Research Interviews are real life: Enhancing ecological validity through discursive reflexivity
University of East Anglia
This paper starts from the principle that research interviews are ‘real life’ events. The paper will demonstrate how employing a discursive approach in a reflexive fashion can locate both researchers and participants within research events such as interviews. This approach to reflexivity will be shown to highlight the dynamic nature of interviewing and the active process of data collection. Additionally the idea of discursive reflexivity will be shown to enhance the robustness of pilot work, literature reviewing, writing up reports, research training and in demonstrating how specific research approaches are maintained.
Reflexivity is regarded as a quality marker in qualitative research. Despite established ways of ‘doing’ reflexivity, demonstrating it is challenging. This paper explores the potential of utilizing discursive methods to open up the reflexive process by identifying and discussing significant exerts from interviews.
To draw attention to discursive processes within interviews a reflexive commentary utilising examples of interview talk will be presented. The examples will focus upon what the talk is ‘doing’, drawing upon discursive approaches in social psychology (Potter & Wetherell 1987; Potter 1996).
Interview extracts in which the researchers/participants positioning can be demonstrated will be presented and related to the reflexive process. It will be shown that a discursive perspective can be used in pilot work to enhance preparation for interviews and indicate potential problems. The contribution of discourse in framing literature reviews is developed through considering how attention to language can help researchers to acknowledge prominent repertoires which frequently structure areas of study. A discursive approach may also guide how data is used in reports and how the conversational context of interview material is maintained. Thinking discursively also invites third party input which is valuable in supervision and training, and offers supervisors specific strategies for facilitating student reflexivity. Finally, like all conversations, interviews are bound up with identity and power and the maintenance of a particular stance to research such as participatory approaches can be established through exploring how such positions are discursively produced within interviews.
The paper will conclude that the research interview is a ‘real life’ event and that actively analysing conversational processes from a reflexive viewpoint enhances the understanding of how interview material relates to and varies from conversations which occur in other ‘real life’ contexts.
Potter, J. (1996). Representing reality: Discourse, rhetoric and social construction. London: Sage.
Potter, J. & Wetherell, W. (1987) Discourse and social psychology: Beyond attitudes andbehaviour. London: Sage.