Ethnographic Interviews

Interviews are a means of collecting rich and detailed information directly from research population, as presented in their words. The purpose of interviews is to establish basic processes for transmitting information, opinions and perceptions, while giving interviewees time and opportunities to express their opinion fluently and openly and giving interviewers time to ask questions and request clarifications in order to get a broad picture of information, opinions, thoughts and emotions. Interviewees have the opportunity to provide completely honest answers, to explain what they mean and how events and place in their lives and environment, to present their relationships with people around them and provide their interpretations to all these (Heyl 2001; Zanting et al. 2003). They are asked to reconstruct and describe in their words events and social experiences, their opinions, beliefs and feelings.

Ethnographers must be skilled in-depth interviewers, enabling their subjects to recount their experiences, describe their thoughts and feelings. For them, this research tool contributes to expanding information they collect and enable them to get a comprehensive picture as well as broad and rich insights about their subjects, their culture and conduct (Reeves et al. 2008). Interpersonal relationships between interviewer and interviewees are very important to the research process and therefore researchers must be punctilious and respectful listeners (Harrington 2003;

Heyl 2001). They must maintain interviewees’ dignity during interviews and encourage them to participate and narrate while maintaining interaction with them.

Sometimes only partial information is revealed in interviews and therefore interviewers must encourage interviewees to impart information. Nevertheless, they must take into account unspoken information and silences that testify to interviewees’ deliberations and complexities of their answers. Hesitations, contradictions, indecisions, changes in points of view and subjects that are not spoken about in interviews are a significant part of the information gathered for research (Heyl 2001). The way in which interviewees choose to present their words enables one to understand their identity and the significance that they attribute to their words (Clandinin et al. 2007) while giving voice to personal experiences, to the “I” that operates in a cultural context, to advance interpersonal conversation and appreciate social happenings (Holt 2003; Trahar 2009; Wall 2008).

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