Interviewing » The Complexity of Rich Data »

Simplification as a Source of Contradiction

Inconsistency can arise in interviews when respondents try to simplify their life stories. They may do so in an effort to be cooperative and helpful to the interviewer, thinking that the "messy" details will be confusing or unimportant. Sometimes respondents may anticipate the researcher's conceptual categories and try to make their stories fit with what they think the interviewer can understand. As the interview goes on, these simplifications often are revealed and appear as contradictions. At the beginning of the interview, the interviewer should try to encourage respondents to tell their stories in much detail, even if the "whole story" at first appears messy and confusing.

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