What’s new in qualitative interviewing?

The first journalistic interviews were conducted in the early part of the 19th century. By the early 1900s, researchers had taken up interviews as a method and were asking questions of people using lengthy surveys. Over the past century, interviews have become one of the most widely used research methods in social sciences research across disciplines. The essential feature of interviews is the question-answer sequence, in which an interviewer asks questions of a research participant. Beyond that, interview research in contemporary practice varies widely. Let’s look at some of the variations…

Researchers conduct interviews with individuals, dyads or couples, and groups, who may be known or unknown to one another. Researchers use:

  • Multiple modes of communication to conduct interviews, including in-person interviews, telephone interviews, asynchronous online interviews using email or texting apps, synchronous online interviews using Voice Over Internet Protocols (VOIPs); and
  • A variety of elicitation devices, including object, graphic and photo elicitation methods, and mobile methods such as go-alongs and walking interviews.

Since I wrote my book, Reflective interviewing: A guide to theory and practice (Roulston, 2010), I’ve continued to be astonished about the broad array of innovations in interview research that researchers have discussed in methodological literature. In an effort to update my knowledge of the literature on interviewing, over the past couple of years I read about 250 articles and chapters to inform the revision of my 2010 book. Themes in the literature include more recognition of the material in interviews (such as non-human animals, objects, spaces), increasing use of methods that orient to the senses, innovative theorizations of interviews drawing on new and critical materialist perspectives of research that account for entanglements and intra-actions, and much work aimed at thinking through adaptations of interview methods for specific populations (e.g., people with disabilities, children and young people, etc.) This work has contributed in substantial ways to rethink how we might conduct interview research.

If you’d like to learn more about qualitative interviewing (and some of the mistakes I’ve made along the way as I’ve learned how to interview!), listen to a recent interview that Dr. Amy Stich conducted with me on the AERA Qualitative Research SIG’s Qualitative Conversations series. You can access the episode here: https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/aeraqrsig/episodes/2022-02-10T12_18_34-08_00
For a 30% discount on my revised book on interviewing, download this coupon for use at the SAGE website.

Kathy Roulston


Roulston, K. (2010). Reflective interviewing: A guide to theory and practice. SAGE.

Roulston, K. (2022). Interviews: A guide to theory and practice. SAGE.

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