The Qualitative Research Interview

Qualitative Research in Accounting and Management, 8(3), 238-264, 2011

27 Pages Posted: 14 May 2012

See all articles by Sandy Qu

Sandy Qu

York University - Schulich School of Business

John Dumay

Macquarie University; Macquarie University, Macquarie Business School

Date Written: May 14, 2011


Purpose – Despite the growing pressure to encourage new ways of thinking about research methodology, only recently have interview methodologists begun to realize that “we cannot lift the results of interviewing out of the contexts in which they were gathered and claim them as objective data with no strings attached”. The purpose of this paper is to provide additional insight based on a critical reflection of the interview as a research method drawing upon Alvesson’s discussion from the neopositivist, romanticist and localist interview perspectives. Specifically, the authors focus on critical reflections of three broad categories of a continuum of interview methods: structured, semi-structured and unstructured interviews.

Design/methodology/approach – The authors adopt a critical and reflexive approach to understanding the literature on interviews to develop alternative insights about the use of interviews as a qualitative research method.

Findings – After examining the neopositivist (interview as a “tool”) and romanticist (interview as “human encounter”) perspectives on the use of the research interview, the authors adopt a localist perspective towards interviews and argue that the localist approach opens up alternative understanding of the interview process and the accounts produced provide additional insights. The insights are used to outline the skills researchers need to develop in applying the localist perspective to interviews.

Originality/value – The paper provides an alternative perspective on the practice of conducting interviews, recognizing interviews as complex social and organizational phenomena rather than just a research method.

Keywords: Research interview, Qualitative research, Interviewer, Interviewee, Research ethics, Research methods, Data handling, Social interaction

Suggested Citation

Qu, Sandy Q. and Dumay, John, The Qualitative Research Interview (May 14, 2011). Qualitative Research in Accounting and Management, 8(3), 238-264, 2011 , Available at SSRN:

Sandy Q. Qu (Contact Author)

York University - Schulich School of Business ( email )

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3

John Dumay

Macquarie University ( email )

Sydney, NSW 2109
04125073760 (Phone)


Macquarie University, Macquarie Business School ( email )

New South Wales 2109

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