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Methods@Manchester

Creative Interviewing

Jennifer Mason, Realities/Sociology

I am using the term ‘creative interviewing’ to refer to a form of interview that is qualitative, flexible, loosely or semi-structured (non-standardised) and involves the construction of data and knowledge through processes that can be seen as ‘creative’ in some way.

The term ‘creative interviewing’ was coined for the social sciences in the 1980s by Jack Douglas, to denote the kind of interview that responded to situational dynamics and was flexible, rather than following a predefined structure (Douglas, 1985). It has also been used in the domain of journalism to denote an investigative rather than structured style of interviewing, where the interviewer as to think on their feet (Metzler, 2002).

Creative interviews can also involve participants engaging in creative activities like drawing, collage, creating diagrams, taking pictures or looking at them (photo elicitation), walking, and so on.

Creative interviews are usually treated for analytical purposes as ethnographic encounters, in the sense that the researcher is interested in, and participates in, as well as observes - the interactions involved, the situational dynamics, the surroundings and the physical and non-verbal elements. 

Key references

  • Bagnoli, A (2009) 'Beyond the standard interview: the use of graphic elicitation and arts-based methods' Qualitative Research, special issue on qualitative research and methodological innovation, Vol 9, No 5, 547-570.
  • Kvale, S. (2008) InterViews: Learning the Craft of Qualitative Research Interviewing, Sage
  • Mason, J. (2002) 'Qualitative Interviewing: asking, listening and interpreting' in T May (ed) Qualitative Research in Action, pp 225-241 London: Sage.
  • Mason, J and Davies, K (2009) 'Coming to our senses? A critical approach to sensory methodology' Qualitative Research, special issue on qualitative research and methodological innovation, Vol 9, No 5, 587-603.

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