Charles Briggs
Table of contents

Interviewing constitutes one of the most fascinating and most poorly investigated realms of pragmatic inquiry. One reason for its importance to the field is its ubiquity as a means of obtaining information. Practitioners in a broad range of disciplines rely on interviews. The widespread use of interviewing by journalists, providers of social services, physicians, and employers as well as the emphasis that politicians and corporations place on surveys point to the central role that interviews play in creating the institutional structures of modern societies. It is thus remarkable that relatively little research has explored the pragmatic underpinnings and effects of interviewing. This hiatus reflects the common assumption that interviews are relatively simple, straightforward, and well understood. The limited number of works that investigate the pragmatics of interviewing in depth rather point to its discursive complexity and to crucial gaps in our understanding. Practitioners may also be reluctant to subject interviews to too profound a critique in view of their efficacy as means of imbuing social scientific discourses with authority.

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