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Avoid Imposing Concepts

Following the inductive logic of qualitative research, the interviewer should avoid framing research questions with pre-existing concepts. The research goal, instead, is to derive concepts from the respondent's narratives. It is always a good idea to ask the respondent to clarify any abstract concepts they use. Ask them to give meaning to these terms by drawing upon concrete life experiences. By listening carefully for the respondent's concepts, the interviewer is more likely to be aware of his or her own "conceptual baggage," and check it when it does appear.

Example: Pre-existing Concepts

I: Was it a love match or a proposal marriage? How did it work?

A love match. He was a friend of a friend. No one introduced them formally as potential partners

Vaani: We loved each other... We talked to each other. He told me what kind of person he likes. I thought he was a nice person. He told his sister back home. She phoned to his family. He told them he was going to get married. They knew me because they asked some students who were at university. He sent my picture. So then they said yes.

Tamil Interview #3


The interviewer uses the terms "love match" and "proposal marriage" as though the meaning of these concepts is fixed and understood. However, as details emerge about the actual practices of finding a partner and gaining approval for the marriage, the concepts begin to blur. The interviewer should avoid using such concepts at the outset, but allow respondents to explain their practices in their own terms. If the respondent uses the term "love match," it would be appropriate for the interviewer to ask for clarification, such as, "Please tell me what you mean by 'love match'"?

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