The Study Dude – Silence Wins Secrets

Study Tips from a Semi-Anonymous Friend

There is nothing more that The Study Dude wants for you than to master the art of silence.

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. Learn tricks for asking interview questions and the power of stories. Interview questions can make or break your analysis stage, especially if you need to tie the interview responses into a theory. Your interview questions can also help validate your interpretation of interviewee’s words, especially when you seek validation through paraphrasing. As for stories, they come in handy for narrative analysis?a type of analysis that relies on features such as plot, characters, and turning points.

Win Friends with Silence?
Silence marks one strategy for getting people to say more during an interview.

I once knew a woman who called herself my handler. She had me in the media eye, and I did as she said. Whenever she wanted people to divulge their life histories, she would ask a question, wait for an answer, and then launch a long, painful silence. The responder would, on cue, add more detail, just as my handler planned.

Yet, one responder caught on to my handler’s tactic. This fellow responded with more silence, and what seemed like an eternal silence between them ensued. My handler and he grew to loath one another and soon parted ways.

But silence marks an effective strategy in playwriting and acting. When you add silence to a character’s response, tension escalates. The less said, the better the story.

And when I write articles for magazines, I limit myself to 500 words. The shorter the sentences, the better. Silence and brevity bring life to words.

Brinkmann and Kvale list types of responses?including silence? you can use when interviewing others:
– If you start an interview by asking what happened in a situation, you might find yourself with a rich response from the interviewee.
– You can prompt a follow-up to your interviewee’s response. You can do so by saying “mmm,” by being silent, or by repeating some key words the interviewee had spoken. [In a book on relationships, I learned that repeating words and saying “mmm’s” can really aid your love life.]
– You can probe your interviewee to say more by asking for more detail. You don’t need to specify what kind of detail you want.
– You can also ask for more specific responses from your interviewee by asking “What specifically happened?’”
– You can also directly bring up a topic that you want to cover.
– You can ask your interviewee how they think others would have responded in their situation. This strategy marks the “indirect question.” You can get good insights on the interviewee by discovering how they think others would react.
– Once your question receives an answer, you can politely cut off the interviewee by introducing the next question. You can paraphrase what the interviewee said and then introduce the next topic.
– You can interpret what the interviewee said by paraphrasing and then asking him or her if you understood correctly.
– You can use silence when you want the interviewee to tell you more.

Learn Story-Telling for Academic Success
Brinkmann and Kvale list out multiple styles of interviews. One style involves the narrative interview.

I suck at the narrative interview. You see, I’ve read books on nonfiction writing, but next to nothing on fiction writing. Narrative interviews, however, go hand-in hand with fiction. Narrative interviewers seek things like plots, subplots, heroes, villains, helpers, climaxes, and turning points.

I often peer at Stephen King’s book On Writing wondering if I should write a Study Dude on it.

Students stand to benefit from learning the rules of fiction-writing; for instance, student essays can open with anecdotes. And in journalism, the opening paragraph? known as the hook?can either make or break a story.

And some faculties, like communications and English, encourage creative openings.

Brinkmann and Kvale lay out a number of interview styles, including the narrative interview:
– Computer assisted interviews include emails, chat rooms, and online ethnographies (where you observe what goes on online). The problem with these interviews involves the omission of tone of voice and body language. These computer-assisted interviews can benefit you if your participant feels ashamed with his or her body.
– Focus group interviews involve six to ten participants. A moderator leads with the topic of discussion. The focus group aims to get many different perspectives. These focus groups yield good results for taboo topics.
– Factual interviews often present themselves when questioning crime witnesses. However, when holding a factual interview, avoid leading questions. Such questions can cause the interviewee to misrepresent or bias the facts.
– Conceptual interviews come in handy when you want to gather themes or ideas about a topic. When trying to find the essence of something, for instance, conceptual interviews come in handy. For instance, if you want to find out the essence of “well-being,” then a conceptual interview can come into play. [The psychologist famous for studying well-being is Martin Seligman. I think he used conceptual interviews in figuring out the big ideas associated with the concept of well-being.]
– Discursive interviews look at the how knowledge comes to be in language. These interviews also study power relations. Such interviews can grow confrontational.
– Confrontational interviews occur when the interviewee and interviewer challenge one another. You criticize one another. This type of interview can expose power relations and conflicts. Some researchers view this approach as unethical. Brinkman and Kvale advocate the confrontational style.
– Narrative interviews look at the interviewee’s stories, plots, characters, themes, subplots, and conflicts. As the interviewer, you can ask about events or life stories. You should mostly listen, but get what you need for a story structure analysis.

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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