Alternatives to the Structure and Process of In-depth, Phenomenological Interviews

Researchers will have reasons for exploring alternatives to the structure and procedures described above. As long as a structure is maintained that allows participants to reconstruct and reflect upon their experience within the context of their lives, alterations to the three-in­terview structure and the duration and spacing of interviews can cer­tainly be explored. But too extreme a bending of the form may result in your not being able to take advantage of the intent of the structure.

Our research teams have tried variations in spacing, usually neces­sitated by the schedules of our participants. On occasion, when a partici­pant missed an interview because of an unanticipated complication, we conducted interviews one and two during the same afternoon rather than spacing them a few days or a week apart. And sometimes participants have been unavailable for 2 or 3 weeks. Once a participant said he was leaving for summer vacation the day after we contacted him. We con­ducted interviews one, two, and three with him all on the same day with reasonable results.

As yet there are no absolutes in the world of interviewing. Relatively little research has been done on the effects of following one procedure over others; most extant research has conceived of interviewing in a stim­ulus-response frame of reference, which is inadequate to the in-depth pro­cedure (Brenner, Brown, & Canter, 1985; Hyman, Cobb, Fledman, Hart, & Stember, 1954; Kahn & Cannell, 1960; Mishler, 1986; Richardson et al., 1965). The governing principle in designing interviewing projects might well be to strive for a rational process that is both repeatable and documentable. Remember that it is not a perfect world. It is almost al­ways better to conduct an interview under less than ideal conditions than not to conduct one at all.

Source: Seidman Irving (2006), Interviewing As Qualitative Research: A Guide for Researchers in Education And the Social Sciences, Teachers College Press; 3rd edition.

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