The Role of Informal Conversations in Generating Data, and the Ethical and Methodological Issues

Jon Michael Swain, Zachery Daniel Spire


Arguing that the role of informal conversations in qualitative social and educational research methodologies is contested but also relatively neglected, in this article we set out how the method has influenced our research approaches and practice. We use an example of a conversation between one of us and a participant to highlight their nuanced and specific nature, and to raise and interrogate a number of ethical and methodological issues that emerge. We view informal conversations as opportunities to add "context" and "authenticity" to data and argue that they can unlock otherwise missed opportunities to expand and enrich data. We also consider the role of ethical boards and ethical guidelines, and the practical effects and consequences these have for researchers when they use informal conversations during their fieldwork.


conversations; informal interviews; unstructured interviews; conversations with a purpose; ethical issues; ethics committee, ethical guidelines, methodological issues; fieldwork

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Copyright (c) 2020 Jon Michael Swain, Zachery Daniel Spire

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