Edited by Kathryn Roulston
[Not in series 220] 2019
► pp. 59–78
Chapter 3Research interviewers as ‘knowers’ and ‘unknowers’
The qualitative research interview is ubiquitously framed as producing information about research participants’ beliefs, perspectives, opinions and experiences. These beliefs, perspectives, opinions and experiences are derived from people who are experts on their selves – that is, they have first-person knowledge of the “territories of the self” (Goffman 1971 ). In concert with Goffman’s work on territories of the self, in this chapter I use work on epistemics in conversation as a tool to explore how interviewers elicit knowledge claims from research participants during interviews. Scholarship on interviewing describes the dilemma faced by research interviewers who must navigate the spectrum of potential relationships with interviewees: on the one hand, as an “insider” to a culture, “everything goes without saying”; at the other extreme, “total divergence” in which interviewer and interviewee have no shared language with which to speak about topics ( Bourdieu et al. 1999). Yet, between these two poles lie any number of potential stances from which more or less knowledgeable (K+/K−) interviewers ask questions seeking information from more or less knowledgeable (K+/K−) (Heritage 2013) research participants. This chapter examines excerpts from interview data to explore key ideas drawn from literature on epistemics in conversation analysis to consider the researcher’s work of asking questions in research interviews for the purpose of knowledge production.
- Epistemics in conversation
- Defining terms
- Epistemic access
- Maintaining epistemic access congruence: Interviewer (Unknower) and interviewee (K+)
- Managing epistemic access incongruence: Interviewer (K+) and interviewee (Knower)
- Epistemic responsibility
- Managing epistemic access incongruence: Interviewer (unknower) and interviewee (unknower)
- Managing epistemic access incongruence: Interviewer (K+) and interviewee (K−)
- Discussion and conclusion
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