23 September 2007

The purposes of Qualitative Interviewing and Focus Groups

I've been reading more about qualitative research and the use of focus groups.
This premise - that interview talk is the participants' rhetorical construction of their experience - undergirds the Purposes of qualitative interviewing:
  • Understanding the social actors experience and perspective through stories, accounts and explanations
  • Understanding native conceptualizations of communication
  • Eliciting the language forms used in natural settings
  • Gathering information about things or processes that cannot be observed effectively by other means
  • Inquiring about occurrences in the past
  • Verifying, validating, or commenting on information obtained from other sources
  • Testing hypotheses developed in the field
  • Achieving efficiency in data collection
- Qualitative Communication Research Methods - Lindlof, 2002 (p.173)
Lindlof puts forward some interesting points here to be achieved by the qualitative interview. Some of these are touched on later in this chapter in regards to group interviewing which we plan to use, especially in the area of language forms and other communications norms in natural settings. A group interview can be excellent for allowing the researcher to watch interactions between group members and garner insight that would not be gained in a one-on-one interaction.

Lindlof notes that experiential (often tacit) knowledge is usually expressed in three forms: stories, accounts and explanations. These are all highly context sensitive and involve the interplay of intention and action, causing the author to note that in contrast to propositional methods which favour abstractness and general principles:
Qualitative interviews are a storytelling zone par excellence in which people are given complete license to craft their selves in language. (p.173)
We are in effect, observing the observers. This allows us to pick up on pressures and causes that may not be apparent to other types of observation, especially the area of cultural norms and how they effect decisions about business processes and collaboration, as well as the use of tools like Wikis that attempt to streamline them. I mustn't forget this as I move into the detail of the research design.