Month: February 2016

Ten Standard Objections to the Qualitative Research Interview

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Kvale, S. (1994). Ten standard objections to qualitative research interviews. Journal of phenomenological psychology, 25(2), 147-173

I seem to be in a nostalgic mood. Which means I am thinking about vinyl records and research papers published years ago.

I was struck by two comments recently. One: a colleague pointed out that an interview might be anything from a questionnaire spoken face to face with answers recorded in on a pre-coded template to an individual standing in a room. Two: another colleague responded to the guffaws at the idea of the educational researcher standing in a room and calling it an interview by pointing out the etymology of inter (between) view (see) – “to see each other”.

The interview may well be the most popular data generation technique for the qualitative educational researcher, but it is not necessarily well defined. It can map onto any and all other approaches to research. After all, what data generating activity does not involve a researcher standing in a room?

It’s worth then being reminded of Kvale’s discussion of the 10 standard objections to qualitative research interviews.

  1. is not scientific, but only common sense
  2. is not objective, but subjective
  3. is not trustworthy, but biased
  4. is not reliable, but rests upon leading questions
  5. is not intersubjective; different interpreters find different meanings
  6. is not a formalized method; it is too person-dependent
  7. is not scientific hypothesis-testing; it is only explorative
  8. is not quantitative, only qualitative
  9. is not yielding generalizable results; there are too few subjects
  10. is not valid, but rests on subjective impressions.

Koala’s text is dated. Hence my feelings of nostalgia. Even though he was writing more than 20 years ago … imagine that, before the election of Tony Blair in the bad old days of John Major’s non-government, he describes the debate then as polarised and based on stereotyped objections.

He also points out – all those years ago – that these “standardized responses can be traced to a positivist philosophy of science, which, while philosophically obsolete, still survives in many social-science departments.”

Kvale was not the first to declare positivism philosophically obsolete. And his paper is not a pre-emptive celebration of its demise of (his 10 objections might sound this way)  but actually a refutation of these hackneyed points of critique – each of which still resonate. It’s a worthwhile paper, not only because there’s nothing wrong with nostalgia but also because – well, you might not have been there at the time so perhaps what’s old hat to someone, might be a new exciting penny dropping thing to someone else. What was an all out declared war in the 80s has softened into a dialogue at the turn of the century, but Denzin, the High Priest of qualitative research has recently (2008) issued a call to arms:

Let us engage in the paradigm wars. Let us defend ourselves against those who would impose their modern notions of science on us by exposing the flaws in what they call scientifically-based research. Let us mount a strong offence by generating qualitative studies that are so powerful they cannot be dismissed (Hatch, 2006, p. 407).


Denzin, N. K. (2008). The new paradigm dialogs and qualitative inquiry. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 21(4), 315-325.

Hatch, Amos. 2006. “Qualitative Studies in the Era of Scientifically-based Research: Musings of a Former QSE Editor.” International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 19, 4 (July-August): 403-409.




Zora Neale Hurston

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