Phenomenological Methodology Interview Reminders

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I don’t have extensive interview experience. The 16 interviews I’d completed prior to my dissertation were all learning experiences that helped build my confidence and prepare me for the upcoming dissertation interviews. I soon realized how rusty my interview skills were when I piloted my questions in November 2018. The four participants provided valuable feedback and allowed me to practice phenomenological bracketing, which was devilishly difficult as I personally knew all the participants.

In January 2019 I began the interview phases of my data collection, which concluded in August. I conducted 11 interviews using two sampling methods in two phases: random sampling and purposive sampling. I will write about sampling methods in an upcoming post.

During the interview phase, I created a short list of reminders that soon became a habit to read prior to each interview.

  1. Maintain a bridled attitude. A few minutes before each interview, I focused my attention on “now” and not the literature, my suppositions, expectations, experiences, or information gain through previous interviews.
  2. Remain curious. My job is to discover, question, and remain open to the participant’s answers and gain insights into their perspective of the phenomenon. This is accomplished through attempting to see the phenomenon through their eyes.
  3. Don’t go on a fact-finding mission and seek their opinions. That is not phenomenology or reflective lifework research.
  4. Silence is my friend. People tend to fill in gaps of silence with further details. Therefore, be mindful to not cut off the participant or hurriedly moving on to the next question.
  5. Phenomenology is about personal experiences. Follow up with “Tell me more about …?” or “What was that like for you?”

The Internet is full of interview tips, but phenomenology interviews are different from other types of interview because of the mental attitude required. The above five bullet points helped me stayed focused and remember the interviews are about lived experiences of the participants. My purpose, as the interviewer, is to uncover these experiences and shed light on a phenomenon so that others have a better understanding of its essence.

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