Page 1

Book Analysis of Interviewing as Qualitative Research (Seidman, 2013) This prĂŠcis presents a description, critical analysis, and evaluation of the quality, meaning, and significance of Interviewing as Qualitative Research: A Guide for Researchers in Education and the Social Sciences (Seidman, 2013). Olivier Serrat 26/01/2019


1 This précis presents a description, critical analysis, and evaluation of the quality, meaning, and significance of Interviewing as Qualitative Research: A Guide for Researchers in Education and the Social Sciences (Seidman, 2013). The précis analyses the book's purpose, content (e.g., concepts and ideas), and authority, noting strengths and weaknesses; it includes a statement of what the author tried to do, evaluates how well—in the opinion of this researcher—the author succeeded, and presents evidence to support the judgment. The précis relates also the analysis to this researcher's plans to leverage interviewing as qualitative research toward his own topic of interest in Leading Organizations of the Future (Serrat, 2018) Introduction Now in its fourth edition—the first edition appeared in 1991—Interviewing as Qualitative Research: A Guide for Researchers in Education and the Social Sciences (Seidman, 2013) is a slim but comprehensive volume of 192 pages (retailing at the relatively expensive price of about $27 on Amazon.com) that aims to provide clear, step-by-step guidance for new and experienced interviewers to develop, shape, and reflect on in-depth interviewing as a qualitative research approach. Using concrete examples, (Seidman, 2013) purports also to help the reader understand the complexities of interviewing—with emphasis on (establishing) context—and the connections of interviewing to broader issues of qualitative research. Notably, (Seidman, 2013) includes principles and methods it claims can be adapted to a wide range of research interests. In the fourth edition, the chapters in Seidman (2013) are not different from those of the third edition that appeared in 2006: they are "Why Interview?" (Chapter 1); "A Structure for In-Depth, Phenomenological Interviewing" (Chapter 2); "Proposing Research: From Mind to Paper to Action" (Chapter 3); "Establishing Access to, Making Contact with, and Selecting Participants" (Chapter 4); "The Path to Institutional Review Boards and Informed Consent" (Chapter 5); "Technique Isn't Everything, But It Is a Lot" (Chapter 6); "Interviewing as a Relationship" (Chapter 7); "Analyzing, Interpreting, and Sharing Interview Material" (Chapter 8); and—the only addition—"The Ethics of Doing Good Work" (Chapter 9). The projected learning objective is to help the reader turn an idea into a research project, structure interviews, choose appropriate participants, conduct the interviews, and organize the data. Seidman (2013) presents no special features (e.g., maps, color plates, etc.). Explicitly, Seidman (2013) is targeted at doctoral students who think that in-depth interviewing might be relevant to their topic of interest. But, the author hopes also that the book can serve the purposes of seasoned researchers who turn for the first time to the possibilities of interviewing. Synopsis (and Reflections) Acknowledging that research methods—be they qualitative, quantitative, or mixed— should always align with research questions, Chapter 1, "Why Interview?", positions interviewing as meaning making (or sense making). In other words, "The purpose of interviewing is not to test hypotheses, sand not to evaluate as the term is normally used. At the root of in-depth interviewing is an interest in understanding the lived experience of other people and the meaning they make of that experience." (Seidman, 2013, p. 9). To contextualize this new-found purpose, the chapter harks back to the paradigm wars of the 1970s and 1980s, when the positivism of the scientific method cast doubt on the legitimacy of qualitative research. But, having come of age, the chapter cautions that interviewing must not become "a process that turns others into subjects so their words might be appropriated for the benefit of the researcher" (Seidman, 2013, p. 12).


