Weiss Writing the Report
Weiss, R. S. (1994). Learning from strangers: The art and method of qualitative interview studies. New York: The Free Press.
Chapter 7: Writing the Report
Beginning with the Concrete
- Start with the stories.
- Beginning with the Concrete
- Beginning with the General
- Use your guide for a starting point. Determine how your type might answer those questions in your guide.
- Beginning with the Mix of Material
- "You might take printouts of all the analytic material you have developed in your study, including memoranda, notes, and especially instructive interview excerpts, and sort them by topic (p. 185)."
- First Drafts
To What Audience is the Report Directed?
- "Academic audiences are likely to want first to be told how the report will add to their knowledge or understanding. The report must justify its demand on their time (p. 186)."
- Academic Audiences
- Professional Audiences
- "Professional audiences are likely to be concerned with the applicability of your report. Professionals must stay informed of current understandings in their fields and be able to implement what is currently endorsed as good practice (p. 187)."
- Clients Who Have Commissioned the Study
- "Client groups tend to want diagnoses and recommendations. They have come to you, ordinarily, with a problem in their organization or in their program. They want to know what is going wrong and, even more, how to make it right (p. 187)."
- "Vividness is valuable, as is completeness (p. 187)."
- The General Reader
- "Interview-based studies can be of genuine interest to a general audience if they offer enough opportunity for insight into the lives of others to involve and instruct a casual reader (p. 188)."
- "A general audience is likely to be more interested in being informed than in being presented with support for one hypothesis or another (p. 188)."
- Can You Write For More Than One Audience?
- Not often but it can be done.
To What Extent Do You Enter as a Figure in the Report?
- "In the realist style the investigator remains an invisible, dispassionate observer, even when the report deals with material of great emotional intensity (p. 189)."
- "Writing is in this confessional style makes it possible for investigators to introduce novelistic devices (p. 190)."
- "The confessional style of presentation permits investigators to confide in the reader their developing understanding of a respondent's character or circumstance. They can engage the reader's interest by introducing story elements...The confessional style permits the investigator to include in the report anecdotes that would otherwise be restricted to dinner table conversation. It can help make the report a good read (p. 190)."
Using Excerpts as Illustration and as Evidence
Selection of Respondents to Quote
- "While quotations are useful, the report writer should be aware that they require the reader to shift attention from the writer's voice to a new voice. Doing this several times in a few pages can be fatiguing for the reader (p. 192)."
- Selection of Respondents to Quote
- How Should Quotations Be Edited?
- The Preservationist Approach
- "In the preservationist view it would be best if the reader could hear the original speech, with its pitch and sounds. Next best is to render these into words on a page with as much fidelity as possible. Anything less is playing with the evidence, no matter how benign the intent (p. 193)."
- The Standardized Approach
- "The argument for standardizing respondent quotations is that nonstandardized speech distracts from content (p. 193)."
- The Usual Compromise
- "Generally, investigators in the social sciences make those modifications in the quotation excerpts they present that they believe make the excerpts easier to grasp but that they are certain have no effect on the respondent's meaning (p. 193)."
- Editing is permitted as long as words are not supplied or substituted.
- Other Problems in Handling Excerpts
- Suppressing Interviewer Contributions
- Dropping Out Conversational Spacers and False Starts
- Reorganizing for Coherence
- Disguising People, Places, and Institutions
- Checking the Transcript
- Justifications for Using Quasi-Quantitative Terms Rather Than Counts and Proportions
How You Write About Your Informants and Respondents
The Investigator as Advocate, Sympathetic Representative, or Viewpoint Presenter
- "One test of the adequacy of a report is whether it can convince its readers that had they been in the situation of the respondents, with the respondent's histories and understandings of their options, they would have behaved just as did the respondents (p. 201)."
- The Investigator as Advocate, Sympathetic Representative, or Viewpoint Presenter
- The Investigator As Critic
- "A colleague of mine once offered as a general rule that if your report on a group you have studied has truly gotten to the inner dynamics of the group, you can never again visit that group with safety. His idea was that every group has secrets kept from outsiders that the group would be loath to have revealed and still other secrets, even more fundamental, kept from itself, whose surfacing would enrage it (p. 202)."
- The Investigator as Dispassionate Listener and Reporter
- "The investigator takes the position of telling the facts, just the facts, with no responsibility for the light in which disclosure puts respondents (p. 202)."
- An Effort at Resolution
- Getting It Out the Door