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Making Interviews Meaningful

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Making Interviews Meaningful

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Abstract

Qualitative methods have played and are likely to continue to play an important role in scholarship on organizational development and change. One key data source dominates all others, however, in the qualitative lexicon: the one-on-one interview. This has become so common as to seem almost banal and taken for granted. And yet, the interview is actually a very complex phenomenon where many different things may be going on. This essay attempts to elucidate some of this complexity by identifying five different genres of interviewing, each with its specific ontological assumptions and purposes. We identify and illustrate specific techniques and practices associated with each genre, and offer suggestions for further development, while inviting researchers to think through more carefully what interviews can and cannot deliver, and how they can be made meaningful.

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... This project was undertaken using a qualitative social science methodology, based around in-depth interviews with local residents. In this way, the interview participants' expert perspectives drawn from their lived experiences form the 'knowledge base' for the insights presented in this paper (Langley and Meziani, 2020). This project focused on social wellbeing and economic diversification; two key themes that are dominant in discussions around regional futures. ...
... This project used un-structured, theme-guided conversational interviews. The interviews were based around several key themes, though the interaction between interviewer and interview participant was conversational (Langley and Meziani, 2020). Accordingly, each interview proceeded based on the nature of interactions between the two parties, approaching the themes in a contextually-appropriate way (rather than following than a script of prepared questions). ...
... By designing the interview protocol around a series of topics, the interviewer and interview participant engaged in a conversational exchange, with the interviewer transparently guiding the discussion toward the key topics (Holstein and Gubrium, 2003). The topics were shared with participants at the start of the interview, allowing the participant the option of guiding the discussion as they saw fit, rather than responding to a series of pre-set questions regardless of relevance (Langley and Meziani, 2020). Second, this approach allowed for participant agency regarding the topics explored in the discussion, while retaining the ability of the interviewer to redirect the discussion tactfully if it appeared to be approaching a subject of discomfort for the participant. ...
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... Interviewing remains the most common qualitative method of data collection, reflected in a substantial literature including numerous handbooks on interviewing (Alvesson, 2003;Gubrium & Holstein, 2011) as well as critical appraisals (Langley & Meziani, 2020). Around a third (78) of the research articles published in this journal between 2011 and 2021 have used interviewing; for example, sensemaking (Chreim & Tafaghod, 2012), metaphors of change agency (Cassell & Lee, 2012), identity (Foldy, 2012;Jacobs et al., 2013), different facets of change (Ford et al., 2020), and change leaders' behavior (Higgs & Rowland, 2011). ...
... This paper is concerned specifically with ways in which interviewers can unduly influence, and therefore bias, interviewees' responses through the wording of interview questions. While the general problem is acknowledged by authors including Mishler (2009), Patton (2015), and Langley and Meziani (2020), detailed analysis of how the problem arises in practice is lacking. Attention to the way questions are formulated is vital because "the form of the answer may be occasioned by the form of the question" (Potter & Hepburn, 2005, p. 588) especially as respondents typically do not notice the suggestibility of a question or the effect that specific words may have on them (Hubbard, 1950). ...
... Before proceeding further it must be acknowledged that interviews may be based on a wide variety of ontological and epistemological assumptions (Alvesson, 2003;Langley & Meziani, 2020). Those stances vary in the ways in which interview data are produced (Hammersley, 2017), notions of quality (Roulston, 2010), and the type of knowledge claims likely to be made (Schaefer & Alvesson, 2020). ...
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... However, whether one realizes the great potential of elite interviews depends on the quality of empirical material generated from the interviews. There is a vast literature on qualitative research in general and interviewing in particular that covers an array of philosophical and practical considerations such as the different forms of qualitiative interviews (Alvesson, 2003;Roulston and Choi, 2018); practicalities, challenges and limitations of interview design and conduct (Langley and Meziani, 2020;Roulston, 2010); and alternative criteria of qualitative research quality (Pratt et al., 2020;Tracy, 2010). ...
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... Many other projective techniques may be used to engage research participants, such as 'thinkaloud' or critical incident (for more information, see The Apprentice Genre interviews in Langley & Meziani, 2020) or using other language, drawing or acting exercises during interviews. These techniques are well known in personality psychology and are used in that field to tap into the underlying processes beneath the surface, but they are not yet widely used in researching entrepreneurial practices. ...
