In qualitative research, interview is a popular and valued method of data collection. Kahan and Cannell state that “An interview is a purposeful discussion between two or more people” (Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill 318). While conducting a qualitative research, the researcher can draw detailed and extensive information from the participants through interviews. Interviews can prove more advantageous as they lead to.
Exploratory studies often require the respondents to provide elaborate and detailed information. Through interviews the researcher can infer underlying connection between variables. It enables the researcher to understand the reasons behind the choices, views and attitudes of the participants. It gives an opportunity to look into their perspectives on different phenomenon. The researcher can obtain significant in-depth data by probing into the words and explanations of the participants. Participants’ responses may also open new areas of discussions relevant to the research topic and provide new insight to the researcher concerning his exploration. Hence, interviews allow the researcher to collect rich and detailed data (Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill 324).
Interview is a preferred method of providing information by the interviewees as they prefer to express their views on the topics of their interest rather than complete the questionnaire. They can express their views in more detail. Moreover, they receive instant feedback by the interviewer and feel assured about the use and privacy of the information given by them. Interviews can draw more confidential and sensitive answers from the participants as meeting the researcher makes them feel assured that the information given by them will not be misused. Interview minimizes the time used to write the explanatory answers and the hassle involved in understanding the true sense of the questions. Hence, use of personal interviews may draw detailed and reliable data while conducting a qualitative research.
Using different types of questions
Interviews can be more useful to obtain data from a huge number of questions, flexible or intricate questions and the questions do not necessarily follow a predetermined order. A semi-structured or in-depth interview is appropriate in the last two situations.
Completeness of the process
Interview is a convenient and trusted method of obtaining maximum data from the participants. If the participants do not feel comfortable with certain questions, they can be omitted, modified or changed skilfully as per the situation (Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill 325).
Several types of interviews can be used while collecting data in qualitative research depending on the purpose of the research. The nature of interaction between the researcher and the respondents also determines the type of interview. Interviews can be conducted between the researcher and single participants by meeting them face-to-face. However, in some cases, when it is not possible to meet the respondents, interviews can be conducted over telephones or via Internet. Besides this, interviews can be conducted in groups also where the researcher can collect information through group discussions on the given research topic. Interviews can be highly formalised or structured with standardized questions for each respondent. Based on their structure, interviews can be classified as structured interviews, informal or unstructured discussions or in-depth interviews for collecting in-depth information. Besides, there can be a mix of these two types, known as semi- structured interviews.
Whatever type is used in the research, it should be relevant to the research questions and objectives and also be harmonious with the aim of research and research strategy adopted for the proposed qualitative research (Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill 318).
In structured interviews, a standardised set of questionnaire is used for collecting data from respondents. The questionnaire is administered solely by the interviewer and the respondents are asked to provide their responses to these predetermined or identical set of questions. The responses are recorded by identical schedule, generally with pre-coded answers. Structured interviews require highly standardized techniques of recording. Though there is a social interaction between the interviewer and the respondents in the structured interviews, it is restricted to preliminary explanations about the subject of research. The interviewer requires adopting an unbiased attitude while carrying out the interview and following the set pattern of questionnaire while interviewing the participants. Structured interviews are often named quantitative research interviews as these are very useful in collecting quantifiable data (Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill 320).
This term usually refers to a situation in which questions are in the general order and they are normally not in sequence. The questions are often general in their context (Bryman and Bell 214).
While conducting semi-structured interviews, “the researcher has a list of questions on fairly specific topics to be covered, often referred to as an interview guide, but the interviewee has a great leeway in how to reply” (Bryman and Bell 467).
The themes and questions for the interview are standardised, however, the interviewer does not necessarily stick to the pre-determined set of questions and has the freedom to change the order of questions as per the course of the conversation as well as omit or include some questions depending on their relevance to the context in particular situations. In semi- structured interviews, the responses are recorded or noted down by the interviewer. Semi-structured interviews are flexible as there are different approaches for different interviews (Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill 320).
Unstructured interviews are informal and have a flexible approach to questioning. These types of interviews are conducted to gain an in-depth knowledge about some general areas. There is no a standardised set of questions and the interviewer can form questions on the proposed subject of research. The respondents are free to express their views on the given research area. Their responses may include their behaviors and beliefs about the research subject. Hence, these are known as informant interviews as these are not guided by the interviewers but the interviewees’ perception about the research topic (Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill 321).
Use of Semi-Structured Interview in the Given Research
Semi-structured interview method is used in the given research as it is useful in obtaining deep understanding of citizens’ attitudes, beliefs and behaviours related to their satisfaction with the use of e government in Qatar.
