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The interview mode of gathering information is so

familiar and so widely applied that it typically goes

The prevalence of interviews as a mode of

communication in all realms of social life has led
some social scientists to conclude that we live in an
interview society (Atkinson and Silverman 1997).

From a historical standpoint, however, this

seemingly natural mode of inquiry is a relative
newcomer in the world of collecting data about
human behavior (Gubrium and Holstein 2002).


1. Democratization of opinions
the interview format assumes that human beings
share a common experience, which any random
member of society can articulate when asked to
do so
social scientists use random respondents for their
research because they assume every persons
opinion of the world is valid and that the sum of
these views paints a reasonably complete picture
of social reality
collecting a large representative sample would be

2. Researcher-respondent duality
Is the division between the two formalized roles
of the researcher and the respondent. (a leaderfollower relationship)
The interviewer is the leader; he or she asks
questions and in doing so decides the topic, the
pace, and the relevance of what will be discussed
The interviewees primary responsibility is to
provide coherent, presumably truthful answers

3. Respondents as vessels of knowledge

The respondent is viewed as a vessel of answers
(Gubrium and Holstein 2002) or a fountain of
knowledge, that could be turned on or off by the
right questions.
The subjects involvement in the interview is
limited to only answering questions and that
researchers primary job is to extract answers.

The most prevalent interviewing technique
Named after its emphasis on rigid procedures
Adheres to the researcher-respondent duality

Fontana and Frey (2000: 649)

The fundamentals of structured interviewing
include: asking the same question with no
variation, preestablished response categories and
strict control of the interview protocol using a

Within this framework, the person asking the

questions tries not to contaminate the
respondents answers by getting involved in
personal details or offering opinions.
The goal is to ensure all respondents receive the
same treatment so that variations in their
answers can be attributed to differences in
attitudes about the topic, and not to differences
in the way they were treated by the researcher.
Aside from asking questions, the interviewer
should have no influence on what respondents

Babbie (2002) offers the following guidelines for
constructing survey interview questions:
Short items are best
Always pretest a questionnaire
Avoid negatively stated questions, they can be
Avoid biased questions, in other words, avoid
questions that begin with Dont you agree, or
Dont you disagree. (2002: 241247)

Structured interviewers would either have to
speculate or simply leave some questions
unanswered in explaining the intended meaning
of the findings from the respondents viewpoint
The emphasis on pre-coded data collection
schemes sometimes comes at the cost of
neglecting the depth and complexity of the
research participants experiences.