The Study Dude – Benefit from Breaking the Rules

Study Tips from a Semi-Anonymous Friend

There is nothing more that The Study Dude wants for you than to know when to break the rules.

Well, in these articles, as The Study Dude, I’ll try to give you the study tips you need to help make your learning easier. I’ll also give you straight and honest opinions and personal anecdotes?even the embarrassing ones that you wouldn’t ever dare read about from any other study tip guru.

This week’s Study Dude further explores InterViews: Learning the Craft of Qualitative Research Interviewing by Svend Brinkmann and Steinar Kvale. With the craft of interviewing in mind, they’ll teach you what positivism means, how to learn to interview, and when to break ethical rules.

Are You Positivist?
Qualitative interviewing doesn’t fit with positivist methods.

Are you a positivist? They like rules. They also like to reduce data to numbers: hence, sci-fi movies of people given numbers instead of names. Stats Canada serves as a storehouse of positivist data?data where people’s behaviors get reduced to percentages. And, if something can be observed by the senses, then It’s ripe for positivist studies.

So, what if You’re an unperceivable ghost? Or what if consciousness turns formless when we decease? What then?

Well, positivists refuse to believe in a life beyond this one, so anything metaphysical gets the positivists? upturned nose.

I once thought my older brother, a positivist, showed brilliance when he told me that, when we die, we decompose into soil and feed plants. He said, every action leads to a reaction: we die, and we turn to muck. And our final fate? We feed the creepy crawlies.

But since then, I’ve watched many videos on near death experiences, and the more I’ve watched, the more convinced I am that consciousness exists forever. When we begin to move onto the next realm, as near death experiencers do, we float out of our brain dead bodies, watch every move in the doctor’s office, and enter a light of pure, unconditional love. People clinically brain dead return from this light as changed people: upon return, helping others becomes a priority, gaining money grows less important, developing spirituality and not religiosity becomes the aim. Near death experiences suggest realms exist beyond this one: realms we can’t observe with even positivists? supersonic telescopes.

I’m definitely not a positivist. I excelled at math and aim to learn statistics and experiments: quantitative stuff. But restricting ourselves to what we can observe limits us to a tiny bandwidth of knowledge.

Are you a positivist?

Brinkmann and Kvale will explain what positivism means and the implications for interviews:
– Positivists say that the data you collect should lead to numbers (in other words, should be quantifiable).
– Positive methods should leave out the emotions, values, and beliefs of the researcher. Neutrality is key.
– August Comte created positivist philosophy. Your data must be observable, according to him.
– Your senses dictate what counts as data, says positivists. Avoid abstractions; realistic representations matter.
– Methodological positivists stick to strict rules. Logic and validation are central here.
– To methodological positivists, no matter what topic you study, one size (i.e., one method) fits all. They use universal methods (such as statistics or experiments). In other words, your topic doesn’t dictate your approach to data collection; the rigid methods do.
– Positivists don’t see qualitative interviews as scientific. Interviews don’t end up as number crunched data. In interviews (but not in positivist research), your data and your analysis often overlap. Interviews, unlike positivist research, can end up loaded with ambiguities and contradictions.
– Social scientists criticize positivists for discounting the historical and social parts of data.

Learn Your Craft: How to Interview
Do you want to learn interviewing? To learn interviewing, according to Brinkmann and Kvale, you should learn the art of second questions. I suck at that.

I have an iTunes podcast. I went from over a thousand visitors a month to a meagre seventy-five. Mind you, I haven’t done much updating of content over the last half a year, due to the enormous time commitment for little pay.

You see, I rely on a script. I read the words off a printed page. I feel terrified to say anything other than “excellent” to the interviewees? comments. And I’ve just started to learn the art of second questions, thanks to Brinkmann and Kvale.

I’ve learned how to do the type of psychotherapy style interview mentioned by Brinkmann and Kvale?you know, the one where you agree with the interviewee and paraphrase what they say. But, I’ve just recently learned how to probe for personal info without violating ethics. I wouldn’t want to expose the interviewee’s contradictions, though. Exposing contradictions serves as the most combative approach recommended by Brinkmann and Kvale. After all, few people would act as interviewees on my show if I focused on their folly. (Sadly, some people make a living tearing up interviewees on air?just look at’s so-called “money honeys.”)

But, we’ll get into these different styles of interviewing in next week’s Study Dude. For now, let’s focus on Brinkmann and Kvale’s listing of guidelines (not rules) on how you can learn the craft of interviewing:
– Learn interviewing by watching seasoned interviewers in action. Take over some of their menial tasks such as transcribing. Once you get a solid foundation, ask to serve as a co-interviewer.
– Learn how to socialize with interviewees.
– Learn the value of knowing your interview topic in depth.
– Learn the value of scripting your key questions in advance.
– Learn your interview technology, such as how to operate handheld transcribers.
– Learn how to ask follow-up questions on the fly.
– Learn how to read body language.
– Learn how to interview by listening to interviews.
– Get interview pros to give you feedback on your own interviews.
– Before you record an interview, have a friend interview you about your interview topic to unveil any biases.

Are Ethics Rules? When to Break the Rules…
Different ethical positions exist for interviewing. These positions come with their own detailed rules for interviewing, but, for now, let’s focus on ethics in general so that we can apply them to interviewing in a later article.

Are ethics rules or not rules? That is the question.

From one position, according to Brinkmann and Kvale, ethics are rules; from another, breaking rules can be ethical.

When I took an ethics course, I identified with Kantian ethics, which emphasized the rule of doing your duty. If you did something out of sheer duty, you proved more ethical than if you did something out of enjoyment.

Yet, recently, I watched Marshall Rosenberg’s curriculum on nonviolent communication. Rosenberg says that we shouldn’t do anything out of duty, fear, or guilt. We should do things because they meet our own needs, especially our innermost need to enrich another being’s life.

So, who’s right? Do we do acts out of duty or out of enjoyment and the need to enrich another’s life? Personally, I like enjoying doing my duty.

And I believe in God: namely, Jesus, my man. Spirituality counts as another type of ethical perspective. And the ethics taught in many spiritualities overlap. For instance, some spiritualities, like the young Sikhism, borrowed from other spiritualities, such as Buddhism.

So, does this borrowing of ideas make for this overlap of morals? Or, instead, do universal, pre-existing morals cause this overlap?

I think pre-existing morals cause this overlap. I identify with ethics that believe in universal, pre-existing rules. What do you believe?

Brinkmann and Kvale tells us the different ethical philosophies?including one that says breaking the rules is sometimes okay:
– Kantian ethics involve doing your duty. Habermas and John Rawls count as two contemporary Kantians. They want to find universal rules for morality that apply to everyone.
– Utilitarian ethics involve calculating the “greatest sum of happiness for all sentient beings” (p. 89). To a utilitarian, you should do whatever benefits the largest sum of people.
– Kantian ethics and utilitarianism receive criticism for over-reliance on rules. The critics says, in certain times and places, breaking rules leads to better moral outcomes.
– Aristotle’s Virtue of Ethics says practicality should drive morality. In other words, your best judgment should dictate your moral choice. Practical wisdom, otherwise known as phronesis, comes into play.
– Nussbaum (as cited in Brinkmann and Kvale) say that moral rules should not be seen as rules, but as useful tools for making good judgment.

So, there’s nothing to fear. The Study Dude is determined to make right for you all the wrongs I made in grad school?one A+ at a time.

Brinkman, Svend, & Kvale, Steinar. (2015). InterViews: Learning the Craft of Qualitative Research Interviewing. Los Angeles: Sage.

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