... On the contrary, interviewing allows researchers to grasp the hidden layers of practices, which are not easily accessible through observation (Deppermann, 2013) and which remain tacit for practitioners in their daily practice. Interviewing can be seen as an intervention that stimulates reflection about otherwise invisible elements of practices (Langley & Meziani, 2020). Nevertheless, interviewing should be approached with caution and should not be interpreted as a reflection of reality, as is done in the interview-as-research-instrument approach. ...
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... These sketches became a source for further questions. A strength of this approach was that it gave our informants a voice to raise issues from their point of view as well as reflect in depth on their professional role within the domain of data science and in the oil and gas industry (cf. Langley & Meziani, 2020;Myers & Newman, 2007). For this reason, we were also invited to present and validate our findings as part of two sessions arranged by a group of DMs. ...
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... While there are clear guidelines to analyzing interview data, this does not mean that interview data are completely straightforward to work with, nor that they suit all research questions. Instead, there are various ways to conceptualize interviews and interview data (Alvesson, 2003;Langley & Meziani, 2020), necessitating clarity in one's stance regarding interviews and the space of possibilities they allow (see Lamont & Swidler, 2014). ...
... Therefore, interviews work well as source material for theorizing on systems of classification and moral backgrounds (Lamont and Swidler 2014;Mohr et al. 2020). Furthermore, interviews are commonly used to identify identity work elements and cultural discourses on management research (Langley and Meziani 2020). We use interviews to access the properties contained in the discourse of developers when coming with claims about ethical responsibility on their work. ...
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... Interviews are social encounters in their own right which means that the questions and utterances of the interviewers are part of the data and the social situation of the interview needs to be taken into account when the data is analyzed (Potter & Wetherell, 1987). There are, of course, different kinds of interviews (e.g., open, semi-structured, and structured; life story interviews; narrative interviews) grounded within different paradigmatic approaches (Alvesson, 2003;Froschauer & Lueger, 2020;Langley & Meziani, 2020). It is common to record and transcribe (verbatim or non-verbatim) interviews and, hence, turn them into texts. ...
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... When required, we conducted multiple interviews with an informant to enhance our understanding of the specific case and triangulated it with previously collected data to ensure validity (Eisenhardt, 1989). The interviews followed a strict protocol, which was built a priori to avoid interviewer bias (Langley and Meziani, 2020), initially focusing on understanding the company, its operations, the role of the interviewees, and how it relates to our research question. We also explored the ecosystem structure (e.g., roles, links, and activities), evolution (e.g., changes in the value proposition and structure), uncertainties faced by the orchestrator and its partners, and how focal firms cope with such uncertainties. ...
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The new edition of this landmark volume emphasizes the dynamic, interactional, and reflexive dimensions of the research interview. Contributors highlight the myriad dimensions of complexity that are emerging as researchers increasingly frame the interview as a communicative opportunity as much as a data-gathering format. The book begins with the history and conceptual transformations of the interview, which is followed by chapters that discuss the main components of interview practice. Taken together, the contributions to The SAGE Handbook of Interview Research: The Complexity of the Craft encourage readers simultaneously to learn the frameworks and technologies of interviewing and to reflect on the epistemological foundations of the interview craft.
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In this paper, I outline a perspective on knowing in practice which highlights the essential role of human action in knowing how to get things done in complex organizational work. The perspective suggests that knowing is not a static embedded ca- pability or stable disposition of actors, but rather an ongoing social accomplishment, constituted and reconstituted as actors engage the world in practice. In interpreting the findings of an empirical study conducted in a geographically dispersed high- tech organization, I suggest that the competence to do global product development is both collective and distributed, grounded in the everyday practices of organizational members. I conclude by discussing some of the research implications of a perspective on organizational knowing in practice. (Distributed Competence; Geographically Distributed Organizing; Know- ing; Organizational Knowledge; Organizing Practices) With the intensification of globalization, acceleration in the rate of change, and expansion in the use of informa- tion technology, particular attention is being focused on the opportunities and difficulties associated with sharing knowledge and transferring "best practices" within and across organizations (Leonard-Barton 1995, Brown and Duguid 1998, Davenport and Prusak 1998). Such a focus on knowledge and knowledge management is particularly acute in the context of global product development, where the development and delivery of timely and innovative products across heterogeneous cultures, locales, and mar- kets are critical and ongoing challenges. Dealing effec- tively with such challenges requires more than just good ideas, strong leaders, and extensive resources; it also re- quires a deep competence in what may be labeled "dis- tributed organizing"—the capability of operating effec- tively across the temporal, geographic, political, and cultural boundaries routinely encountered in global operations.