The qualitative interview has been chosen as one of the applied methods in this study because it can give valuable insights into human affairs and behavioural events (Yin, 2009, p. 108).
Qualitative interviews allow the researcher to get a deeper understanding of the social world of the interviewed. This understanding is not a mirror reflection of the social world, as the positivist would endeavour, but gives and account of the interview subject’s understanding and interpretation of his/her social world (Miller & Glassner, 2011, pp. 132-133).
This study is based on Kvale and Brinkmann’s (2009) approach and use of semi-structured lifeworld interviews for research. This is defined as “an interview which purpose is to gather descriptions of the interview subject’s lifeworld with a view to interpret the meaning of the
described phenomena” (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009, p. 19) 5. An advantage of the semi-structured interview is that it creates an open dialogue with the possibility to explore and dig into the experiences of the interviewed. An interview is an active process in which meaningful knowledge is constructed through the dialogue between the researcher and the interviewed (Kvale & Brinkmann), which is in line with the social constructivist approach of this study.
Kvale and Brinkmann (2009) have outlined seven steps for the research interview, which covers the decisions and considerations taking place prior, during and after the interview (pp.
122-133). Inspired by these steps, the following describe the decisions important to this study.
3.7.1 Thematisation and design
Themitisation refers to the formulation of the research question and the theoretical clarification of the researched topic (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009, p. 125) and design encompasses the planning of the procedures and techniques of the research interview (ibid, p.
129). Based on the previously defined research question, the researcher decided to conduct interviews with the organisation and participants who had volunteered through the organisation. The selection process for the interviews will be addressed in the following.
Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke Employees Two interviews were conducted with employees from Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke, to give an insight into the purpose, preparation and execution of the volunteer programme and its training components.
Employee interviews at Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke
• Lasse Jensen: Head of Global Contact, Interviewed 16th of March 2012, Copenhagen
• Mira Rønje: Project Manager of the Global Volunteer Course, Interviewed 15th of March, Copenhagen
Lasse Jensen, Head of Global Contact, is in charge of the operation and development of the volunteer programme. Mira Rønje, Project Manager of the Global Volunteer Course, has played a prominent role in the development of the training manual. She has previously been a facilitator at Global Platform Kenya and is currently one of the facilitators of the five-day preparation course for the volunteers. The researcher selected Lasse Jensen and Mira Rønje
5 In Danish in the original
for the interviews because they were considered to be the employees in Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke who could contribute with most knowledge and insight about the programme and the training of the volunteers. The interviews were conducted one-to-one and lasted between 20 and 30 minutes. A follow-up interview was made with Lasse Jensen on the phone to clarify some of the content from the first interview.
Volunteers The volunteer interviews were conducted to gain an understanding of the volunteer experience in relation to elements and processes, initiated by the sending organisation, considered conducive to cross-cultural understanding. The selection of volunteers for the interviews was initiated at MS' volunteer debriefing weekend in Copenhagen, 18th February 2012. The volunteers who attended had all returned from their volunteer stay within the last four months. The researcher introduced the topic of research and asked volunteers interested in participating to sign up on a list. From the list three volunteers were selected (out of 14) based on the criteria in the following order of importance: 1. a variety of volunteer destinations, 2. a mix of gender, and 3. volunteers who lived near Copenhagen.
It can be difficult to know how many interviews will provide enough data to make generalisations from. If too much data is gathered, the researcher may not have time for in depth analysis of the interviews (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009, p. 134). In this case, the volunteer interviews were supplemented with volunteer blogs (see below) and the researcher estimated that three interviews would be enough. Despite the attempted gender selection, the overriding majority of girls on the list is reflected in the final selection. The interviews were conducted one-on-one and each lasted approximately one hour each.
• Volunteer 1: Volunteered in Guatemala, Female, Interviewed 6th of March 2012
• Volunteer 2: Volunteered in India, Female, Interviewed 6th of March
• Volunteer 3: Volunteered in Tanzania, Female, Interviewed 9th of March
Prior to the interview the volunteers were informed that their identities would be kept anonymous in the thesis. All references to volunteers from the interviews have used the above given number. This was to encourage them to talk more freely. Many volunteers participate in activities with MS after they return home, and the researcher did not want them to hold back
any critical views about MS in the fear of being confronted with it later on. For the same reason, the researcher did not mention her work affiliation to MS.
The semi-structured interview is neither an everyday life conversation nor a closed survey but a conversation in which the researcher attempts to understand certain themes from the interview subject’s own perspectives (Brinkman & Kvale, 2009, p. 45). In this study, the researcher used an interview guide to structure and give consistency across the interviews.
The interview guide (See appendix 1-3) covered predefined themes and topics identified from literature on volunteer tourism. These topics were used as a guideline and checklist during the interview. The interviewees were informed about the topic of discussion prior to the interview, but they had not seen any specific questions. The semi-structure of the interviews allowed the researcher to explore topics beyond the interview guide and expand on the topics brought up by the interview subject’s responses whenever it was relevant to the overall purpose. For further considerations applied during the interviews, see appendix 4.
In this study, all interviews were recorded on a recording device and were later transcribed (see appendix B-F) into written text. There is no set standard that defines how it has to be done (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009, p. 202).
A transcription is a translation of a verbal discourse into a written discourse, which can be two very different ways of expression and one is not easily translated into the other. A clearly expressed verbal sentence might sound unclear when transcribed word for word and the transformation process can therefore create forced constructions that might not express the meanings precisely (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009, p. 200). In this study, the interviews were transcribed almost word for word, so that parts of the transcription could be used for citation later on. Empty words such as ‘uhm’ and ‘er’ have been removed as well as feedback comments such as ‘yes’ and ‘okay’. A few times descriptions and stories have been left out because they were considered irrelevant for the analysis. Such cases are indicated with brackets giving with a short description of the content such as [volunteer explains how to make Ugali]. Apart from transcripts, the researcher took notes of the parts of the conversation take took place before and after the recording device was turned on and off. Notes of importance to the study have been added below the transcripts in the appendix.
3.7.4 Analysis and reporting
The primary purpose of the analysis phase is to construct meaning from the interview content.
In order to structure this process Kvale and Brinkmann’s (2009) method of meaning-interpretation has been used. Meaning-meaning-interpretation extends beyond a structuring of that which is manifested in the interview as it seeks a deeper and critical interpretation of the text (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009, p. 230). The researcher looks beyond that which has been clearly stated in the interviews to find different relations and structures of meaning. This has been done using the identified themes of importance from the literature as the frame of reference for interpreting the interviews.
The method of interpretation follows the hermeneutic interpretation principles. This includes a method of continuously going back and forth from parts to the whole of the text, setting each in relation to the other to reach an overall understanding, also referred to as the hermeneutic circle (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009, p. 233). This does not include any step-by-step method and only lays out general principles (ibid, p. 234).