Weiss Interview Preparation
Weiss, R. S. (1994). Learning from strangers: The art and method of qualitative interview studies. New York: The Free Press.
Chapter 3: Preparation for Interviewing
What Do You Interview About?
- The qualitative interview is about learning from others.
We ask questions about:
- "The problem."
- "A sense of the breadth and density of the material we want to collect."
- "A repertoire of understandings based on previous work, study, awareness of the literature, and experience in living."
- "Pilot research."
- "A sense of what will give substance to the eventual report." (p. 41)
A Good Report
- Good reports have both form and function.
- "Accounting schemes are not theories about how reality works. They are, rather, sets of categories waiting to be filled by fact. In consequence, accounting schemes are not to be judged as true or false. They should rather be judged by the extent to which they are useful in organizing what we have been told into a story that makes sense and that gives proper weight to the issues that we have learned from our interviewing are important (p. 43)."
- Diachronic reports are chronological. They may describe phases or provide explanations.
- Accounting schemes are diachronic reports that provide explanation.
- Synchronic Reports
- Synchronic reports are not chronological. Instead they dissect the story and tell it part by part using the logical connections among parts rather than time as the determining factor of succession.
- Synchronic reports identify themes among the various parts.
- Synchronic reports may appear to be just a collection of observations. To avoid such a trap, be explicit about a conceptual framework that undergirds the report.
From Substantive Frame to Interview Guide
- When developing an interview guide, begin by identifying the issues and the topics and then listing them. Then create lines of inquiry from those narrowed issues and topics.
- "An interview guide is a listing of areas to be covered in the interview along with, for each area, a listing of topics or questions that together will suggest lines of inquiry (p. 48)."
- An interview guide is not a script but rather a tool for prompting the interviewer. The amount of detail included varies depending upon the interviewer. Factors that affect detail are familiarity with the study and skill of the interviewer.
- A detailed guide should be used with caution because it should not compromise the qualitative interview and turn it into a survey-style interview.
- Four to six topics usually equates to one two-hour interview.
- Quantitative Items
Standard Guides and Tailored Guides
- Panels require tailored guides.
Early Interviews as Learning Experiences
- In a qualitative interview, the guide is not static but rather it is adapted from the experiences learned during pilot interviews and data analysis.
- "There must be some aim for the study to begin, but sometimes it is only toward the end of a study that its focus becomes well defined (p. 53)."
To Tape or Not to Tape
- Tape recording preserves the voice of the respondent by capturing the exact speech.
- Factors determining the amount of transcription needed include goals of the study, the amount of resources, and the nature of constraints.
- How Long Should an Interview Last?
How Many Interviews with the Same Respondent?
- The first interview could be likened to courting - both interviewer and respondent are getting to know one another and are developing a relationship. Consequently, interviewing multiple times is suggested. However, the number of interviews is a ratio of the amount of resources compared to the value of information learned through subsequent interviews.
Do You Pay Respondents?
- Gifts are appreciated but not required unless the respondent has financial need.
Where Do You Hold the Interview?
- Use your best judgment when determining the location of the interview.
- Face-to-face interviews tend to be more substantive than telephone interviews.