9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN20 Qualitative Methods

2009-09-03 13:30:00 2009-09-03 15:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 13:30 - 15:00 Interviews Building II, B2.01

The construction of stance in social research interviews

Qualitative research interviews provide an important basis of social knowledge both for academic researchers and for commercial marketing and public opinion research. There is a large literature on the practice of interviewing that treats interviews as, ideally, a neutral channel for information and attitudes. But recently discourse analysts have begun to treat research interviews as social encounters, in which both interviewer and interviewee present themselves, moment to moment, responding to and anticipating responses of the other person. One aspect of this interaction is stance, the ways participants mark the propositions they present, strengthening or weakening them, conveying attitudes towards them, and suggesting the style of delivery. Grammatical stance can involve such markers as adverbials, stance verbs plus clause complements, and modal verbs. Stance can also be indicated by discourse features such as reported speech, pronoun shifts (use of generic you), tag questions, and narrative evaluation, where a whole story serves implicitly or explicitly to mark a stance on a previous statement. In this study, we analyze transcripts from ten social research projects in which qualitative interviews were an important component. We identify the different kinds of stance-taking, and relate them to the ways the interviewees (and interviewers) present themselves, the functions served in particular interactional contexts, and the use of stance-taking to deal with interactional problems such as sensitive issues and possible contradictions. The framework is intended to help social science researchers by sensitising them to interactional issues in transcripts, allowing them to locate key passages, showing shifting interviewer-interviewee relations, and providing a principled framework for describing interviewees' complex positioning and their responses to problematic topics and interactional dilemmas.