Interviewing Formats

Although research interviews are sometimes conducted with groups (e.g., focus groups), most qualitative interviews are one-to-one or dyadic interviews. Unlike questionnaires and formal diagnostic interviews, research interviews are most often unstructured. However, the researcher knows in advance the experience he or she wants the participant to describe and has often written out questions (or protocols) he or she wants the participant to cover. The interview proceeds as a “professional conversation”. The conversation consists of a give-and-take dialectic in which the interviewer follows the conversational threads opened up by the interviewee and guides the conversation toward producing a full account of the experience under investigation.

A kind of interview process of particular interest for counseling psychology research is the interpersonal process recall (IPR) method. In the IPR process, a psychotherapy session is recorded on video (the process has also been used with audio recordings). After the session, the client or therapist sits with the interviewer and views or listens to the session. The interview takes place while the psychotherapy participant and interviewer are watching the tape. When an event appears that the participant recognizes as significant, the tape is stopped. Then the interviewee is asked to reflect on the event by recalling the experience that occurred at that time. The researcher assists the interviewee to explore the experience with open-ended questions. Rennie has used this method to explore aspects of the therapeutic process with outstanding success.

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