Researching One's Own Field. Interaction Dynamics and Methodological Challenges in the Context of Higher Education Research

Gerlinde Malli, Susanne Sackl-Sharif


In contrast to quantitative approaches, where interaction effects are usually regarded as errors or disruption, we understand interviews as social situations and the interaction dynamics between interviewee and interviewer as constitutive for data collection and interpretation.

We conducted interviews with various actors from the academic field for a research project in higher education research. Based on our field experience we assume that interviews also offer opportunities for the respondents to present themselves in a discursive process.

In this article we first show that many of our interviewees perceived us as evaluators. We argue that the interviewees' self-presentations and rhetorical strategies were shaped by the evaluative and competitive environment in which they took place, i.e. that of the entrepreneurial university. Furthermore we sum up various types of interactive effects which can occur when researchers interview actors with a higher status in the academic field. These research up-effects as well as the interviewees' perception of us as evaluators influenced both how and what they told us as well as what they kept silent. Therefore we plead that researchers should look out more carefully for interaction dynamics when interpreting data, as they also might be pointers to tensions, conflicts or opposing perspectives.



higher education research; science studies; sociology of knowledge; reflexivity; gender studies; interaction dynamics; expert interviews; discursive interviews; qualitative content analysis

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Copyright (c) 2015 Gerlinde Malli, Susanne Sackl-Sharif

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