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PRINTED FROM the OXFORD RESEARCH ENCYCLOPEDIA, EDUCATION (oxfordre.com/education). (c) Oxford University Press USA, 2019. All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 16 September 2019

Summary and Keywords

Interviews are used ubiquitously in everyday life as a source of information about the social world, whether in clinical interviews, parent–teacher interviews, job interviews, or media and journalistic interviews. Likewise, researchers in education have long made use of a spectrum of interview formats to produce knowledge about research problems. Interview formats used by education researchers range from standardized survey interviews to semi-structured interviews to open-ended, conversational interviews. Broadly, data in the form of answers to questions and descriptions generated in interviews are used as evidence in a variety of ways across educational research. Yet researchers have long acknowledged the problems associated with interview research, including those to do with self-reported data, accomplishing mutual understanding, and representation of the Other.

How researchers deal with these problems is directly relevant to the value attributed to interview accounts as evidence to support claims. The use to which educational researchers put interviews varies widely, particularly since they draw on a range of epistemological perspectives in their use of interviews—whether or not these are acknowledged. Neopositivist, emotionalist or romantic, constructionist, transformative, decolonizing, and new materialist approaches to interviews are founded in different epistemological assumptions about how interviews are conducted, how interview reports are used as evidence to warrant claims, and how the validity or quality of studies is judged. Although much has been written about interview practice, there are still numerous avenues to explore with respect to using the interview method in educational research.

Keywords: qualitative interviews, standardized interviews, semi-structured interviews, mixed methods, epistemology, ethnographic interviews, interview problems

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