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Let’s talk! On the practice and method of interviewing policy experts

Abstract

This article sheds light on the practice and method of expert interviewing in research projects on interest group politics. We first discuss the rationale of interviewing as a data collection instrument, arguing that a careful combination and cross-validation of behavioral and observational data improves the quality of interviews as well as provide a means to validate existing unobtrusive data sources. Moreover, this approach makes it possible to conduct a comprehensive analysis based on both behavioral and observational data sources. Subsequently, we discuss several methodological and practical issues to avoid biases associated with interviewing. One of the key observations from our experience with INTEREURO is that establishing a robust interview project on the role of interest groups in public policymaking rests largely on careful preparation. Thus, most work needs to be situated before the effective interview takes place, and our key objective is to clarify the importance of this preparatory stage.

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Notes

  1. The INTEREURO project takes a largely quantitative approach, which also requires that, in respect to interview information, the data need to be derived from a number of responses to structured questions. On occasions, however, more impressionistic information was sought, and here we asked semi-structured or open questions.

  2. Note that the number of interviews mentioned in Table 2 underestimates the total number of actors we talked to in order to get the necessary information. For the interviewing with EC experts, about 350 individuals were contacted (including the final respondent) in order to check factual details. Although less contacts were needed for interest group officials as we already had considerable prior information before we started interview, there were short conversations with about 30 individuals before the final interview was settled.

  3. Much can be said about the interviewing itself, but this goes beyond the scope of our article (see for useful guidelines Burnham et al, 2004; Leech, 2002; Peabody et al, 1990).

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Beyers, J., Braun, C., Marshall, D. et al. Let’s talk! On the practice and method of interviewing policy experts. Int Groups Adv 3, 174–187 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1057/iga.2014.11

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Keywords

  • interest groups
  • INTEREURO
  • European Union
  • expert interviews
  • survey methodology