Challenges of interviewers' institutional positionings: Taking account of interview content and the interaction

2016-03-10T11:00:20Z (GMT) by Karen Tracy Jessica Robles
Interviewing is a much used methodological tool in communication and other social sciences. For discourse analysts, interviewing is often judged to be both overused and poorly used; to understand communicative life, researchers should be observing interaction rather than asking people to report their stories, experiences, or beliefs. As discourse scholars we agree with many of the criticisms fellow discourse scholars have made, but we disagree that interviewing should be avoided. Our paper has two purposes. The first is to describe an interview design and interpretation issue that needs attention. The issue is the effect of an interviewer's institutional positioning on interview answers, a concern that only becomes visible when we look at actual interview interaction. The second purpose is to sketch out an approach that takes interview interaction and the troubles that arise in it seriously while also addressing the substantive topics/issues that motivated interviewing in the first place. After reviewing the major challenges of research interviewing, we analyze interview excerpts in two different research projects. We show how interviewers' institutional positionings caused misalignment and interactional trouble. In the conclusion we consider how to understand and use these kinds of unavoidable interactional troubles to arrive at interesting and persuasive interpretations of the topical foci of interviews.