Accepted Paper:

The interview as a form: dialectical, focussed, ambiguous, special  


Nigel Rapport (St. Andrews University)

Paper long abstract:

The article is in three main sections. In the first, ‘The ideal types of interaction’, I explore the consequences of verbal exchange or zigzag. When the utterances of talking-partners in a conversation meet each other, I suggest, there is the potential for their words to have ‘reciprocal’, ‘complementary’, ‘collaborative’, ‘emergent’ or ‘distorted’ relations to one another.

The second part of the article, ‘Conversation and interview’ begins with the observation that here are two kinds of verbal exchange both of which are founded upon a dialectic or zigzag, a give-and-take. But one can also distinguish between them: An interview is a non-routine conversation, with a purpose or design which at least one of the talking-partners has previously determined, and which need not be repeated (the talking-partnership might extend to this one exchange alone). There are three significant elements here, then: the non-routine, purposiveness and boundedness. As an ideal-type, the interview is also a thing-in-itself: a mini-relationship, a micro-institution, potentially distinct from the routines around it, from the social classifications and the cultural conventions.

Being non-routine, bounded and purposive sets up an investigative situation: not only is a researcher taken beyond the everyday but all the talking-partners who are aware that this is an interview not merely a naturally occurring exchange. And what will be the outcome? Reciprocity, complementarity, collaboration, emergence, distortion: the range is limited but among this range there is an imponderability. Interview combines idiosyncrasy, self-consciousness, a logically formal set of outcomes and imponderability.

The third part of the article examines these propositions in the context of an interview conducted by me at Constance Hospital, Easterneuk, Scotland, with a consultant surgeon, ‘Mr J. L. Taylor’.

Panel Plen2
The interview: form, translation and transformation