Interview and Focus Group Research

Prof. Bergman is an excellent instructor. Using many practical examples, he is able to explain even the most complicated conceps and makes them very easy to understand. — participant from Singapore

This course covers introductory and advanced issues of two of the most popular qualitative data collection methods in the social and related sciences – interviews and focus groups. Participants learn when, how, and why to employ different forms of interview and focus group methods for data collection. The first part of the course covers issues related to research design, theoretical assumptions, and justifications for different types of interviews. The second and third part respectively deal with how to effectively conduct qualitative interviews as a data collection method and how to prepare interviews for systematic analysis. The fourth part expands qualitative data collection by introducing group interviews and focus groups. The final part introduces how to use interviews and focus groups within a broader mixed methods research design.

This course is the first part in a two-course sequence. Part two (cf. Qualitative Data Analysis) covers how to systematically analyze data collected from interviews and focus groups.


Dates

This course was offered in 2017.


Instructor

M. Max Bergman (picture), University of Basel


Detailed Description

This course teaches participants when, how, and why to employ qualitative interviews and focus group research. It consists of five parts. The first part of the course deals with issues related to research design, theoretical assumptions, and justifications for different forms of interviews. Lectures and exercises cover exploratory, unstructured, as well as semi-structured interviews in detail. They also address the limitations and opportunities of such interviews as well as how to justify these data collection techniques from a social science and public policy perspective.

The second and third part deal with how to effectively conduct qualitative interviews as a data collection method and how to prepare interviews for systematic analysis. Using a wide variety of case studies, different forms and applications of interview research are explored. Participants are encouraged to engage with the relevant concepts and to participate in practical exercises, which provide them with the opportunity to explore different interviewing techniques. Other central themes include validity and reliability, sampling issues, the research process, project management, and project planning.

The fourth part expands qualitative data collection by introducing group interviews and focus groups. Important similarities and differences to interviewing are emphasized and strategies on how to combine interviews and focus groups in a qualitative multi-method research context are discussed. The final part teaches participants how to use interviews and focus groups within a broader mixed methods research design.

Participants are encouraged to work on their own interview and/or focus group projects during the course, and they have the opportunity to present and discuss their research during group exercises and in one-on-one meetings with the instructor.

After attending this course, participants will understand the principles of qualitative interview and focus group research, be able to identify the possibilities and limitations of these data collection methods, and be in a position to apply them appropriately for specific research purposes in the social and related sciences.


Prerequisites

There are no formal prerequisites for this course.


Requirements

Participants are expected to bring a WiFi-enabled laptop computer. Access to data, temporary licenses for the course software, and installation support will be provided by the Methods School.


Core Readings

Will be provided.


Suggested Readings

Gubrium, Jaber F., James A. Holstein, Amir B. Marvasti, and Karyn D. McKinney, eds. 2012. The SAGE Handbook of Interview Research: The Complexity of the Craft. 2nd edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.


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