Journal of Consumer Sciences

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Die kwalitatiewe onderhoud as data-insamelingstegniek: sterk en swak punte

P Botha


In qualitative research, in-depth interviewing is an
important research tool for data gathering, with the
researcher as the measuring instrument. The qualitative
interview is flexible and dynamic and has been referred to as nondirective, unstructured, nonstandardised
and open-ended. Taylor and Bogdan (1984:77) define the qualitative interview as repeated face-to-face encounters between the researcher and informants directed toward understanding informants’ perspectives on their lives, experiences, or situations as expressed in their own
words. Some authors stress the role of talk as well
as various ways of communication during interviewing.
Although the qualitative interview - like other datagathering techniques - has its strengths and weaknesses, it is argued that this method is a tool and
that its utility depends largely on its pertinence to
the research question. It is also argued that its
strengths and weaknesses are functions of the
competencies and skills of the researcher using this
tool to elicit the required information. The following aspects are discussed: ¨ Qualitative interviews are particularly suitable for studying people’s understanding of their world, for describing their experiences and selfunderstanding, and for clarifying and elaborating
their perspectives of their world (Seidman,
1998:3-4). In gathering such information, the
researcher should be interested in people and
the subjects should be studied in their own setting
to discover the meanings the subjects attach
to their behaviour. Data gathering presupposes
a certain familiarity with the subjects’ culture.
¨ The very virtue of a qualitative interview is its
openness. Apart from certain standard choices,
this openness and the absence of a prescribed
set of rules create a variety of opportunities for
the researcher. These opportunities demand
skills, knowledge and intuition from the interviewer.
It has been said that interviewing is a
craft that is closer to art than to standardised
social science methods (Kvale, 1996:84, 105;
Seidman, 1998:9, 11). ¨ Qualitative research interviews could serve as an auxiliary method in conjunction with other methods (Walker, 1985:4). This process of triangulation enhances the validity of the research
(Smaling, 1992:319). ¨ Qualitative interviewing is both a research technique and a social relationship that has to be
nurtured. An intersubjective understanding between
the interviewer and the interviewee depends
upon creating an ‘I – Thou’ relationship (Seidman, 1998:79). ‘Thou’ is someone close to the interviewer. There are mutual respect and sensitivity for differences in social class, ethnicity and gender. These aspects could stand in the way of crafting a good relationship. Feminists
have strong negative feelings about a hierarchical
relationship between the researcher and participants
as well as the exploitation of interviewees.
It should be a give-and-take relationship
(Oakley, 1981:31-41). ¨ Data gathering by means of qualitative interviewing is time-consuming (Jones, 1985:46-47) and requires considerable expertise in both subject matter and human interaction (Kvale, 1996:103).
It is therefore often difficult, and is by implication
expensive. ¨ It cannot be assumed that everyone is equally capable of expressing his or her thoughts on and
reasons for certain behaviours (Seidman, 1998:3-4). Researchers should be encultured in aspects relevant to the research. It is also known that expressed attitudes are not necessarily good predictors of actual behaviour (Baron & Byrne, 1996:140-141). Language could also
be a barrier in cross-cultural studies (Fontana &
Frey, 19367; Stewart, 1998:25). ¨ The objectivity of knowledge acquired by way of qualitative interviewing is discussed with specific regard to different concepts of objectivity: as freedom from bias, as intersubjective knowledge, and as reflective of the nature of the object
(Kvale, 1992:64-66; Smaling, 1989:162).

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