• What are the principal advantages and disadvantages of interviewing as a qualitative research method?
• What preparation must be made before commencing a series of intensive interviews?
• What factors should be considered when deciding whether to tape record inter - views and, if taped, whether to have the tapes transcribed?
The most obvious way of finding information is to ask someone who may be able to help. All of us routinely use this technique in an informal way in daily life. Interviews also have a large number of potential advantages for a qualitative researcher; these are alluded to in the brief introduction to interviewing in Chapter 3. Specifically, in an information setting five of these advantages are especially significant:
The first advantage of interviewing is that it allows you to receive an immediate response to a question, unlike other forms of data collection (for example postal surveys), which may result in significant delays in the data collection process. In addition, interviewing allows both parties to explore the meaning of questions posed and answers proffered, and to resolve any ambiguities. Open-ended questions, in particular, may lead to unexpected insights. The third advantage is that interviewing can enable a researcher to explore causation, that is, to enquire into why individuals or organizations behave in the way that they do – something that most quantitative research cannot really answer.
Interviewing gives a friendlier and more personal emphasis to the data collection process. As a result, individuals reluctant to take part in a quantitative research study may agree to be interviewed. Personal contact may also be of special importance if the questions refer to any matters that are confidential, unflattering, embarrassing or sensitive in any way. In addition, not having to write such sensitive details down may be significant. Fifth, interviews facilitate the collection of a large quantity of rich data in a relatively short space of time, as most of us can talk much more quickly than we can write.