4.3.1 Positivist approaches to in-depth interviews Positivists are somewhat wary of in-depth interviewing as the flexibility of the method means that it is hard to generalise from responses. Often, in the course of an in-depth interview, questions get asked in slightly different ways, in response to the context of the interview, and so it is hard to enumerate the answers (which are often quite detailed with a range of nuances), other than, perhaps, broad levels of agreement or disagreement.
Furthermore, in-depth interview samples are often quite small and rarely random samples, which means that statistical techniques for making inferences and generalisations are not applicable.
Positivists primarily use in-depth interviews:
1. as a descriptive tool;
2. as the exploratory stage for further quantitative research;
5. to evaluate the impact of policy; particularly to identify unintended consequences.
In-depth interviews and the information they general are not conducive to a positivist approach, seeking causal connections based on statistical analysis. In-depth interviews can provide some descriptive background but in the main they tend to be used as an exploratory stage of a quantitative research study.