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Dr Judith Eckert, research associate in the DFG-funded project “Fragen in Interviews” ["Questions in Interviews"] at the University of Duisburg-Essen, gave insight into her research on ‘failed’ interviews during a guest lecture at the research colloquium of the Department of Sustainable Mobility and Transdisciplinary Research Methods at TU Berlin on 27 January 2021.

Eckert explained that her own research experience with ‘failed’ interviews led her and her colleague Diana Cichecki from Freiburg to deal with this phenomenon on a methodological and practical research level. As a result of their joint reflections, they published the book “Mit ‘gescheiterten’ Interviews arbeiten. Impulse für eine reflexiv-interaktionistische Interviewforschung” [“Working with 'Failed' Interviews. Impulses for a reflexive-interactionist interview research"] at Beltz Juventa.

Eckert and Cichecki do not understand ‘failure’ as an absolute phenomenon, but as relative and relational, since it always refers to the expectations and presuppositions of the researchers which are empirically broken with. No matter what is concretely perceived as failure: Typically, ‘failed’ interviews are initially seen as problem cases and disregarded for the time being. However, when they are finally analysed, they often turn out to be key cases that lead to important insights of various kinds.

According to Eckert, this insight value of ‘failed’ interviews is little known, but can be justified on the basis of two important methodological foundations of qualitative research: Both US-American pragmatism, with its conception of research as problem-solving, and interactionism, with its interest in crises of understanding and meaning, emphasise the value of research experiences that are initially perceived as obstacles and as causing maximum irritation. It is important to pay special analytical attention to precisely these experiences in order to be able to develop new knowledge of action and interpretation. Overall, Eckert advocated not only including ‘failed’ interviews in the analysis but giving them special attention to be able to benefit from the findings as early as possible in the research process and to prevent the same type of problem from coming up again and again.

Judith Eckert / Diana Cichecki | Mit »gescheiterten« Interviews arbeiten - Impulse für eine reflexiv-interaktionistische Interviewforschung | Verlagsgruppe Beltz | Reihe: Qualitativ forschen - Aktuelle Ansätze | 2020 | 184 pages | € 19,95 incl. VAT. | ISBN 978-3-7799-3900-9