Data Quality issues related with semi-structured interviews
In qualitative research, the reliability and validity of the data is often questioned. While conducting a research, every researcher makes maximum efforts to avoid errors in different phases of the research process so that the credibility of the results can be established. Any kind of error during the research process has a negative impact on the effectiveness of data and that can damage the outcome of the research project (Brink166).
While conducting a semi-structured interview, the researcher has to keep certain issues in mind related to the quality of data obtained from the participants. These issues are:
Reliability of the data
Semi-structured interviews are not standardised, hence, the reliability of data obtained through them is questionable. In some situations when the researcher is not able to prove his credibility to the interviewee, validity and reliability of the gathered information may be doubtful (Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill 326).
LeCompte and Goetz state that there are two types of reliability in qualitative research. First type is external reliability which is created by replicating the study and second type is the internal reliability which is created by the consensus of all the members of the research team (Bryman and Bell 400).
Brink recommends three tests to prove reliability of qualitative research work:
- Stability by repeating the similar interviews or observations on same subject to establish consistency of the responses
- Internal uniformity by reasonable and descriptive reasoning of ideas about the same topic during the single interviewing session
- Equivalence by asking variety of questions during a single interview in order to establish the uniformity of the produced data irrespective of the form of question
However, due to different measurements, it is not possible to use all three types of reliability in every qualitative research. Therefore, researchers need to apply the relevant and feasible reliability test while carrying out their research work (176).
Another apprehension related to the data collected through semi-structured interview is bias. All researches are carried out by human beings and not by machines, so there is a possibility of failure same as with other human performances. There has been less consideration given to researcher’s bias and to the personal and social approaches required to handle it (Norris173).
Bias can be in the form of interviewer’s influence on the interviewee due to their attitude, remarks and non-verbal manners during the conversation. Besides this, biasness can also occur when researcher is interpreting the participants’ answers.
Biasness can be in the form of selection of sampling including time, places, issues etc. It may also occur in accessing various sources of data and their reliability. Researchers may be biased due to their commitments or preferences or their ability, knowledge and skill. Their personal attitudes or weaknesses may also lead to biasness in completing the research project.
While the potential sources of bias are easily recognizable, there are hardly any systematic procedures to eliminate these completely. Therefore, it is the social responsibility of the researcher to keep the research honest and impartial and enrich its quality. Researchers can cope with bias by declaring their prejudices and suppositions so that they may be measured and tested responsively. They can get the data reviewed by others and participants’ validation may also be utilised. Critical friends and associates may help in finding biases relative to sampling procedures, interpretations etc. They can also help trace blind spots and lapsesand reviewing judgements andmaking the research process more public (Norris174).
Interviewee may also be biased when providing answers to the interviewer. They may get influenced by the interviewer’s perception. Sometimes, the participants may not be willing to reveal the sensitive information about some issues that the researcher wants to discover and provide partial information about them. They may not discuss the sensitive issues because they are not authorised to do so or they want to show themselves in positive roles. Their biasness (negative or positive) for the organizations they work for may also affect the reliability of the information (Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill 326).
Generalizability is a major concern with respect to quality while conducting semi-structured interviews. However, this issue can be resolved by adopting a clear and modified approach when carrying out a qualitative research. Mason states that, “Reliability, generalizability and validity are three different kinds of measures of quality, rigour and wider potential of research, which are achieved according to certain methodological and disciplinary conventions and principles” (Bryman and Bell 400). Bryman and Bell believe that the generalizability of any research can be established by relating the findings of the research with the existing theories. It helps in demonstrating the broader significance of the research findings. Relating the research findings to existing theories will lead to the testing of those theories and will ensure the advancement of theoretical propositions to be verified in other contexts (Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill 335).
The validity of the collected information depends on the researcher’s ability to gain insight into the participants’ familiarity and experience with the research topic and infer the exact meaning of their responses. According to Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill, “The high level of validity that is possible in relation to non-standardised interview (qualitative) interviews that are conducted carefully is due to the questions being able to be clarified, meaning of responses probed and topics discussed from a variety of angles” (327).
In semi-structured interviews, findings may vary depending on time and situations. The complexity of the topic may cause difficulty in replicating the research by other researchers. Bryman and Bell suggest that researchers can transform this weakness of semi-structured interview into its strength by retaining notes about the research design and also support the reasons for selecting the particular strategy and methods and the data obtained for other researchers’ reference (Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill 328). According to Bryman and Bell, reliability and validity can be integrated in qualitative research with little change in meaning apart from minimising the salience of measurement issues (400).
