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JOURNAL OF FAMILY ECOLOGY AND CONSUMER SCIENCES
TYDSKRIF VIR GESINSEKOLOGIE EN VERBRUIKERSWETENSKAPPE

JFECS

Botha, P
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The qualitative interview as data-gathering technique: strengths and weaknesses
(published in Afrikaans)
Die kwalitatiewe onderhoud as data-insamelingstegniek: sterk en swak punte
(original title)
AUTHOR
Prof P (Priscilla) Botha

Department of Consumer Science
University of Pretoria
Hillcrest
0002
Pretoria
Republic of South Africa
pbotha@postino.up.ac.za
Tel:  +27 12 420 2488
Fax:  +27 12 420 2855

KEYWORDS
in-depth interviews, qualitative interviews, interviews, data-gathering technique, interviewee, qualitative research techniques 

ABSTRACT
The qualitative interview is characterised by repeated face-to-face encounters between the researcher and his or her informants to gain an understanding of the subjects’ perspectives of their lives, experiences or situations, expressed in their own words.  Although the qualitative interview - like other data-gathering techniques - has its strengths and weaknesses, it is argued that this method is a tool and that its utility depends on its pertinence to the research questions.  Its strengths and weaknesses are functions of the expertise of the researcher who uses this tool to elicit information. 

The following are discussed: 

  • Qualitative interviewing and its usefulness in studying people’s understanding of their world 
  • Its openness and unstructuredness
  • Its use as an auxiliary method in conjunction with other methods
  • Its being both a research technique and a social relationship to be nurtured
  • It is time-consuming, requires considerable expertise and is expensive 
  • The fact that language (oral communication) is not an unambiguous pathway to actions, beliefs or actual events 
  • The objectivity of the knowledge acquired by way of the qualitative interview, with specific regard to different concepts of objectivity (as freedom from bias, as intersubjective knowledge, and as reflective of the nature of the object). 
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