Adding action to the interview: Conceptualising an interview approach inspired by action research elements

Blog post by Helle Nielsen


Some would argue that we as action researchers hesitate to be involved in methodological discussions on interviews. We might explicitly or implicitly regard such discussions as belonging to the domain of qualitative researchers. But it does not have to be like that! Rather, it ought not to be like that, since we then may ignore the potential of the interview to generate pathways to action.

Virtually nothing has been published to date about how action researchers conduct or should consider conducting interviews. Action researchers tweak interview methods, however, no one has yet put a stake in the ground about how. This paper therefore sets out an agenda: Let us explore and conceptualise interview methodology within action research! Let us use the interview more deliberately to generate actions – as a reflective space for a potentially transformative learning experience among researchers and participants. These spaces constitute an important platform in terms of the emancipatory and democratic potentials.

The paper adopts two analytic strategies to explore the role of interviews in action research. The first is theoretical and aims to apply a critical hermeneutical framework to delineating this role of interviews. The second is an empirical analysis of two case studies; action research projects within environmental governance of nature and energy.

For some, action orientation of the interview may be controversial. Balancing purposes and interests in the interview situation is not unproblematic. Our methodological discussion therefore involves ethical issues that call for careful attention.

By conceptualizing an interview approach inspired by action research elements, this paper attempts to challenge the traditional interview concept as more than an information collection exercise. The conceptual work is not final and comprehensive; rather it is seen as the beginning of a discussion of interview methodology within the action research community that hopefully will evolve in discussions between practice and research.

Single dandelion on black background. Close-up.

Single dandelion on black background.

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