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4 Qualitative Interviewing

Carol A. B. Warren

Qualitative interviewing is based in conversation (Kvale 1996), with the emphasis on researchers asking questions and listening, and respondents answering (Rubin and Rubin 1995). It is similar to standardized survey interviewing in this respect, but unlike the survey interview, the epistemology of the qualitative interview tends to be more constructionist than positivist. Interview participants are more likely to be viewed as meaning makers, not passive conduits for retrieving information from an existing vessel of answers (Holstein and Gubrium 1995). The purpose of most qualitative interviewing is to derive interpretations, not facts or laws, from respondent talk. Some researchers frame the qualitative interview as a “speech event” (see Mishler 1986), which is useful, for instance, in narrative or conversation analysis (see in this volume Baker, Chapter 37; Riessman, Chapter 33). Other researchers, such as myself, frame it more substantively and interactionally, aiming to understand the meaning of respondents’ experiences and life ...

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