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January 2022

Theorizing the interview

Journal/Book: Brit J Sociol. 1996; 47: 2-6 Boundary Row, London, England SE1 8HN. Routledge ITP Journals. 295-314.

Abstract: This paper attempts to breathe a little life into one of the most moribund corners of the methodological literature, namely the 'debate' on interview strategy and the supposed opposition between 'structured' and 'unstructured' approaches. From the very beginning, we tend to learn about interviewing as an issue concerning the pros and Eons of each respective strategy. The choice of interviewing style is thus presented as a matter of inclination towards standardization versus sensitivity, enumeration versus emancipation, anonymity versus ardour, and so forth. All such distinctions are essentially method-driven and have resulted in extensive technical literatures on how to achieve the chosen ends. Forgotten, therefore, in most df the literature is the very purpose of the interview - namely to advance data in order to inspire/validate/falsify/ modify sociological explanation. This paper proposes a theory-driven. approach to the construction of the interview. It takes on board two contemporary approaches to sociological understanding, namely a realist theory of explanation and a structurationist theory of social being, and attempts to incorporate their principles into the basic structure of the interview. The paper is illustrated with examples from the author's research with prisoners, and so hopes to inspire a dens and cons approach to the interview.

Note: Article R Pawson, Univ Leeds, Sch Sociol & Social Policy, Leeds LS2 9JT, W Yorkshire, England

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