Keeping Interviewing and Analysis Separate: What to Do Between Interviews

It is difficult to separate the processes of gathering and analyzing data. Even before the actual interviews begin, the researcher may an­ticipate results on the basis of his or her reading and preparation for the study. Once the interviews commence, the researcher cannot help but work with the material as it comes in. During the interview the researcher is processing what the participant is saying in order to keep the interview moving forward. Afterward, the researcher mentally reviews each inter­view in anticipation of the next one. If the interviewer is working as part of a research team, the team may get together to discuss what they are learning from the process of the interviews.

Some researchers urge that the two stages be integrated so that each informs the other. (See, e.g., Lincoln & Guba, 1985; Maxwell, 1996; Miles & Huberman, 1984.) They would have interviewers conduct a number of interviews, study and analyze them, frame new questions as a result of what they have found, and then conduct further interviews.

Although the pure separation of generating from analyzing data is impossible, my own approach is to avoid any in-depth analysis of the interview data until I have completed all the interviews. Even though I sometimes identify possibly salient topics in early interviews, I want to do my best to avoid imposing meaning from one participant’s inter­views on the next. Therefore, I first complete all the interviews. Then I study all the transcripts. In that way I try to minimize imposing on the generative process of the interviews what I think I have learned from other participants.

However, I do not mean to suggest that between interviews, inter­viewers avoid considering what they have just heard in order not to con­taminate the next interview. In fact, I live with the interviews, constantly running them over in my mind and thinking about the next. Others may want to be even more explicit. For example, one doctoral candidate with whom I work explained:

After listening to and transcribing the interview, I made a list of the follow-up questions I hoped would be included in the next interview. . . . Having gone over the tape prior to the session, it was fresh in my mind and I was able to reassess the type of information I was getting and write questions to guide me in the next session. (L. Mestre, personal communication, May 7, 1996)

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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