Interviewing for Qualitative Inquiry: A Relational Approach

Interviewing for Qualitative Inquiry: A Relational Approach

by Ruthellen Josselson

Engagingly written, this book builds the reader's skills for conducting in-depth interviews designed to address a particular research question. With an emphasis on the dynamics of the research relationship, Ruthellen Josselson artfully demonstrates the steps of a successful interview. Each step is illustrated with excerpts from interviews on diverse topics. The


Engagingly written, this book builds the reader's skills for conducting in-depth interviews designed to address a particular research question. With an emphasis on the dynamics of the research relationship, Ruthellen Josselson artfully demonstrates the steps of a successful interview. Each step is illustrated with excerpts from interviews on diverse topics. The book describes how to structure interviews effectively, develop questions that elicit meaningful narratives, cultivate skills for empathic listening and responding, avoid common pitfalls, and deal with problems that develop in an interview. Pedagogical features include:
• Practice exercises adapted from Josselson's popular workshops.
• Annotated examples of "good" and "bad" interviews.
• A chapter on interviewing dos and don'ts.
• Appendices with interview aids, sample follow-up questions, and a sample consent form.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Any qualitative researcher using interviewing could benefit from this text. It is full of interesting interview examples and stories that will catch students' attention. Strengths include the emphasis on responding to research questions, examples of how to elicit details and reflection from research participants, and the attention to images and metaphors. The chapter on 'dos and don'ts' is one of my favorites."—Penny L. Burge, PhD, Department of Educational Research and Evaluation, Virginia Tech

"This is a methodological bible for graduate students, undergraduates, and faculty members interested in conducting interviews, gathering life stories, and building a narrative intimacy with participants. Slender but deep, the volume offers respectful support to qualitative researchers so that we may venture into unsteady territory, muster the courage to be psychologically attentive and engaged, and not stumble. With a delicate braid of narrative theory, methodological guideposts, and a terrifically useful list of interview dos and don'ts, Josselson is an intellectually thrilling and methodologically wise escort for novice and experienced interviewers alike. You will want to read this book immediately, teach it, and then pull it out again when you are about to begin another project. It is classic Josselson—compelling, brilliant, and irresistible."—Michelle Fine, PhD, Doctoral Program in Psychology, The Graduate Center, City University of New York

"Josselson's book is a gold mine for those who conduct research interviews in order to understand people's experiences on their own terms. Drawing on decades of experience as a researcher and teacher, Josselson provides practical guidance about how to carry out interviews that balance human connection with scientific inquiry. This book should be required reading for all social scientists engaged in interview research; my students will certainly be reading it!"—Harold D. Grotevant, PhD, Rudd Family Foundation Chair in Psychology, University of Massachusetts Amherst

"A thoughtful account of how to conduct interviews that invite participants to talk. It does a wonderful job of placing the interviewer/n-/interviewee relationship front and center, something often overlooked or inadequately addressed in other books about interviewing for research. It does a terrific job of explaining the difference between interviewing for qualitative research purposes and interviewing for other reasons. I loved that the text was filled with excerpts from transcripts and that these were from interviews about a variety of topics."—Carey E. Andrzejewski, PhD, Department of Educational Foundations, Leadership, and Technology, Auburn University

"This is a very well-presented text on conducting interviews. I particularly like the examples of difficult interviews. These examples, along with the refining questions, are major strengths of the book."—Elizabeth Monk-Turner, PhD, Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, Old Dominion University

“In her inimitable way, Josselson captures the essence and the detail of qualitative interviewing that students in particular need. She clearly details the nature of human experience as a layered and complex manifestation of the storied or narrative nature of interaction that occurs in an interview. The excellence of Josselson's text resides in her accurate prediction of the many challenges that students will experience as they pursue the use of qualitative research interviewing methodology. In effect, she alerts students to plan for various pitfalls that can and will occur, leaving them excellently prepared with tools and strategies as they venture into their beginning participant interviews. What makes Josselson's text an outstanding teaching tool is her insistence that it is the development of the participant-researcher relationship that leads the novice researcher through the seeming quagmire of methodology and provides the key factor in obtaining rich, textured data….Josselson's excellent text provides the steps and examples necessary for students and researchers to acquire and further develop their knowledge and relational skills as qualitative researchers. She inspires students by describing many of the difficulties encountered as being reasonable expectations rather than making this aspect of qualitative research difficult to understand and master. I recommend Interviewing for Qualitative Inquiry for a broad audience, including novice to experienced qualitative researchers….Doctoral and postdoctoral-level researchers and educators will, in reading this text, coalesce their earlier interview experience into a coherent whole to be presented to graduate students and research fellows. Experienced quantitative researchers will find in this resource an excellent explanation of the validity of the qualitative research-interviewing methodology.”
Journal of Social Psychology
“Based on her decades of research and teaching, Josselson provides an authoritative account for conducting interviews that are self-consciously embedded in social worlds and relationships….As qualitative researchers, we share titles only of those that add to our understanding or provide new insights and modes for training the next generation. If you are a qualitative researcher, you should add Josselson's new book to that list….Includes incredibly helpful appendices….I came to think of her text as teaching students and scholars how to be ‘embedded’ as interviewers: how to anticipate, listen empathetically, and make the most of the complicated social dynamics of the interview scene. One of my favorite aspects of her book is that she is also not afraid to tell novice interviewers what not to do….Josselson is truly a mentor and guide for up-and-coming qualitative methodologists, and that voice and her insights come across clearly in this slim and useful volume. I would recommend it for courses in psychology, education, nursing, social work, sociology, communications and related fields. Specifically, I think it will serve well in methods courses, and even as a supplementary book in any mid- to upper- level course that requires or allows undergraduates or graduates to conduct their own research. I plan to use it to prepare my advanced undergraduates when they embark on research projects of their own devising or when they are supporting my research agendas. I think it will make them more reflexive but also more confident in the moves available to them as qualitative researchers.”
Doody's Review Service
Reviewer: Ileana Ungureanu, MD, PhD (Adler School of Professional Psychology)
Description: This book describes the methodology of qualitative research, focusing on in-depth interviewing and the research relationship.
Purpose: The author intends this book for researchers using a qualitative inquiry approach. It is a much needed book, as the qualitative approach is used increasingly in a variety of fields.
Audience: Because of its in-depth quality, this book is equally useful to graduate students and experienced researchers. The author's long career in qualitative research, her publications, and her workshops make her a definite authority in this subject.
Features: This is a comprehensive how-to book for qualitative inquiry, and the author's focus is on the interviewer-interviewee relationship and the necessary qualities of this relationship. Much like in a therapeutic relationship, for the research relationship to be successful, it requires empathic listening, empathic responsiveness, and accessibility. Of particular help are the examples the author uses in each chapter. Also useful are the list of do's and don'ts of the process.
Assessment: This book is a must in any graduate program where qualitative research is used and taught. It is a very accessible yet scholarly work. It provides very useful tips for a successful and respectful interviewing process.

Product Details

Guilford Publications, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author

Ruthellen Josselson, PhD, is Professor of Clinical Psychology at Fielding Graduate University. She is a recipient of the American Psychological Association's Henry A. Murray Award and Theodore R. Sarbin Award, and is a cofounder of the Society for Qualitative Inquiry. In her numerous publications, she has explored the theory and practice of qualitative inquiry. Many of her books and articles are based on interviews. She has conducted workshops on interviewing skills for qualitative inquiry in the United States, France, Norway, Finland, Israel, and the United Kingdom.

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