From Personal to General: Discursivity and Representativity in Interviews

Jens Schneider


In some disciplines of qualitative social research, interviews are not very popular because they are seen as artificial, time consuming and not quite representative. The article explores the possibilities to transform these disadvantages into "virtues" with the help of a consistent discursive approach: How can interview texts be analyzed with regard to overarching discourse contexts, and thus be used for generalizations going beyond the single interview? A central role is played by the concepts of "prototype" and "position" which help to guarantee a specific representativity of the data material. One necessary preliminary step is to look at the communicative aspects in interviews: What is the influence the interview situation exerts on the discursive behavior of the interviewees? What is the relation between the situational and communicative factors to those overarching discursive contexts? The questions are addressed theoretically and methodologically, but at the same time illustrated in their practical use by examples from interviews on the topic of "German identity." These interviews were guided with leading politicians, journalists and cultural performers in the context of a 20-month ethnographic field research in Berlin in 1995/96.
URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0203233


interview; methods; discourse; communication; representativity


Copyright (c) 2002 Jens Schneider

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