IS 7021: The Philosophy of Science & Qualitative Research Methods
Dr. Mary C. Lacity
233 Computer Center Building
(314) 516-6127 (work)
(314) 516-6827 (fax)
Example of Defending a Qualitative Method: Interviews
The Interview Method
To assess to the applicability of our initial model, we used interviews. The primary purpose for the interviews was to assess whether the initial model, which was developed primarily by US academics, is applicable to the context of Indian IS professionals. Interviews are an appropriate method when researchers:
a) seeks to understand themes of the lived daily world from the subject’s own perspectives (Kvale, 1996)
b) do not want to limit the study to predefined constructs or predefined categories within constructs (Glaser & Strauss, 1999)
c) seek participation from busy or high-status respondents (Mahoney,1997)
d) seek answers to questions in which the subject matter is sensitive (Mahoney, 1997)
e) are concerned with the quality, not quantity of responses (Fontana and Frey, 1994);
f) are concerned with the participants’ values (Bourne and Jenkins, 2005)
g) seek to answer a why or how questions about contemporary events over which the researcher has little or no control (Fontana and Frey, 1994; Yin, 2003)
We believe that interviews were the best research method to assess the applicability of our initial model and hypotheses. First, we wanted a method that would allow additional constructs beyond the initial model to emerge from the interviews (and indeed they did). The interview method, therefore, allowed us to expand the research model. Second, we believed that busy IS professionals, who hold a significant position of status within the Indian culture, would be more likely to respond to a personal interview than to an anonymous survey. Third, many people would likely perceive intentions to leave as a sensitive subject, thus we selected an interview method because it allows researchers to clearly communicate the purpose of the research, to ensure confidentiality, and to build trust during a personal interview. Once trust is established, research participants would more likely answer sensitive questions about their current job satisfaction, job commitment, and turnover intentions (and indeed they did).
First, we were concerned with the quality of responses, not the quantity. For example, when asking participants about the rewards and costs of their current position, it is not the number of rewards versus the number of costs identified by participants that mattered, but a deeper understanding of the meaning of rewards and costs and why they held value to each participant. Interviews can be classified as structured, semi-structured, or unstructured (Fontana and Frey, 1994). We selected semi-structured interviews because we wanted to leave the method fluid enough to explore constructs that may be missing from the model, but rigid enough to assess whether the six constructs were applicable.
Interviews can be conducted face-to-face or assisted
by information and communication technologies such as the telephone, chat
rooms, or e-mail. Although face-to-face
interviews are the richest form of communication, we chose a telephone interview
because the participants were located in
Bourne, H., and Jenkins, M., “Eliciting Manager’s Personal Values: An Adaptation of the Laddering Interview Method,” Organizational Research Methods,” Vol. 8, 4, October 2005, pp. 410-428.
Fontana, A., and Frey, J., “Interviewing: The Art of Science,” in Handbook of Qualitative Research, Denzin and Lincoln (eds), Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, 1994, pp. 361-376.
Glaser, B., and Strauss, A., The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research,
Kvale, S., Interviews:
An Introduction to Qualitative Research Interviewing, Sage Publications,
Mahoney, C., “Common Qualitative Techniques,” in User-Friendly Handbook for Mixed Method Evaluations, Published by the Division of Research, Evaluation and Communication for the National Science Foundation, publication number NSF97-153, 1997, pp. 1-17.
Yin, R., Case
Study Research: Design and Methods, Third Edition, Sage,