Review Essay: Paradigm Wars Around Interview Methodologies: Constructionism and Postmodernism "on tap" or "on top"?


  • Tom Wengraf Middlesex University



constructionism, postmodernism, real­ism, ethnomethodology, paradigm, ideology, re­flex­ivity, scientificity, Bachelard, interview, ethno­graphy, craft, interviewism


Two overlapping volumes extracted from the Handbook of interview research are seen as providing a considerable variety and depth of useful technical advice for qualitative researchers and a plethora of ideological warfare and confu­sion which helps nobody. Chapters on a range of types of more or less reluctant respondents and on phone and computer-aided interviewing (on and off the Web) are followed by chapters on tran­scription and on computer-aided (or not) qualitat­ive analysis and interpretation from a variety of positions. Questions of representation are addres­sed. The review argues that post-modernist and constructivist practice can be a useful tactic in a struggle for a more reflexive and subtle researched understanding, but (as a philosophy competing for dominance) they make up a counter-productive "American ideology" which is self-contradictory, and personally and politically unhelpful. "On tap", yes; "on top", no! URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0401309


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Author Biography

Tom Wengraf, Middlesex University

Tom WENGRAF is visiting senior lecturer in social research methods at Middlesex University, UK and visiting senior research fellow at the University of East London, UK. He has undertaken fieldwork on agrarian reform in Algeria, on student experience and on social exclusion in Britain, and is currently involved in a mixed method evaluation of the work with older people of a healthy living community centre in East London. With Prue CHAMBERLAYNE, he co-edited Biography and social exclusion in Europe: experiences and life journeys (Policy Press 2002) and runs occasional training courses in biographic-narrative interpretive method (BNIM). He can sometimes be quite reasonable: for example, see his recent "Boundaries and Relationships in Homelessness Work: Lola, an Agency Manager" (




How to Cite

Wengraf, T. (2004). Review Essay: Paradigm Wars Around Interview Methodologies: Constructionism and Postmodernism "on tap" or "on top"?. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 5(1).



Methodology and Methods