Saturday, April 10, 2010

Article Review, "Interviewing: the art of science"

In the article, "Interviewing: The Art of Science" by Andrea Fontana and James H. Frey, the history of the modern interview is explored. The past is compared to current interview techniques and they are evaluated.
The modern interview is credited to Charles Booth, according to the authors. In 1886, Charles Booth embarked on a comprehensive survey of the economic and social conditions of the people of London. This survey was later published as Life and Labour of the People in London (1902-1903).
Later in America, George Gallup founded the American Institute of Public Opinion. I have seen the Gallup Polls used even now.
Since I plan to do an ethnographic study I was struck to see an ethnographic study in Chicago described as a 'first hand descriptive study' and not an ethnographic study. I hope I don't fall into that category as well.
One of the most common types of interviews is the structured interview. Structured interviewing follows a very strict procedure. Such an interviewing style often elicits rational responses, but it overlooks or inadequately assesses the emotional dimension.
Another weakness in structured interviews is that the interviewer assumes they understand the participants, but they actually make assumptions in order to fill in the gaps. The controlling role of the interviewer is a weakness that postmodernists point out.
Unstructured Interviewing is used to understand the complex behavior of members of society without imposing any a priori categorization that may limit the field of inquiry. The interviewer immerses himself in the native culture, letting it soak in by his mere interacting with the natives and being there. An unstructured interview is better at establishing rapport but then there is the pitfall of 'going native.' The interviewer might sympathize so much with the subjects that they abandon their research and join the other culture. Still, one must present themselves so that they are trusted and not feared.
A group interview or focus group is harder to control than an individual interview but the data provided can be very rich and compelling. Due to time restraints a focus group can be the best approach to accumulate a lot of valuable data quickly.
I think for our papers, the literature review is the foundation, but the interviews are the catalysts that produce results that can be measured as progress. Happy interviewing!

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