Two Person Interviewing (continued)

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    David Morgan

    This is the start of the Discussion section on Two Person Interviewing, so that we can open up the “Comment Wall” for more general questions and comments.

    David Morgan

    Comment by Richard McGrath

    You are correct in regard to the participants themselves indicating the interviews taking place as a group rather than individually.

    how this came about was rather interesting. The initial invite was to an individual within a council. I targeted eight different council authorities. I received responses from 5 invitees. Of these, three people at different councils indicated others within their council who may also be interested in participating in the study (it’s great when you don’t have to nudge people to get the snowballing method going!). I then contacted these additional people.

    What followed was the organising of meetings at the councils. I indicated that I could conduct consecutive individual interviews. From this two respondents at different councils organised group meetings while the contact at the 3rd council organised individual meetings.

    I was reticent to push for individual meetings with the contacts at the two councils as I am aware of the busy time schedule of many of the staff as well as the limited time I had available to conduct interviews (I was interstate for only 3 days).

    As a consequence I conducted two small group interviews. What I did notice during the sessions was the need for me to ensure that questions I had were directed to each person (usually by citing their name to aid in transcription from the digital recording of the session). What also became apparent was that individuals would ‘piggy back’ off comments made by another and sometimes take the discussion further in the same direction but using their own examples and experiences or they provided a divergent view that contrasted with the 1st position.

    It was from this observation that I made the warning regarding the working relationship between staff members. This was on reflection of what did happen and what could have potentially happen in another circumstance.

    I am presently transcribing the data and will definitely be exploring this aspect of the interviews in more detail in the future.

    I also did notice that the interviews where much more discussion-like compared to the previous interviews I had conducted in the one-on-one format. Participants didn’t rely on my prompting them so much. It was actually very refreshing to get participants to engage at a deeper level without me having to ‘push’ them so much.

    I’d be interested in hearing of any other’s experiences with this type of interviewing as well.


    Julie Boyles

    Hi David and all,
    I just had my dissertation proposal (colloquium) a week ago–topic: how women’s lives change in rural Mexico when their spouses emigrate to the U.S.–and I was very committed to doing 2- or 3-person interviews in one or two rural towns. I guess you could say the colloquium was a success because they “passed” me (with many stipulations), however, what surprised me the most was the agreement of disagreement about my methods. All five had negative views about my doing 2- or 3-person interviews. Their concerns were sound–as has been mentioned here–sensitive topics would be challenging in this type of interview. But, I thought I’d considered the alternative of individual interviews sufficiently and that the positive would outweigh the negative. I’d planned to have a woman who fit my criteria invite one or two others to join her for the interview. I thought the numbers would help balance the power dynamics, that they could generate ideas, brainstorm without my excessive intervention, and it would create additional comfort for them (among other positives that I’d outlined). None of the five committee members thought 2- or 3-person interviews were a good idea. The best they’d compromise on was my doing half individual interviews and half 2/3 person. In that way, I could compare the data of the methods as well as the data in its entirety. That way I could collaborate with you, David, on an article that compares the data that’s generated in this method???

    Frankly, I’m a little down about their discomfort but maybe they’re right. I plan to discuss things such as remittances (money that migrants send to their spouses), partnership issues, autonomy/independence, and patriarchal issues. Too sensitive for 2/3 person interviews? Do you think something like 10 individual interviews and 5 2/3 person interviews would lend interesting data/comparison?



    Hi Julie,

    It is always an intersting expereince having ‘experienced’ academics provide their opinion on other’s research. As a PhD candidate in Australia I feel that there is a tendency by academia to seek postgraduates to ‘fit their mold’ in the early stages of the candidature. Part of the apprentiship I suppose.

    In relation to you study at least you had the panel compromise and agree to a variety of data collection interview stategies. It does appear that your areas of interest could be somewhat ‘personal’ to share with others. Do you have any contacts with any women’s groups in Mexico. This may provide you with an opportunity to conduct the 2/3 person interviews with women who know each other well enough to ‘share’ their life stories and experiences.

    Good luck and I look forward to hearing how it goes and you progress.


    Julie Boyles

    Good morning. I’m in Oaxaca, Mexico–living more than doing my field work–but slowing moving ahead. My research will be in a small town of 2,400 in southern Mexico–fairly rural, quite conservative, but near the city so exposure to the urban world.

    I’ve chosen a two phase research design. I’ll first gather socio-economic-demographic data (likely using three local pueblo girls, hopefully college, if they exist) from a sample of women in the pueblo. The final question asks is they’d be willing to be interviewed further and which they prefer–individual, 2- or 3-person in which they choose the person(s), or small group (no mention of them choosing so I will put the group together). From this survey, I hope to be able to do 8-10 2 or 3-person interviews and 8-10 individual interviews. In this way, I not only gather rich and extensive data (likely using NVIVO) but may also be able to assess the differences from the individual interviews to the 2- or 3-person interviews. I really hope to be able to add to the literature of 2- or 3-person interviews. Some of my questions and inquiry are personal (remittances recieved from migrants in the U.S., women’s role in education/raising daughters, gender issues) but I’m still not convinced that that is enough reason to abadon the benefits of 2- or 3-person interviews. I’m just hoping enough women will be comfortable with the different methods for me to use, with confidence, the at least individual and 2- 3-person interviews. Any comments or advice welcome.



    Hi all,
    I have been following this thread as I will be conducting 2 person interviewing on the information needs of patients with scoliosis in the next few months and wondered how I could improve my knowledge of the method? I am familiar with the one person interview. But are there some specific points to be aware of when using the 2 person method? I come from a mostly quants background. Are there any specific books you would recommend?. The two people will be the adolescent and a parent. I am a little concerned that the parent may do all the talking.
    Looking forward to some feedback,

    Burdett Loomis

    I’m a political scientist, who does a lot of interviewing. Most are single-person interviews, but on occasion I find it very useful to talk to 2 folks (often legislators or political elites) simultaneously. The advantages here lie with the quality of remembered information (one checks the other) and the richness of information that is gathered. Often, the two individuals play off each other (they’re friends or associates) and often have a conversation between themselves. I’m convinced that I’ve gotten higher quality data and richer, nonobvious data from employing this technique. Bonus: great fun.

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