Analyzing Interviews

Flick, U. (Ed.). (2013). SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Data Analysis. London, GBR: SAGE Publications Ltd. Retrieved from

Analyzing Interviews

  1. Assumptions
    1. Analysis of interview data is theoretically informed
    2. There are many forms of “qualitative interview”
    3. There is no one right way to analyze qualitative interview data
    4. The criteria for assessment of quality differ in relation to various communities of practice
  2. Theoretical conceptualizations of qualitative interviews
    1. Neo-positivist – unitary human subject. The interview tries to collect facts about the subjective experiences of the subjects. 
      1. This sounds good to me, except that I’m not sure I can commit to a unitary human subject. I think that the aim of my interviews was to take the information the interviewees were willing to share at close to face value, because I think it is respectful to trust them. I think (if I am understanding the definition of unitary subject correctly) that people are multi-fasceted with a plethora of experiences and motivations, but I also don’t feel like it is my place or the purpose of this exercise to tease out that information about my participants.
    2. Romantic – focus on rapport to help participants feel comfortable and speak in-depth about their experiences.
    3. Constructionist – interviews are co-constructed by interviewers and interviewees
    4. Dialogic – Interviewers and interviewees argue, debate and transform each other’s thinking
    5. Postmodern – people are non-unitary, data can be constructed using artistic approaches
    6. Decolonizing – pursue social justice agendas, avoid objectification.
  3. Steps to prepare interview data for analysis (transcription)
    1. make notes if words are omitted, brackets, pauses etc. – since I didn’t do most of the transcription it will be good to get specific details from the transcriber of how everything turned out. We discussed how we wanted it done early on, but I know things evolve a bit during the process. 
    2. language, dialect, types of transcription, amount of transcription must be decided
  4. Theoretical and methodological influences on the analysis of interview data and practice phases involved in analysis
    1. Phases
      1. Data reduction
      2. Data reorganization
      3. Data representation
    2. Approaches to research
      1. Hermeneutics – the understanding of understanding
        1. Researchers who wish to understand something, must also observe how they are understanding it (self-refection?)
        2. Anderson’s cycles of understanding
          1. researchers focus on the phenomenon of interest
          2. reflection on pre-understandings
          3. data collection and presentation
          4. iterative process in which the researcher considers emergent findings in light of pre-understandings and contextualizes findings within the literature
          5. reflect on data and make assertions
          6. reviewing and revising prior understandings
      2. Phenomenology – qualitative research examines the world as experience by humans.
        1. Place importance on:
          1. bracketing assumptions in order to remain open to the data
          2. reflecting on the data and what they mean, (parts>whole>parts)
          3. reducing data to find horizons of meaning, properties or meaning units of a particular experience (e.g. grief).
          4. Constructing findings through writing and rewriting.
      3. Grounded Theory (Constant comparative method)
        1. Open coding transcripts
        2. Memoing to conceptualize the properties and dimensions of codes
        3. develop a core category or theory
      4. Ethnographic
        1. Uncovering narrative language use
        2. Sees the interview as a moment in a social relation.
      5. Narrative – this sounds most like the way I am thinking, especially the paradigmatic (I don’t know that our stories are central enough to deconstruct them in the way that the sub narrative suggests). Also, I’m not sure that themes across the set is going to happen, since everyone’s experience is so varried. 
        1. Participants tell stories and researchers represent them.
        2. Cognition
          1. Pradigmatic – researchers analyze data to generate themes that represent patterns across the set.
          2. Narrative
            1. Structural features of talk
              1. Orientation – which details are mentioned
              2. Complication – a complicating event is described
              3. Evaluation – narrator assesses response to an event. Explains what the narrators thought the event meant.
              4. Resolution – “what happened?” is answered
              5. Coda – conclusion
            2. Criticized because of overlooking non-Western modes of storytelling, but is useful because people often use stories in their interview responses.
            3. Others
              1. Examination of storytelling by participants
              2. Use of the idea of ‘narrative cognition’ in representing findings in terms of participants’ stories.
            4. Practical Steps
              1. Data reduction (meaning condensation) – locate and examine the phenomena of interest
              2. Data reorganization
              3. Interpretation and Representation
  5. Challenges in working with interview data
    1. Data management – I think this will be the biggest difficulty, especially in working with co-researchers, as we’ll all need to be on the same page.
      1. systematically label, store and password-protect data files.
      2. selecting an approach to data analysis that fits with assumptions about knowledge productions.
    2. Forcing data into categories – This will be difficult in the sense again that we’ll all need to get on the same page. I don’t think forcing data itself will be a problem, because we have a semi-structured interview protocol, but the others will be.
      1. search for negative cases
      2. bracket assumptions
      3. reflexivity statement
    3. discovering methodological problems in data generation
      1. You can learn from mistakes in methodology
      2. pilot interviews
    4. anxiety about using the “right” method “correctly”
      1. Qualitative research is never “done”
      2. No single interpretation is correct
  6. Quality in relation to analysis and representation of interview data
    1. Depends on the theoretical conceptualizations
    2. Interview context
      1. improving transparency of interview set-up
      2. more fully displaying the active role of the interviewer
      3. using representational forms that show the interactional production of interviews
      4. tying observations to specific interview elements
    3. Analysis – analyzers must think about:
      1. How interviews are flooded with categories, assumptions and research agendas
      2. the varying footing of interviewer and interviewee
      3. the orientations to stake and interest of interviewer and interviewee
      4. the way cognitive, individualist assumptions about human actors are presupposed.
  7. Current issues in relation to analyzing interview data
    1. The idea that interview data are co-constructed calls upon researchers to be more open about the context of an interview
    2. new theories demand more rigor
    3. researchers must account for the ways they use new modes of communication
    4. Cross-cultural researchers need to account for the implications of their decisions.
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