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Interviewing

  • Wayne Fife

Abstract

Along with an eye for observation, it is necessary for an ethnographic researcher to develop an ear for interviewing. It is probably easiest to divide interviews up into three main types: structured interviews, semi-structured interviews, and unstructured interviews. Structured interviews, also commonly known as formal interviews, most often involve sitting down with an individual in order to elicit answers in such a manner as to render them translatable into numbers for the purpose of quantitative comparison (for good examples on how to do this see Weller 1998). As Fetterman (1989: 48) suggests, such interviews are “verbal approximations of a questionnaire with specific research goals.” As such, fully structured interviews are not of any real interest to us here, as this book is concerned with the use of non-positivistic ethnographic research methods. I (along with most other ethnographers) do not agree with the falsely scientific agenda of forcing those with whom we do research to “answer” questions in such a way as to suggest that complex lives can be understood through a multiple choice questionnaire format (or its analog). Another way to think about this issue is to understand that the questions used during interviews are also sometimes divided between what are called closed-ended questions and open-ended questions. Closed-ended questions give the person being interviewed only a very limited number of choices. An example of a closed-ended question might look like this: Which of the following best describes your reaction when a teacher openly corrects you in the classroom: (1) you become very uncomfortable, (2) you become somewhat uncomfortable, (3) it does not bother you at all.

Keywords

Corporal Punishment Community School Unstructured Interview Interview Situation Question Number 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Wayne Fife 2005

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  • Wayne Fife

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