Home > Project Management, Research Methods > Interviews come to an end…

Interviews come to an end…

Two months has now nearly passed since I began data collection through interviews with project managers, really – how time flies.  I’ll have to admit it has been exhausting.  Arranging interviews, preparing for a interview, transport to and from interview location, performing the 90-180 minute interview, sending a thank you note, filing the notes taken and ethics signature, transcribing the recording, gathering and building sampling information e.g. duration, demographics – and then the cycle begins again.

Panic attack!  At one stage a few weeks back, I got a bit worried that my questions/themes that I had designed might not be getting even close to answering my research questions and that I should have been more disciplined and performed a pilot (thinking of @jeffreyKeefer’s recent blog posts).

Yet when I retraced my thinking I calmed down – let me put it this way, if an structured interview questionnaire is set at 0 – semi-structured at 50 and unstructured at 100, my interview design is at about 75-80!  This re-affirming my strategy of using loosely structured questions/themes to maximize my chance of creative and active interviewing removed the panic. At the end of the day how would I have piloted a conversation?

Can you imagine after completing the majority of interviews only to “think” you had no data?????    What I did do though was at the half-way point was refine my questions, introduce some new ones, and drop others, but all linked to the themes in question.

Sampling: has been interesting.  My original population for the case study included 23 project managers, of which 16 responded, however, as I went through the interviews 5 further opportunities arose from within the interviews (as either snowballing and/or theoretical sampling) to interview “extras” who might have unique perspectives, or had either left the  case study group or the company.  These opportunities did turn out some really interesting insights and often counter-claims to the other project managers – so I’m looking forward to when the analysis begins.  I think there is another important point here.  When my chance for observation was declined – I wondered about case study methodological triangulation!!!!  I still have documentary analysis (bi-angulation!!) so it seemed important to get some different perspectives from management and not just the project managers themselves….could I call this theoretical triangulation Yin, 2003.  Not sure.

Transcribing & early coding:  In the early transcripts I refrained from any coding whatsoever, but as I progressed I did start to code some times as I went along, nevertheless the data largely remains as from the interviews.

One thing I have been doing that might be quite controversial is HOW I have been doing the transcripts…so its time to come clean.

  • English was in most cases a second language for the participants.  While they use English the majority of the time within the case study site for their work, some grammatical corrections were made.
  • Given the analysis will be themed coding and discourse analysis, most of the stutters, pauses, ums and arhhs have been taken out as I have deemed these not to substantially related to my research questions.
  • Given the loosely structured nature of the interviews, there were some occasions that the interviewee and I drifted off topic.  On these occasions these drifts off topic have been left out of the transcripts and replaced with a symbol at least to show where these are.
  • My own question phrasings or ramblings were mostly shortened but care taken so that the meaning not changed, all mmmms, yes, how so etc… were largely removed.
This data collection has felt like a marathon at times, and in total I estimate that there will be 160,000 words from the 21 transcribed interviews.  The good news is I can see data analysis of these transcripts and documentary analysis beginning soon.  Which will represent for me an important milestone that calls for me to move-away from my subjects as interviewees and colleagues and put that academic hat back on – and start theorizing!
So what questions do I have for my fellow researchers and bloggers out there:
  1. Is losing the observation data a big issue for this case study’s validity and quality claims?
  2. Do you think my transcription technique is acceptable and justified?
  3. Any tips during this transition?  Coding looks like it will take a while, but discourse analysis and documentary analysis also looks like a big task.
  4. And finally, should I re-engage with the literature soon?  I was thinking of doing this later once some themes start to emerge – from a practical and coherence perspective.
Last but not least – a big thank you to the courageous project managers who took part in the interviews – without you there is no data!  I hope to be able to do it justice.
Look forward to hearing from you!  Happy researching!!!!!
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  1. August 1, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    Kudos to your finishing this step!

    Thinking about your coming clean above, you may want to see how the literature handles some of these things (such as eliminating pauses or stutters or correcting grammar), though I am not sure I agree with your removing things that you find off topic. It is hard to code until everything is done and transcribed, as the coding happens again and again as you start to really process the data. Something you initially think may be off-topic (and so what if it is?) may not be thought that way if new trends of patterns emerge, which you will now not be able to do as you did not transcribe them. After all, you may have gone off-topic, though that still came as a result of your discussion–there may be great value in that, even if part of “that” involves moving through how thinking and considering your research evolves.

    You may find this useful:
    http://silenceandvoice.com/archives/2009/08/26/transcription-politics/
    http://silenceandvoice.com/archives/2009/09/01/novice-interview-skills-novice-transcription-issues/

    You may also want to discuss some of these transcription politic things in #phdchat to see how others navigate them.

    Jeffrey

  2. August 1, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    Thanks Jeffrey – very helpful. I may just go back and insert those diversions. I will say there were some cases that due to the surrounding noise I couldn’t make out some words! Its a toss up between clarity and the interviewee choosing a location he/she is comfortable in.

    Again, thanks for the interest and the references.

    Mike

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