Tandem Interviewing in Qualitative Research
Keywords:tandem interviews, interview in pair, qualitative interview, field work, methodology of sociological research
The article examines how the presence of a second interviewer changes a qualitative interview. The authors call an interview done by two interviewers «tandem» following a few pieces of literature that reflect on the joint work of two interviewers.
The authors regard tandem interviews as a type of qualitative interview and group research in general. Within this study, research practices associated with this mode of interviewing are ordered according to the following parameters: purposefulness of conducting interviews together, planning tandems, consistency of pairs of interviewers.
The study is based on 23 semi-structured interviews with social and humanitarian researchers who conduct tandem interviews. In order to reflect on our own experience of tandem work, we conducted most of the interviews in pairs. Consequently, 32 diaries of our research team members were used as an additional data source.
By analyzing tandem interviews through the lens of resources and problems, the authors try to create a coherent picture of this research practice. Tandem work can be considered a resource because it provides an opportunity to divide work and attract non-researchers to it; brings variety due to the different characteristics of interviewers; promotes greater emotional comfort; creates conditions for joint discussions and data analysis; allows less experienced researchers to be trained.
At the same time, working in tandem implies a number of problems associated with the interaction of interviewers with each other and with the informant. These difficulties include communication breakdowns, disagreements due to crucial differences between interviewers; an informant or a colleague negatively reacting to one of the interviewers; distrust; shallow data; undesirability for studying certain groups; confidentiality and copyright issues. Separately, we highlight organizational difficulties, such as coordination of actions in the field, time and financial costs.
Acknowledgments. This research is supported by the Faculty of Social Sciences, HSE University.
The authors are grateful to all the researchers who shared their experiences of tandem interviews. We would also like to thank our colleagues Nina Glazkova and Mikhail Deev for their contribution to data collection.
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