schools are also less likely to let researchers interview pupils during lesson times because of the disruption it causes, or becauuse they object to the researchers chosen topic. 
  • There are also problems conducting interviews after school hours.

How do schools and parents make pupils response rate lower?

School and parental permision is needed when interviewing a upil, and the likelihood of this being granted depends according to the subject of the research. 

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Methods in context- interviews- 4

How does the power of the interviewer over the pupil affect validity of the research?

Pupils may seek to win the teachers or interviewers approval by giving untrue but socially accpetable answers that show them in a favorable light. Pupils are also accustomed to adults knwoing better and so may defer to them in interviews

How does power of the interviwer over some groups of parents affect the validity of the research?

Working class parents may percieve the interviewer as having a higher status than them and may feel like the questions are intrusive and patronising. 

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