2

Framed by essential phenomenological themes (e.g., "The Temporal and Transitory Nature of Human Existence"; "Whose Understanding Is It? Subjective Understanding"; "Lived Experience as the Foundation of 'Phenomena'", and "Emphasis on Meaning and Meaning in Context"), Chapter 2, "A Structure for In-Depth, Phenomenological Interviewing", advocates a threeinterview approach, with the first interview concentrating on "Focused Life History", the second on "The Details of Experience", and the third on "Reflection on the Meaning" (of what experiences the first two interviews unearthed). The reader is told the interviews should be three days to a week apart and last 90 minutes each. The justification for the three-interview approach is to allow both parties, meaning the researcher and the interviewee, to sequentially explore the lived experience, place it in context, and reflect on its meaning. Seidman (2013) addresses concern for validity and reliability too: the chapter acknowledges that some qualitative researchers prefer to substitute these terms with such as "confirmability", "credibility", "dependability", "transferability", and "trustworthiness"; the chapter then makes the point that the three-interview approach incorporates features that enhance the accomplishment of validity and reliability by allowing the interviewees to make sense to themselves and to the interviewers, which goes a long way toward validity and reliability. That said, because Seidman (2013) accepts alternatives to the three-interview structure and process, the chapter would have made for richer discussion if the author had explored the pros and cons of alternatives in relation to validity and reliability. Chapter 3, "Proposing Research: From Mind to Paper to Action", addresses the specific needs of doctoral students engaged in writing research proposals. The questions of "what?", "why?", "how?", "who?", "when?", and "where?", the fundamental issues that frame research (and much else in life) have been discussed in other books: but, the value-added that the chapter provides is to relate these questions to in-depth interviewing and deepen them considerably in the process: (i) In what am I interested? What am I trying to learn about and understand? What is the basis of my interest? (ii) Why is the subject significant? What is the background of this subject and why is that background important to understand? To what else does the subject relate? If I understand the complexities of this subject, what will be the benefit and who will obtain it? What is the context of previous work that has been done on the subject? How will my work build on what has been done before? (iii) How can I adapt the three-interview approach to in-depth, phenomenological interviewing to my subject of study? (iv–vi) What will the range of participants be? What strategy of gaining access to them will I use? How will I make contact with the participants? Chapter 4, "Establishing Access to, Making Contact with, and Selecting Participants", lists the perils of easy access to potential interviewees. For example, conflicts of interest are inherent to interviewing people one supervises, and students can hardly be open to their teachers; interviewing acquaintances can lead to uncomfortable situations; and interviewing friends can reduce the distance needed to take nothing for granted. Conversely, interviewing strangers is good discipline because it forces the interviewer to take himself/herself seriously enough. However, making contact with strangers can mean gaining access through formal or informal gatekeepers, having to deal with hierarchy, and making necessary logistical considerations. Where random sampling is not an option and sampling must be purposeful, snares to avoid in the selection process include eager participants and supposed luminaries. Finally, and most importantly, one must decide how many interviewees are necessary. There are two criteria for enough: the first is sufficiency; the second is saturation, the point at which the researcher hears the same information.


3 Chapter 5, "The Path to Institutional Review Boards and Informed Consent", responds to increasing concern about ethical issues in interviewing and introduces the Institutional Review Board process and its implications for researchers who interview. The chapter explains what risks, inherent to interviewing, require Informed Consent Forms. Chapter 6, " Technique Isn't Everything, But It Is a Lot " will be most valuable to researchers who already have interviewing experience and wish to hone their skills. The author discusses the importance of listening over speaking. Specifically, the interviewer must listen at three levels: first, he/she must concentrate on the substance of what the interviewee is saying; second, he/she must look for "inner voice", not the guarded "outer" or "public voice" that interviewees betray by using of words such as "adventure", "challenge", and "fascinate". The author also invites interviewers to follow up on what interviewees say, for example by asking questions when they do not understand, asking to hear more about a subject, and exploring without probing. Interviewers should avoid leading questions and ask open-ended questions; favorite approaches to ask interviewees to talk to them as if they were someone else, and ask them to tell a story. Other recommendations are to ask interviewees to reconstruct, not remember; to keep interviewees focused and to ask for concrete details; to refrain from taking the ebbs and flows of interviewing too seriously; to limit interaction; to explore laughter; to follow hunches; to use interview guides cautiously; and, to tolerate silence. But, there is no recipe for the effective question. Chapter 7, "Interviewing as a Relationship", draws attention to issues of equity in an interviewing relationship that might be occasioned by race and ethnicity; gender; class, hierarchy, and status; linguistic differences; age; and elites. Elsewhere, "Interviewing relationship are also shaped by what the interviewer and participant deem are appropriate subjects to explore in the interview" (Seidman, 2013, p. 108): in other words, it is important to distinguish between private, personal, and public experiences, and realize that each party may have different boundaries. The chapter recommends also that interviewers should avoid therapeutic relationships. Lastly, the chapter endorses interviews by telephone of Skype and discourages e-mail. Chapter 8, "Analyzing, Interpreting, and Sharing Interview Material", offers self-evident tips on data management (by means of order, labels, filing, and documentation) and transcription. The chapter suggests two ways of sharing interview data, namely, profiles and themes. Toward data reduction, the chapter discusses the role of computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software (CAQDAS) as an organizational tool, but warns researchers to avoid the trap of overcoding. Chapter 9, "The Ethics of Doing Good Work", affirms the centrality of ethics to interviewing. The author reminds the reader of the need to act virtuously, which calls for "interviewers [to] approach each component of the interviewing process with a sense of the underlying logic of each task" (Seidman, 2013, p. 139–140) and to treat interviewees with dignity. Learnings The fourth edition of Seidman (2013) speaks to the book's resonance and importance. With succinct writing, the author covers the entire process of interview-based qualitative research from conceptualization to presentation of findings. Seidman (2013) is grounded in a phenomenological approach that rests on three distinct, thematic interviews, designed to sequentially explore the lived experience, place it in context, and mine its meaning. In phenomenological interviewing, meaning is not "the facts" but "the


