Interview - How IT Feels To Be A Participant in Qualitative Research Interviews

How It Feels To Be A Participant in Qualitative Research Interviews

Compared to something like a written survey, interviews allow for a significantly higher degree of intimacy, with participants often revealing personal information to their interviewers in a real-time, face-to-face setting. As such, this technique can evoke an array of significant feelings and experiences within those being interviewed.

On the positive end, interviewing can provide participants with an outlet to express themselves. Since the job of interviewers is to learn, not to treat or counsel, they do not offer participants any advice, but nonetheless, telling an attentive listener about concerns and cares can be pleasing. As qualitative researcher Robert S. Weiss puts it, “To talk to someone who listens, and listens closely, can be valuable, because one’s own experience, through the process of being voiced and shared, is validated.” Such validation, however, can have a downside if a participant feels let down upon termination of the interview relationship, for, unlike with figures like therapists or counselors, interviewers do not take a measure of ongoing responsibility for the participant, and their relationship is not continuous. To minimize the potential for this disappointment, researchers should tell participants how many interviews they will be conducting in advance, and also provide them with some type of closure, such as a research summary or a copy of the project publication.

On the negative end, the multiple-question based nature of interviews can lead participants to feel uncomfortable and intruded upon if an interviewer encroaches on territory that they feel is too personal or private. To avoid crossing this line, researchers should attempt to distinguish between public information and private information, and only delve deeper into private information after trying to gauge a participant’s comfort level in discussing it.

Furthermore, the comparatively intimate nature of interviews can make participants feel vulnerable to harm or exploitation.This can be especially true for situations in which a superior interviews a subordinate, like when teacher interviewers his or her student. In these situations, participants may be fearful of providing a “wrong answer,” or saying something that could potentially get them into trouble and reflect on them negatively. However, all interview relationships, not just explicitly superior-subordinate ones, are marked by some degree of inequality, as interviewers and participants want and receive different things from the technique. Thus, researchers should always be concerned with the potential for participant feelings of vulnerability, especially in situations where personal information is revealed.

In order to combat such feelings of vulnerability and inequity and to make participants feel safe, equal, and respected, researchers should provide them with information about the study, such as who is running it and what potential risks it might entail, and also with information about their rights, such as the right to review interview materials and withdraw from the process at any time. It is especially important that researchers always emphasize the voluntary nature of participating in a study so that the participants remain aware of their agency.

These aforementioned power dynamics present in interviews can also have specific effects on different social groups according to racial background, gender, age, and class. Race, for example, can pose issues in an interview setting if participants of a marginalized racial background are interviewed by white researchers, in which case the existence of historical and societal prejudices can evoke a sense of skepticism and distrust. Gender dynamics can similarly affect feelings, with men sometimes acting overbearingly when interviewing women and acting dismissively when being interviewed by women, and same-gendered pairs being vulnerable to false assumptions of commonality or a sense of implicit competition. In terms of class, participants of perceived lower status demonstrate, in some cases, either excessive skepticism or excessive submissiveness, and in terms of age, children and seniors may exhibit fears of being patronized. In order to minimize these social group related negative feelings, researchers should remain sensitive to possible sources of such tensions, and act accordingly by emphasizing good manners, respect, and a genuine interest in the participant, all of which can all help bridge social barriers.

Lastly, another aspect of interviews that can affect how a participant feels is how the interviewer expresses his or her own feelings, for interviewers can project their moods and emotions onto those they are interviewing. For instance, if an interviewer feels noticeably uncomfortable, the participant may begin to share this discomfort, and if an interviewer expresses anger, he or she is in danger of passing it on to the participant. So, researchers should try to remain calm, polite, and interested at all times.


Read more about this topic:  Interview

Famous quotes containing the words feels, qualitative, research and/or interviews:

    For some reason a nation feels as shy about admitting that it ever went forth to war for the sake of more wealth as a man would about admitting that he had accepted an invitation just for the sake of the food. This is one of humanity’s most profound imbecilities, as perhaps the only justification for asking one’s fellowmen to endure the horrors of war would be the knowledge that if they did not fight they would starve.
    Rebecca West (1892–1983)

    You ask: What is it that philosophers have called qualitative states? I answer, only half in jest: As Louis Armstrong is said to have said when asked what jazz is, ‘If you got to ask, you ain’t never gonna get to know.’
    Ned Block (b. 1942)

    Our science has become terrible, our research dangerous, our findings deadly. We physicists have to make peace with reality. Reality is not as strong as we are. We will ruin reality.
    Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921–1990)

    What a perpetual disappointment is actual society, even of the virtuous and gifted! After interviews have been compassed with long foresight, we must be tormented presently by baffled blows, by sudden, unseasonable apathies, by epilepsies of wit and of animal spirits, in the heyday of friendship and thought. Our faculties do not play us true, and both parties are relieved by solitude.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882)