Interviews hold a prominent place among the various research methods in the social and behavioral sciences. This book presents a powerful critique of current views and techniques, and proposes a new approach to interviewing. At the heart of Elliot Mishler’s argument is the notion that an interview is a type of discourse, a speech event: it is a joint product, shaped and organized by asking and answering questions.
This view may seem self-evident, yet it does not guide most interview research. In the mainstream tradition, the discourse is suppressed. Questions and answers are regarded as analogues to stimuli and responses rather than as forms of speech; questions and the interviewer’s behavior are standardized so that all respondents will receive the same “stimulus”; respondents’ social and personal contexts of meaning are ignored. While many researchers now recognize that context must be taken into account, the question of how to do so effectively has not been resolved. This important book illustrates how to implement practical alternatives to standard interviewing methods.
Drawing on current work in sociolinguistics as well as on his own extensive experience conducting interviews, Mishler shows how interviews can be analyzed and interpreted as narrative accounts. He places interviewing in a sociocultural context and examines the effects on respondents of different types of interviewing practice. The respondents themselves, he believes, should be granted a more extensive role as participants and collaborators in the research process.
The book is an elegant work of synthesis—clearly and persuasively written, and supported by concrete examples of both standard interviewing and alternative methods. It will be of interest to both scholars and clinicians in all the various fields for which the interview is an essential tool.
A splendid book. Mishler offers fresh and original insights that are firmly grounded in theory and practice.
The book is superb. The best statement of the narrative position to date in the social sciences.
A passionate argument for replacing the survey interview with a different model: the uninterrupted narrative flow to be analyzed as text.
Mishler raises issues that need to be addressed by survey researchers regardless of their specialization… [Research Interviewing] will be of particular interest to those who use surveys as a method of studying major life events: family relationships, factors relating to the quality of life, impact of health events, major economic or political issues and their impacts, factors in the work life, etc. The objective of these interviews is not to generate descriptive statistics but to understand and interpret significant factors of the individual’s experiences and reactions.
An important contribution to the understanding of how alternative methods for analyzing interview data can produce useful insights.
Mishler shows both his familiarity with survey research and his sophistication… [He] builds a powerful argument… Since his book pulls together several major methodological issues, it will receive a welcome among qualitative sociologists. It is a major contribution to the literature on methods.
Those working at the state of the art…will find an eclectic, sophisticated and humane argument which should broaden not only their horizons but those of the unreconstructed standard practitioner.
[An] important book that examines the social and behavioral science research interview method. Mishler argues that although we recognize the interview as a dialogic speech event, interviews are rarely permitted to function as discourse. The book instructs readers on how interviews can be analyzed and interpreted as narratives; it offers alternative methods to the standard interviewing techniques.
This book continues an important discussion on meaning and construction of meaning in research interviews in the social sciences… Research Interviewing will be of interest to those who are concerned with the politics of research, as well as to those producers or consumers of social science research who are considering the use of interviews.
- 206 pages
- 6 x 9 inches
- Harvard University Press
From this author
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