Interviews with the Elite and with Experts. Are There Any Differences?


  • Beate Littig Universität Wien



expert interview, elite interviews, expert knowledge, experts, the elite, interviewing, access problems


A comparison of the predominantly German-language literature on expert interviews in international articles on interviewing the elite reveals more commonalities than differences. Similar issues are discussed in both, such as the problems of gaining access to these groups, and the specifics of interaction and interviewing. Although not identical, the respective target group definitions (experts and the elite) for such interviews overlap. This article discusses the commonalities and differences in these two methodological approaches, thereby contributing to a more detailed specification of the methodology of expert interviews. It concludes with an appeal based on the sociology of knowledge that the (professional) functional elite—given their positions of power—be considered as a specific group of experts. From a methodological perspective and as a result of their specific background knowledge ("know why") and know-how, experts (and thus also the elite) are of relevance to social and political science research. Consequently, interviews with the elite aimed at generating explicit, tacit, professional or occupational knowledge should be seen as expert interviews. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0803161


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Author Biography

Beate Littig, Universität Wien

Beate LITTIG ist Soziologin. Sie ist Abteilungsleiterin der Soziologie am Institut für Höhere Studien in Wien und Universitätsdozentin an der Universität Wien. Ihre Arbeitsschwerpunkte sind im Bereich qualitativer Forschungsmethoden, der Gender Studies sowie sozialwissenschaftlicher Umwelt- und Technikforschung anzusiedeln (u.a. Umweltbewusstsein und umweltbewusstes Handeln, Sustainable Development, zukunftsfähige Arbeit, Gender und Ökologie, neue Biotechnologien und Ethik).



How to Cite

Littig, B. (2008). Interviews with the Elite and with Experts. Are There Any Differences?. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 9(3).



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