Preparing for semi-structured interview
Level of knowledge, developing the questions and the appropriateness of the interview location and time
A successful preparation is very important for doing any researches. The researchers require being knowledgeable about the topic for which they do research. Not only knowledge about the topic is required but also knowledge related to the organization and situational context in which the interview will be taken is also important. They can get knowledge through literature review as well as through university libraries where they do prior search about the topic. These topics could be found in any journal articles. These journal articles could be written by any senior designator of the organization which is participating in the research conducted by the researcher. For developing the questions it is important to create a theme for the interview on which the questions should be based. Interview themes can be taken from the literature, which is familiar to the researchers. The themes of the interview to develop questions can be obtained from the theories which a researcher reads, from experience in a specific topic, discussions with colleagues, tutors, students, common sense, research participants and also with the mixture of these approaches. It is required to have an idea about the theme of the topic that he wants to discuss with the participants of his study. If there is no focus, the work of the researcher will not have any direction and purpose. The interview should start with a theme and which should show the elements of the studies. In order to start an interview, one or more general questions can be asked. Some pre-planned questions can be prepared to ask in an interview but the questions should flow naturally and they should be based on the responses given by the participants. It is not necessary to ask specific questions following a particular order. In fact the questions asked so that thy could generate the flow of conversation. The researcher should have this knowledge and insight into which questions have to be removed and what should be the order of the questions at the time of the interview. Before conducting any interview it is important to choose the appropriate location since the impact of location should be considered with regard to the participants and their responses. Suitability of the time is also important for conducting any interview to get an reliable data.
Level of Knowledge and its importance
Level of knowledge means the intensity of knowledge which has to be applied while conducting interviews. It is very important to have knowledge about the research topic in the context of organization and situation. Knowledge can be gained through material which can be found in the libraries, newspapers or internet. A researcher can also gain knowledge through company reports, publications or financial reports of the organization. The themes for the interview for developing questions can be obtained from the theories which a researcher reads, through the experience of a specific topic, discussions with colleagues, tutors, students, common sense, research participants and also with the mixture of these approaches. It is required by a researcher to have an idea about the theme of the topic that he wants to discuss with the participants of his study. Having this knowledge becomes significant because if the researcher has all the information in the interview, it helps him in showing his sincerity, helps in getting accurate responses and he is able to encourage interviewee to give more details related to the topic when doing discussions. It will also help the researcher to draw initial analysis while conducting many interviews (Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill 328).
The process of developing questions
In order to develop questions it is a must to create a theme for the interview on which the questions should be based. Developing themes gives the researcher an idea how to conduct the interview in an effective manner. The researcher can start with a set of themes, which shows the elements that have to be studied. Saunders , Lewis, and Thornhill state that “This lists topics that you intend to cover in the interview along with initial question and probes that may be used to follow up initial responses and obtain greater detail from the participants” (329). While preparing questions, It is also important to keep in mind that the order of questions should be logical so that the participants could understand the language.
Meaning of appropriateness of the interview location and its importance
The interview location should be suitable for the participants and also the interview should be scheduled at the time when the participants can participate comfortably. Setting a location for interview is very important because the interviews conducted on a location influence the data collected by the researcher. Also, fixing an appropriate location becomes very important for the researcher’s personal safety as well. The other people should know whom the researcher is meeting, at what location and what time. A researcher should systematically make a list of the people whom he has to meet with the name of the location and scheduled time. The meeting should be planned in a busy public place. While choosing the location for the interview, not only the researcher’s safety is important but also it is important to see the impact of the location on the participants’ responses so effective data can be collected. Location of the interview should be that comfortable for the participants where they are not disturbed. The place should be quiet and no outside noise disturbance should be there so that in case of any audio recording could be done by the researcher comfortably (Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill 330).
Importance of time
Scheduling the time for the interview plays an important role in conducting any study.
“Apart from the difficulty of trying to design a viable questionnaire schedule to cope with issues that are complex, unclear, or large in number, the time needed for the participant to complete the questionnaire may mean that an interview is in any case the best or only alternative” (Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill 325).
In case of large and complex interviews the time chosen for the interview should be that when the participants are under less pressure. It’s been observed that the participants are normally generous with their time and if the interviews are conducted at mid-morning, roughly around lunch time, the participants have time for discussion so the issues related to studies can be investigated. Setting an interview time can give better results to any study since the participants are mentally prepared and can participate in the study enthusiastically which can enhance the quality of any interview (“Interviewing for Research and Analysing Qualitative Data: An Overview” par.1). It is also experienced that if the length of time is clearly stated to the participants and they understand objectives of the interview, they will be willing to be interviewed (Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill 325).
