Wednesday, 15 July 2009


There is so much on interviewing that Kvale has written a whole book on it. Although it might have been useful to read earlier, reading it now with a little more experience of research interviewing means that it makes more sense to me. For example, chapter 7 has a table that matches research questions to interview questions. I have problems matching mine because I've let the social capital framework interfere. The social capital framework guides the interview questions. What I want is to relate the research questions and the social capital framework. So my interview structure is based round:
  1. background (to project and to participant)
  2. relationships
  3. knowledge (or learning)
  4. value
The background is important as a start to make sure I've got the context. The questions may sometimes elicit structural dimensions of social capital.
Relationships matter. That is the crux of my interest- how do the relationships create value? So the interview questions here concern social capital in the relationship and structural dimensions. But they don't elicit information about knowledge. I ask what's helped and hindered relationships. And specifically what challenges to relationships have there been and how have they been overcome. Another interview question address specificity by asking for an anecdote or story. the question sometimes falls on blank faces. perhaps I should reword it.
Knowledge I ask about learning - what have people learned from each other? And how do they use that knowledge. I can't see how these questions address engagement though.
Sometimes in asking about learning I get an answer that suggests qualitative value in the learning process through building shared meanings, which is part of the cognitive dimension of social capital, and probably the most valuable non-financial and immeasurable gain from the relationship. But the valuable relationships need not be client and consultant, but developer and user, perhaps, mediated by the outsider, i.e. the consultant. So the value is a value chain! A valuable learning comes from a valuable relationships mediated and catalyzed by a consultant intervention. I've drawn a diagram of it, starting from the left with the people creating the relationship and moving to the right where the outputs are learning and a new IT system.

So I've got somewhere in my thoughts but not arrived at what I set out to do - depict in a table the relationship between my research questions and my interview questions.

The diagram must also include the value added impact on the IT system being developed. It's the human element, the soft side that matters. Engagement is soft. Perhaps I should draw rich pictures for each case study, following Checkland's soft systems methodology.

And I don't have many why interview questions - it's my job (Kvale, p131) but one I did use once was quite revealing, when someone said "It's changed", and I asked "Why do you think it's changed?" The participant wondered if they were doing something different, and it was something do with using consultants.

Kvale, 1996, InterViews: introduction to qualitative research interviewing

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