Interviews in International Relations

  • Delphine Alles
  • Auriane Guilbaud
  • Delphine Lagrange
Part of the The Sciences Po Series in International Relations and Political Economy book series (SPIRP)


An interview is a social relationship involving the researcher in an immediate and interpersonal rapport with an individual who becomes both an object of research and an interacting subject. While the methodology of international relations (IR) interviewing borrows techniques traditionally used in political science and sociology, it also involves a number of structural constraints. The latter may pertain to the relationship between the researcher and her interviewees (often marked by asymmetry in elitist settings), the types of subjects they address (frequently characterized by an imperative of discretion or even secrecy) or the location and material conditions of the interviews (which may take place in imposing institutional settings and involve the use of foreign languages). The methodological, practical and reflexive tools introduced in this chapter are designed to help aspiring researchers to identify and get access to relevant respondents. They will facilitate their handling of situations which may otherwise interfere with interview relationships and thus with research results. The chapter also provides a reflection on the ethics of interviewing and on the uses of interviews in IR research.


  1. Beaud, Stéphane, and Florence Weber. 2010. Guide de l’enquête de terrain: produire et analyser des données ethnographiques. 4th ed. Paris: La Découverte.Google Scholar
  2. Becker, Howard S. 1998. Tricks of the Trade. How to Think About Your Research While You’re Doing It. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Duchesne, Sophie. 2000. Pratique de l’entretien dit ‘non directif. In Les Méthodes au concret. Démarches, formes de l’expérience et terrains d’investigation en science politique, ed. Myriam Bachir, 9–30. Paris: PUF.Google Scholar
  4. Goldstein, Kenneth. 2002. Getting in the Door: Sampling and Completing Elite Interviews. PS: Political Science and Politics 35 (4): 669–672.Google Scholar
  5. Kaufmann, Jean-Claude. 1996. L’Entretien compréhensif. Paris: Nathan.Google Scholar
  6. Kvale, Steinar. 2007. Ethical Issues of Interviewing. In Doing Interviews, ed. Steinar Kvale, 24–33. London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Laurens, Sylvain. 2007. ‘Pourquoi’ et ‘comment’ poser les questions qui fâchent? Réflexions sur les dilemmes récurrents que posent les entretiens avec des ‘imposants.’ Genèses 69 (4): 112–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Leech, Beth L. 2002. Asking Questions: Techniques for Semistructured Interviews. PS: Political Science and Politics 32 (4): 665–668.Google Scholar
  9. Lequesne, Christian. 1999. Interviewer les acteurs politico-administratifs de la construction européenne. In L’Art d’interviewer les dirigeants, ed. Samy Cohen, 51–66. Paris: PUF.Google Scholar
  10. Mosley, Layna, ed. 2013. Interview Research in Political Science. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Pinçon, Michel, and Monique Pinçon-Charlot. 2005. Voyage en grande bourgeoisie. Journal d’enquête. Paris: PUF.Google Scholar
  12. Valentine, Gill. n.d. Tell Me About…: Using Interviews as a Research Methodology. In Methods in Human Geography: A Guide for Students Doing a Research Project, ed. Robin Flowerdew and David Martin, 2nd ed., 110–127. Harlow: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Delphine Alles
    • 1
  • Auriane Guilbaud
    • 2
  • Delphine Lagrange
    • 3
  1. 1.University of Paris East (UPEC – Créteil)CréteilFrance
  2. 2.University Paris 8/CRESPPA-LabToPSaint-DenisFrance
  3. 3.University Paris 2ParisFrance

Personalised recommendations