Analyzing qualitative data
Ideally, there are two key epistemological approaches in all research; induction (exploration) or deduction (confirmation).
The inductive data collection approach in research focuses on exploring data and then reviewing the relevant issues and themes. However, this approach requires the researcher to be much focused while collecting and examine them in order to assess the emerging themes. This analysis of data is necessary for developing a conceptual framework for the following work.
The collected data help the researcher to recognize the patterns. The prevalence of patterns in the data develops a hypothesis which becomes a theory if repeatedly confirmed through a course of data collection and analysis.
Inductive approach may take long time to complete and might be resource demanding or it may combine some elements of deductive approach to frame the groundwork and then examine their applicability through collecting data and analysing them (Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill 490).
In deductive approach, the pattern of ideas about specific things forms the hypothesis and its accuracy is tested in different instances. The hypothesis becomes a theory if confirmed through researcher’s observations. A researcher requires adopting confirmatory or deductive approach while testing or confirming a hypothesis. On the other hand, this approach is accepted whole heartedly and it faces many questions.
It is advantageous for the researchers to start the research work from a theoretical perspective while incorporating inductive approach as it will work as the source of knowledge to the subject area and will provide a primary analytical background to the research project (Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill 490).
Difference between inductive and deductive approach
In deductive research, the researcher collects data to test hypotheses that help him in finding a definite path of action. On the other hand, inductive research leads to generating hypotheses in the first place and then collecting data to establish a theory. Hence, inductive approach to data collection is mainly exploratory, while deductive approach is normally confirmatory. Researchers may initiate their research project with any of the two approaches; however, elements of both the approaches will be required in practice (Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill 490).
Steps to prepare the data for analysis
Transcription of qualitative data
After collecting qualitative data, the researchers need to converse it to word processed text for analysis. In semi-structured interviews, audio-recording of the interview is done while interviewing the participants and is later transcribed or written in words. The task to convert audio-recordings into text is a lengthy process and requires expertise for maintaining the originality of the interview relative to the content, tone and non-verbal communications. It is also important to relate it to the background information that locates the interview. The task of transcribing an audio-recording takes at least six to ten hours even if it is done by the touch typist. Therefore, it is important that interviews should be transcribed immediately after the interview in order to avoid any backlog of audio-recording and related transcription work. There are many methods available for transcribing the interview data such as hiring a touch typist, using a foot operated transcription machine, using the voice recognition software and lastly, transcribing only thosesections that are relevant to the research project.
While transcribing the data, one should be careful about the accuracy of the data and produce an error free transcription. This process is known as data cleaning, following which, a copy of the transcript is sent to the participants for last read-through to confirm factual accuracy.Each transcription is saved as separate word-processed file. The file names should be confidential and easily identifiable.
Preparing the electronic textual data for analysis
Data collected through email interviews and electronic documentsis is stored accurately for analysis after using separate codes and corrected typographical errors (Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill 487).
Computer assisted qualitative data analysis (CAQDAS)
“Qualitative data analysis is now more convenient and less time consuming with the use of computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software (CAQDAS)” (Bryman and Bell 605). CAQDAS has made the tasks of coding and retrieving data easier and convenient. Coined by Lee and Fielding in 1991, it has been the most flourished and popular program in qualitative research. The computer performs the tasks related to the coding procedure. “The analysts has to go through a set of data marking sequences of text in terms of codes(coding) and for each code, collect together all sequences of text coded in a particular way (retrieving)” (Bryman and Bell 605).
The computer performs the tasks of writing marginal notes, photocopying the transcripts, cut and paste work of the text related to a code etc. CAQDAS lessens the manual labour involved in these tasks; however, interpretation of data, coding and retrieving has to be done by analysts (Bryman and Bell 605).
Introduction to NVivo Program
Developed by QSR International, NVivo is an efficient program for helping the researchers manage their research data. It helps the researchers to accomplish their research objectives by recording, arranging, identifying and associating data while keeping the source of data accessible.
During the analysis of qualitative data, NVivo program helps in
- Managing collected data including interview data files, audio, video and documentary sources, rough notes and memos etc.
- Organizing and providing access to the intangible and theoretical information generated during the study while retaining access to the source.
- Retrieving information from the data base as and when required
- Provision of interactive display of the relationship of different items at various stages of the interpretive process.
- “Presenting the outcomes of the research by using contents of the qualitative database including the original sources of data, information gathered from them and the process involved in reaching the outcomes” (Bazeley and Jackson 3).
Hence, with the use of NVivo program the researchers can work more systematically, responsively and comprehensively which leads to a more rigorous analysis of qualitative data (Bazeley and Jackson 3).
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