Qualitative research is conducted across a spectrum of subjects in the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Health Sciences. It involves collecting and analysing non-numerical data to generate in-depth insights to answer a research question and explain phenomena. The most common method for generating data in qualitative research is interviewing. However, few journal publications have outlined interviewing across multiple qualitative studies and by different disciplines.
Researchers from the School of Medicine and the School of Social Work and Social Policy at Trinity College have just published a State of the Methods article on interviewing in qualitative research. State of the Methods papers are written by experts in the field and their purpose is to outline and illustrate key advancements and innovation in research methods. Drawing on research topics as diverse as accessing abortion services, using health services in motor neurone disease, grandparenting, intergenerational solidarity and friendship, and long-term care use, the article details examples of how interviewing participants is used effectively to guide participant selection and answer research questions.
Dr Geraldine Foley (pictured), Assistant Professor in Occupational Therapy at Trinity College Dublin and corresponding author says:
Our primary motivation to write this publication was to demonstrate how interviewing can be used to both generate data and guide sampling procedures in qualitative studies. In our case, each study was framed by a qualitative approach known as Grounded Theory. Grounded Theory is essentially a systematic set of procedures and techniques to doing qualitative research whereby data collection and analysis together guide the researcher where to sample next and decide what further questions to ask of participants. This form of sampling is known as theoretical sampling. Importantly, we show how interviewing through the course of a study allows for findings to be interrogated to achieve a full understanding of participants’ perspectives.
Qualitative methods are used across a diverse range of disciplines and help answer research questions that quantitative methods by their nature cannot answer. We believe that this article will be hugely beneficial to qualitative researchers or indeed any researcher who is using interviewing for data collection in their research. The notion of using everyday experiences of research participants to generate knowledge is often critiqued by researchers unfamiliar with qualitative research.
However, the key strength of interviewing in qualitative research is that it focused on capturing the participant perspective in real-world contexts. In our research, capturing the participant perspective through in-depth interviews in their everyday context has led to novel understandings of how people engage with health services and/or make decisions about key aspects of their lives.
The article was authored by Dr Geraldine Foley (Discipline of Occupational Therapy, School of Medicine, TCD), Professor Virpi Timonen and Dr Catherine Conlon (School of Social Work & Social Policy, Trinity College) and by Dr Catherine Elliott O’Dare (The Geary Institute, UCD). The article has been published Open Access in the International Journal of Qualitative Methods, a leading journal focused on methodological advancement and innovation in qualitative research.