4 understandings" one reaches. Of course, physical, social, mental, and communicative skills embody the act of interviewing; but, skills alone will not provide answers to a research question; rather, a researcher must develop the competence of attention. To note, "[M]eaningfulness does not reside in the lived experience itself, but is the 'act of attention' which brings experiences that would otherwise be simply lived through into our 'intentional gaze' and opens the pathway to meaningfulness" (Seidman, 2013, p. 18). To reach understanding, "Researchers must ask themselves what they have learned from doing the interviews, studying the transcripts, marking and labeling them, crafting profiles, and organizing categories of excerpts. What connective threads are there among the experiences of the participants they interviewed? How do they understand and explain these connections? What do they understand now that they did not understand before they began the interviews? What surprises have there been? What confirmations of previous instincts? How have their interviews been consistent with the literature? How inconsistent? How have they gone beyond?" (Seidman, 1998, pp. 130–131). Seidman's three-interview approach—aka Focused Life History, The Details of Experience, and Reflection on the Meaning—is what this researcher found new, significant, relevant, and so most useful to his own proposed topic of interest in Leading Organizations of the Future (Serrat, 2018) Details of the research method for that are not needed here but it will assuredly be qualitative. Specifically, to both offset the limitations of available literature and ground-truth what is at hand, this researcher looks to hold expert-interviews1 with four or five authorities in metagovernance, complexity leadership theory, and knowledge management: this is because leading organizations of the future is about discovering order in an increasingly complex world, for which we need to evolve greater intelligence. Therefore, metagovernance, complexity leadership theory, and knowledge management underpin the research question, will frame the expanded literature review, and will be the subject of grounded theory involving interviews, the most appropriate and most effective way (and there can be no other) to find meaningfulness in the phenomenon that this researcher will explore. Toward the planned expert-interviews, inspired by the concepts and ideas in Seidman (2013), questions will be formulated to underpin continuing conversations. The conversations will investigate, in critical ways, the interviewees' comprehensions of their experiences and beliefs— as well as this researcher's. This researcher agrees with Seidman (2013) that meaningfulness, not a check-and-balance additive, lies at the heart of interviewing as qualitative research. "What are needed are not formulaic approaches to enhancing either validity or trustworthiness but understanding of and respect for the issues that underlie those terms. We must grapple with them, doing our best to increase our ways of knowing and of avoiding ignorance, realizing that our efforts are quite small in the larger scale of things" (p. 30). Such language resonates with this researcher's interest in leading organizations of the future, which means to sundrily "develop", "generate", "propose", and "theorize". References Seidman, I. (2013). Interviewing as qualitative research: A guide for researchers in education and the social sciences. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Serrat, O. (2018). Research concept paper for leading organizations of the future. Unpublished manuscript, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. 1

By expert (not elite, layperson, or even specialist), this researcher refers to individuals holding technical knowledge (e.g., specialized knowledge, administrative competences, etc.), processrelated knowledge (e.g., interactions, decision making, organizational constellations, etc.), and/or interpretative–evaluative knowledge (e.g., everyday theories, etc.).

Profile for Olivier Serrat

Book Analysis of Interviewing as Qualitative Research (Seidman, 2013)  

This précis presents a description, critical analysis, and evaluation of the quality, meaning, and significance of Interviewing as Qualitati...

Book Analysis of Interviewing as Qualitative Research (Seidman, 2013)  

This précis presents a description, critical analysis, and evaluation of the quality, meaning, and significance of Interviewing as Qualitati...

Advertisement