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interview techniques. DiCocco and Crabtree (2006) discuss different interview strategies. One is the unstructured interview, a technique that originates in anthropology study. This technique is used when the type of information to be gathered is not known, or is only loosely-defined, because the technique is open-ended. Eliciting insights is a key objective of this type of interview.
A second interview strategy is the semi-structured interview. In this technique, the interviewer is able to "delve deeply into social and personal matters" (Ibid). The group interview can be used with this strategy as well. Semi-structured interviews are commonly used to gain information that might be open-ended in nature, in a group setting, or to learn about someone's life experiences. The focus group is a form of semi-structured interview used in marketing.
A third interview strategy is the individual in-depth interview. This technique is used when the research question is focused, and is valuable where the findings can be applied to others with similar situations. Questions are developed and the interview is highly structured along the lines of these questions. The selection of the interviewees and the ability of the researcher to develop a rapport with the interviewees is critical to the success of this strategy. The in-depth interview is often used where the interviewee has unique insight to the point where the interviewer gains more from focusing on one or a few such key individuals than from interviewing a broader sample size.
For my central research question, the semi-structured interview will be the best fit. This method is the most flexible in terms of being used for multiple interviewees. It leaves some of the interview open-ended but it also has enough structure that the focus of the interview can remain on the specific research question. Unstructured interviews lack this focus, while the in-depth interview is not effective for my question because a larger sample size of respondents is required.
Part II. A study described by the author as a phenomenological study is "First time fathers' experiences of childbirth -- a phenomenological study" by Premberg et al. (2010). This study had the objective of describing fathers' experience during childbirth. The authors appear to be female, so the study is descriptive, the result of interviews that the four authors have conducted. Ten fathers were interviewed for the study. The authors sought to determine key findings about the experiences, to see if there are any similarities that can perhaps be extrapolated to the population at large. The authors describe the findings as "The essential meaning of first-time fathers' lived experience of childbirth was described as an interwoven process pendulating (sic) between euphoria and agony." Four key themes were described by a plurality of respondents: "a process into the unknown," "a mutually shared experience," "to guard and support the women," and "in an exposed position with hidden strong emotions."
The qualitative design is phenomenological in nature. The goal of phenomenological study is "to describe a lived experience" of a phenomenon (Waters, 2013). The research objective of this paper fits this definition. The study seeks to describe the experiences of the ten first-time fathers. The ten men were the sources of data. They were drawn over the course of six weeks, and were all from the same part of Sweden. It is worth considering that the results are therefore only fully useful in describing Swedish fathers, and might not be applicable to fathers from other cultures. The fathers were interviewed as the primary data collection procedure.
The research method was a little unusual. The authors used a re-enactment method, which they claim "engages the informant in a holistic mode." The interviews were carried out 4-6 weeks after the birth, rather than immediately. The interviews lasted 40-60 minutes. The interview appears to be semi-structured in nature, with the re-enactment providing some of the structure for the interview.
A study described as "Preserving professional credibility: Grounded theory study of medical trainees' requests for clinical support" by Kennedy et al. (2009). This study had the objective "to develop a conceptual framework of the influences on medical trainees' decisions regarding requests for clinical support from a supervisor." Grounded theory studies are focused on "social processes or actions: they ask about what happens and how people interact" (Sbaraini et al., 2011). This study focuses on how medical trainees respond -- do they ask for supervisory help or do they conduct their work without asking for supervision.
The study was completed in three hospitals in a Canadian city. Members of teaching teams were observed during their regular clinical activities -- a total of 216 hours -- and interviews were completed subsequent to the observations. There were 36 in-depth interviews using videotaped vignettes. The researchers probed the subjects about the actions in the vignettes to gain insight into the thought processes of the medical trainees at the time. The questions were specific to events where either help of a supervisor was requested, or where it appeared that the medical trainee might be uncertain about something. Part of the objective of the study is to learn more about the path of learning for medical trainees, as the normal course of learning means that they must assume increasing responsibility over time prior to becoming full medical practitioners.
An example of an ethnographic study is "Telling policy stories: An ethnographic study on the use of evidence in policy-making in the UK" by Stevens (2011). This study sought to determine the degree to which evidence is used in decision-making by British policy-makers. An ethnographic study refers primarily to studies that seek to explain or learn about a culture. In this case, the author is using the ethnographic study almost as an analogy to discuss the culture of civil servants.
The author worked for six months in a policy-making section of the UK civil service to conduct this study, an approach that is typical of ethnographic studies. The data was gathered in different ways, again typical of this type of study. The author observed co-workers as a primary source of data. Further, there were interviews with five informants at the end of the six months, about their experiences. These interviews were semi-structured in nature, about the process of decision-making within the civil service.
A mixed-methods study is "An exploratory mixed methods study of the acceptability and effectiveness of mindfulness -based cognitive therapy for patients with active depression and anxiety in primary care" by Finucane and Mercer (2006). In this case, the mixed methods reflected the use of semi-structured interviews and quantitative techniques (statistical analysis). The author recruited thirteen patients with recurrent depression and put them through a "mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) program." This was an 8-week course. Three months after completion of the course, the thirteen were interviewed for the study. The quantitative work was done with questionnaires that appear to have been converted into data via a Likert scale and subject to mean analysis.
Part III. The type of interview will depend on the type of data that the research is seeking. Structured interviews focus on a specific question, while semi-structured and unstructured interviews leave the possibility of more open-ended conversation. All interview types can have a mix of specific and open-ended questions in order to improve their value. Using the best interview technique for the study is important, and the correct interview type should be based on the research question and the research objectives. Exploratory research can have interviews that are less structured, but there will also be times when the interview needs to have a high level of structure (Rider, 2013).
Sampling methods are another important consideration in qualitative research. While in quantitative work, the sample will almost always need to be randomized, qualitative research often benefits from gathering the best subjects. Again, the best methods for sampling will reflect the research question. In the Stevens study of British civil servants, the author specifically sought out civil servants involved in policy-making for the study, as they were the subject of the study. They were not drawn at random, because this was an ethnographic study. In other studies, the subjects may have been drawn more at random. However, because of the need for interviews and the specificity of a lot of qualitative research, sampling is often either not randomized at all, or at best partially randomized within a relatively small population.
Part IV. There are a few key learning points with respect to interviews. The first is that there are a number of different types of interviews, and the best one will depend on factors such as the research question. The three basic interview types are segmented by the degree of structure. The need for structure is dictated by the research objectives -- in ethnographic studies in particular the research may be holistic and exploratory, leading to free form interviews. In other cases, authors are studying one particular subject and simply want to ask questions about that subject in a formal manner so that the responses can be compared to those of the other interviewees.…[continue]
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