Analyzing Interviews In: Doing Interviews By: Steinar Kvale Pub. Date: 2011 Access Date: January 3, 2020 Publishing Company: SAGE Publications, Ltd City: London Print ISBN: 9780761949770 Online ISBN: 9781849208963 DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781849208963 Print pages: 102-119 © 2007 SAGE Publications, Ltd All Rights Reserved. This PDF has been generated from SAGE Research Methods. Please note that the pagination of the online version will vary from the pagination of the print book. SAGE SAGE Research Methods 2007 SAGE Publications, Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Analyzing Interviews • Integrating interview analysis in an interview inquiry 101 • Modes of analysis 103 • Interview analyses focusing on meaning 104 • Interview analyses focusing on language 109 • Interview analysis as bricolage 115 • Interview analysis as theoretical reading 117 Chapter objectives After reading this chapter you should • have an overview of analytic tools for analyzing interview texts; • as interviewer be already sensitized, when conducting and transcribing your interviews, to be aware of the specific demands that different modes of analysis pose on your interviews and transcriptions; • see the need for integrating the analysis throughout the entire interview project; • know modes of analysis that primarily focus on the meanings expressed by the subjects; • know modes of analysis that mainly focus on the linguistic form of the subjects’ accounts; and • be familiar with a common bricolage, where the researcher mixes different types of analysis, as well as a theoretical reading of the interviews. Integrating interview analysis in an interview inquiry When teaching at workshops on qualitative research, one may sometimes receive a question like this: ‘How shall I find a method to analyze the 1,000 pages of interview transcripts I have collected?’ The answer is simple: ‘Too much and too late!’ First, 1,000 pages of transcripts are generally too much to handle in a meaningful way for a single researcher. Second, it is too late to start thinking of analysis after the interviews have been conducted and transcribed. The method of analysis should not only be given thought in advance of the interviewing, but may also, to varying degrees, be built into the interview situation itself. A clarification of the meaning of what is said may there take the simple form of ‘I understand that the meaning of what you just said is….’ The researcher may further attempt to confirm or reject his or her interpretations during the interview. With such interpreting ‘as you go’, considerable parts of the analysis are ‘pushed forward’ into the interview situation itself. The later analysis then becomes not only easier and more amenable, but will also rest on more secure ground. Page 2 of 19 Analyzing Interviews SAGE SAGE Research Methods 2007 SAGE Publications, Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Box 9.1 Six steps of analysis A first step is when subjects describe their life world during the interview. They spontaneously tell what they experience, feel and do in relation to a topic. There is little interpretation or explanation from either the interviewees or the interviewer. A second step would be that the subjects themselves discover new relationships during the interview, see new meanings in what they experience and do so on the basis of their spontaneous descriptions, free of interpretation by the interviewer. For example, a pupil, describing the effects of grading, comes to think of how the grades further a destructive competition among pupils. In a third step, the interviewer, during the interview, condenses and interprets the meaning of what the interviewee describes, and ‘sends’ the meaning back. The interviewee then has the opportunity to reply, for example, ‘I did not mean that’ or ‘That was precisely what I was trying to say’ or ‘No, that was not quite what I felt. It was more like … ‘ This process ideally continues until there is only one possible interpretation left, or it is established that the subject has multiple, and possibly contradictory, understandings of a theme. This form of interviewing implies an ongoing ‘on-the-line interpretation’ with the possibility of an ‘onthe-spot’ confirmation or disconfirmation of the interviewer’s interpretations. The result can then be a ‘self-correcting’ interview. In a fourth step, the recorded interview is analyzed by the interviewer alone, or with co-researchers. The interview is usually structured for analysis by transcription and with computer programs for textual analysis. The analysis proper Involves developing the meanings of the interviews, bringing the subjects’ own understanding into the light as well as providing new perspectives from the researcher. A variety of analytical tools focusing on the meaning and the linguistic form of the texts are available. A fifth step would be a re-interview. When the researcher has analyzed the interview texts, he or she may give the interpretations back to the subjects. In a continuation of a ‘selfcorrecting’ interview, the subjects then get an opportunity to comment on the interviewer’s interpretations as well as to elaborate on their own original statements, as a form of ‘membership validation’. A possible sixth step would be to extend the continuum of description and interpretation to include action, by subjects beginning to act on new insights they have gained during their interview. In such cases, the research interview may approximate a therapeutic interview. The changes can also be brought about by collective actions in a larger social setting Page 3 of 19 Analyzing Interviews SAGE SAGE Research Methods 2007 SAGE Publications, Ltd. All Rights Reserved. such as action research, where researcher and subjects together act on the basis of the knowledge produced in the interviews. Box 9.1 presents six steps of a continuum from description to interpretation and action, which do not necessarily presuppose each other. The first three steps of description, discovery and interpretation throughout the interview process were outlined in Chapter 5. I shall now turn to analytic tools available at the fourth step of analyzing the transcribed interview. Modes of analysis The following presentation will disappoint those who expect magical tools that finally uncover the treasures of meaning hidden in their many pages of transcripts. No standard