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Qualitative and Quantitative Interviewing: Qualitative Interviewing

A Research Guide to help distinguish between quantitative and qualitative methods of interviewing.

What are Qualitative Methods?

Qualitative Methods - Involve a researcher describing kinds of characteristics of people and events. Qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of, or interpret phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them. Examples of qualitative research include:

  • Interviews
  • Focus group
  • Case Studies
  • Ethnographic Research
  • Narrative Inquiry

Common Qualitative Terms

  • Case studies
  • Confidentiality
  • Consent
  • Content analysis
  • Context sensitivity
  • Credibility
  • Data analysis
  • Document analysis 
  • Ethnography
  • Field Observation
  • Observation
  • Framework analysis
  • Grounded theory
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Holistic
  • Inductive analysis
  • Interviews
  • Focus groups
  • Phenomenology
  • Reflexivity
  • Respondent validation
  • Rigour
  • Sampling
  • Purposive sampling
  • Thematic analysis
  • Transferability
  • Triangulation
  • Validity 

Overview of Qualitative Research Methods

Types of Qualitative Interviews

Qualitative Research Interviews - Conversational Structure

  • In-Depth- Interview (IDI) - Semi-structured or unstructured interviews of individuals, where the interview focuses on the experience of the interviewee/respondent. Interviewer knowledge and skill required.​
    • Celebrity / Entertainment / Elite Interview - variable standards for recording context of interview itself, requires interviewer to have pre-researched interviewee.
    • Author Interview - similar to elite interview
    • Case Study - Intensive study of one person's history and current situation; health sciences
  • Ethnographic Interview / Ethnography - unbiased, informal, unstructured cross-cultural explorations of the moment to clarify local knowledge or gain understanding of a culture of sub-culture. Participant observation and field notes add context to the interview process. 
  • Empathetic / Feminist - balances the power between the interviewer/interviewee, may be collaborative structure; interviewee may recognized bias for interview group; often used for gathering life experience and with sensitive topics
  • Postmodern Interview - interviewer co-constructs meaning of experiences the interviewee shares.  
    • Critical Interviewing - accounting for social, cultural, and economic influences reported by interviewee
    • Active Interview - conversational structure 
  • Focus / Delphi Group - semi-structured interview of small group with shared experience or characteristic, with facilitator; efficiently get consensus feedback on issues; may produce enriched data due to group dynamics; Brainstorming - Unstructured discussion to generate ideas for detail examination later
  • Oral History / Life Story - record and interpret firsthand testimony to an event or community, or to document personal life experience. 
  • Narrative Inquiry - gathering of stories focusing on the meanings that interviewees ascribe to their experiences

Qualitative Analysis

Tips for Taking Interview Notes

  • Begin each notebook entry with the date, time, place, and type of data collection event.
  • Leave space on the page for expanding your notes, or plan to expand them on a separate page.
  • Take notes strategically. It is usually practical to make only brief notes during data collection. Direct quotes can be especially hard to write down accurately. Rather than try to document every detail or quote, write down key words and phrases that will trigger your memory when you expand notes.
  • Use shorthand. Because you will expand and type your notes soon after you write them, it does not matter if you are the only person who can understand your shorthand system. Use abbreviations and acronyms to quickly note what is happening and being said.
  • Write on the interview question guide. Save time by writing notes directly in the question guide under the relevant question. If it is not possible to record direct quotations, write down key words and phrases.
  • Distinguish clearly between participant comments and your own observations.You could use your own initials or “MO” to indicate “my observation.” For example:“MO – embarrassed by empty beer bottles in room.”  This documents observation that participant seemed embarrassed about the empty beer bottles in the room.
  • Cover a range of observations.In addition to documenting what people say, note as well as you can their body language, moods, or attitudes; the general environment; and other relevant information.

Material adapted from Qualitative Research Methods: A Data Collector's Field Guide

Research Librarian

Dr. Dann Wigner's picture
Dr. Dann Wigner
Contact:
Jessie Ball duPont Library
The University of the South
178 Georgia Ave
Sewanee, TN 37383
931-598-1732
Website / Blog Page
Jessie Ball duPont Library, University of the South
178 Georgia Avenue, Sewanee, TN 37383
931.598.1664