Why qualitative interviews?

Think positive! Argue positively!

“I’m doing something with interviews because I’m not into statistics.” We hear these or similar reasons more often. This is a pity, because this argumentation does not take up the strengths of a qualitative analysis at all.

At the same time, it often leads to the erroneous conclusion that qualitative methods are the easier way. Unfortunately, in some cases it is rather the other way around. Preparing interviews, arranging them, conducting them, typing them up … You can confidently calculate a multiple of the actual interview duration as working time. So it is a lot of work.

But then why go to all that trouble? Here we provide three positive killer arguments why qualitative methods are a good idea in the context of a scientific study. We deliberately refrain from the usual quali vs. quanti comparison here, but rather formulate exclusively positive selection criteria.

I can consider multi-layered meanings and perspectives
People interact very differently and use diverse strategies of action and multi-layered patterns of meaning. However, these are usually not available in a reflected and well-formulated way, but can initially only be derived from actions, perspectives and ways of speaking. Interviewees will presumably first elaborate, reflect, explain backgrounds, search for explanations themselves. It is precisely through the narrative style of qualitative interviewing that one learns not only how people evaluate certain topics, but also how they arrive at these evaluations, what contradictions they may contain, and what themes may be linked to them.

I can explore new things
If there is not yet much prior knowledge about a topic and neither theories nor models nor technical terms are available, then one must first form a picture and explore. An essential characteristic of the qualitative approach is openness to new things. This is helpful to develop hypotheses and theories and thus to build up a (new) conceptual toolkit for. In addition, hidden normativity is avoided by consciously allowing and encouraging responses outside of one’s own pre-expectations.

Gaining context and consistency
An open-ended conversation (“Tell me about …”) invites the other person to elaborate. In addition, it is common in an open conversation to link various elements together in a stringent narrative. This is the way to get a lot of details and background information. These, in turn, provide a very broad insight into the world of life and make it possible to classify the statements. Gaps or contradictions can be addressed. Thus, a very precise reconstruction of individual views is possible, including all contradictions and diffusities.

Further good arguments can be found e.g. in: Kuckartz et al. “Qualitative Evaluation”, VS Verlag from page 66.

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