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Book Notes: Interviewing as Qualitative Research – Seidman

Seidman, I. E. (1991). Interviewing as Qualitative Research. New York, NY: Teachers College Press

Interviewing as Qualitative Research is a good book on those interested in research using interviews of any type. It’s most useful, however, for those interested in phenomenological interviews based on biographical narratives. Even if that’s not your cup of tea, and it is certainly not mine, the volume is an accessible quick read, with several good tips for those interested in interviewing.

The particular method of interviewing and data analysis is not relevant to my own interests, which lie in a more expertise and behavioral analysis context. However I found every chapter except for chapter 2, which is a direct split between the authors interests and my own, to be valuable. Particularly Chapters 1 and 3. Other readers may be interested in Chapters 6 and 7 which discuss the technique of interviewing and the management of relationships between the interviewee and interviewer.

Those who find resonance in the text will also want to look up, Patton’s Qualitative evaluation methods (1989), published by Sage, which is heavily referenced through out the text. I have a copy on my desk but haven’t yet delved into it. Chapter 3, is about structuring a research proposal. This chapter heavily references Locke, Spirduso, and Silverman’s (1987), Proposals that work.

One reason why I picked up this text in the first place is my interest in the rational of interviewing, and the way that context shapes constraints in the interview process. This is largely dealt with in chapters 1 of the book. However, Seidman’s contexts are very different from the ones that I am interested in investigating. While this pushes their constraints in a very different direction, some of the fundamental contexts for choosing interviewing is the same. As Seiderman argues:

“Every word that people use in telling their stories is an microcosm of their consciousness (Vygotsky, 1987, pp. 236-237). Individuals’ consciousness gives access to the most complicated social and educational issues, because social and educational issues are abstractions based on the concrete experience of people.” Seidman, 1991, p. 1

While, I have some issue with the constraints of this quote, if you interject information in the middle of the quote and add in the context of McLuhan and Orr around literacy, at the end, I think you get something that is very usable. Interviewing as articulated with a slight alteration allows us through the words of the interviewee to illuminate complicated social and informational issues through the experience of that individual.

Another interesting section in the first chapter is on the purpose of interviewing. Seidman argues that the fundamental interest in conducting interviews is an interest in understanding the experiences of other people and the meaning they make of/from those experiences. Seidman also argues that by reflectively understanding our limits to understanding we can still strive to understand people by their actions. This fits very well into the larger metaphysical assumptions I make about the world. Seidman thinks that interviewing provides access to the context of peoples behavior and that is provides a missing component that allows us to construct meaning out of that behavior. A note I made here seems to indicate that while this is interesting to me, my own research seems to be more driven by context and aboutness. It’s been a few weeks since I read this section so I am not quite sure if this is indeed what I meant or if it was meant as a commentary on Seidman’s views. That their work was less about meaning actually and more about interrogating context and aboutness behind affect in educational situations.

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