method exists, no via regia, to arrive at essential meanings and deeper implications of what is said in an interview. Such a search for techniques of analysis may be a quest for a shortcut in the form of a ‘technological fix’ of the researcher’s task of analyzing and constructing meaning. Some common approaches to the analysis of the meaning of interview texts – involving different technical procedures – do exist, however. The techniques of analysis are tools, useful for some purposes, relevant for some types of interviews, and suited for some researchers. The present chapter describes a toolbox available to the interview craftsman for the analysis of interviews. These tools do not by themselves find the meaning of hundreds of pages of interview transcripts the researcher who applies the tools does. The quality of the analysis rests upon his or her craftsmanship, knowledge of the research topic, sensitivity for the medium he or she is working with – language – and mastery of analytic tools available for analyzing the meanings expressed in language. The following overview of the toolbox and descriptions of main tools can assist interviewers in choosing modes of analysis adequate for their project. Some of the analytic tools, such as coding, have been developed through practice without a theoretical basis; some have been inspired by philosophical traditions, such as phenomenology and hermeneutics; whereas some such as discursive and deconstructive analysis, have been built directly upon specific epistemological positions. Page 4 of 19 Analyzing Interviews SAGE SAGE Research Methods 2007 SAGE Publications, Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Some key approaches to the analysis of interview texts are presented in Table 9.1. They are grouped into analyses that mainly focus on the meaning of what is said, and analyses that mainly focus on the linguistic forms whereby meanings are expressed. In addition, there is analysis as bricolage, an eclectic combination of multiple forms of analysis, and a theoretically informed reading of the interviews as a significant mode of analysis. Some of the analyses come close to a miner metaphor of interviewing, such as meaning coding and condensation, which attempt to bring out what is already there in the texts. Other analyses are more in line with a traveller metaphor, such as linguistic, conversation and discursive analysis, which focus on the language medium of the stories told, generally without taking a position on whether the conversations refer to any objective data or essential meanings. For the varieties of meaning interpretation and narrative analysis, both metaphors may apply. Interview analyses focusing on meaning Meaning and language are interwoven; in the practice of interview analysis the focus on meaning versus linguistic form does imply rather different techniques, however. First some modes of analysis focusing on meaning of texts will be outlined; they involve coding, condensation and interpretation of meaning. Meaning coding Coding and categorizing were early approaches to the analysis of texts in the social sciences. Coding involves attaching one or more keywords to a text segment in order to permit later identification of a statement, whereas categorization entails a more systematic conceptualization of a statement, opening for quantification; the two terms are, however, often used interchangeably. In various forms, coding is a key aspect of content analysis, grounded theory and computerassisted analysis of interview texts. Page 5 of 19 Analyzing Interviews SAGE SAGE Research Methods 2007 SAGE Publications, Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Content analysis This is a technique for a systematic quantitative description of the manifest content of communication. It was developed for the study of enemy propaganda during the second World War and has since been used extensively for media analysis. The coding of a text’s meaning into categories made it possible to quantify how often specific themes were addressed in a text, and the frequency of themes could then be compared and correlated with other measures. Coding is also a key feature of the grounded theory approach to qualitative research introduced by Glaser and Strauss in 1967. Here open coding refers to ‘The process of breaking down, examining, comparing, conceptualizing and categorizing data’ (Strauss and Corbin, 1990, p. 61). In contrast to content analysis, the codes in a grounded theory approach do not need to be quantified, but enter into a qualitative analysis of the relations to other codes and to context and action consequences. Coding has also become a key feature of the new programs for computer-assisted analysis of interviews (Weitzman and Miles, 1995). By categorization, the meaning of long interview statements is reduced to a few simple categories. When coding into fixed categories, the occurrence and non-occurrence of a phenomenon can be expressed by a simple ‘+’ or The strength of an opinion can also be indicated with a single number on a scale of, for example, 1 to 7. Categorization thus reduces and structures large interview texts into a few tables and figures. The categories can be developed in advance or they can arise ad hoc during the analysis; they may be taken from theory or from the vernacular, as well as from the interviewees’ own idioms. Categorizing the interviews of an investigation can provide an overview of large amounts of transcripts, and facilitate comparisons and hypothesis testing. The analysis of the interviews on grades illustrates one form of categorization. The 30 pupil interviews, transcribed into 762 pages, were categorized in order to test the hypothesis that using grades to measure learning affects learning and social relations in school. Figure 9.1 depicts eight subcategories of one main dimension of a grade perspective, ‘Relationshipship with the teacher’. The categories were taken from educational literature and pilot interviews, and defined (for example: ‘Bluffing – the pupil attempts to give the impression that he knows more than he knows, with the purpose of obtaining better grades’ and ‘Wheedling – the pupil attempts to win the sympathy of the teacher with the purpose of obtaining better grades’). Two coders independently categorized the 30 interviews, and their coding was combined. Figure 9.1 depicts how ma
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