Please note: This course will be delivered in person at the Colchester campus. Online study is not available for this course.

Dr. Katy Wheeler is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at The University of Essex. She has extensive experience of conducting qualitative interviews, including household interviews, expert interviews, and focus groups. Her research interests are in the fields of sustainability and consumption and she has published widely within leading academic journals and two books, Fair-Trade and the Citizen-Consumer: Shopping for Justice (Palgrave, 2012) and Recycling and Consumption Work: Social and moral economies (Palgrave, 2015). She is currently pursuing a project on sustainability education.

I am a Research Fellow for My Home Life England at City, University of London. My role involves applying for research and evaluation funding, building a rich research network, project design and management, and conducting high-quality research. My academic background includes 17 years’ experience of lecturing in Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, Sociology, and Social Psychology. I am a senior fellow of the Higher Education Academy. My research expertise lies in the experiences of ageing, human development, social care, therapeutic communication, end of life care, mental health, and grief, loss and bereavement. I worked at the UK Data Archive for nine years (2005-2014), developing expertise in archiving, digitisation, research ethics, data reuse, and research data management. I am highly experienced in social care research ethics, particularly the ethics of researching at risk populations and on sensitive research topics. I am also a registered child and adolescent psychodynamic psychotherapist accredited by The British Psychotherapy Foundation. I have published extensively including the monograph The Child-Parent Caregiving Relationship in Later Life: Psychosocial Experiences (Policy Press, 2023) and co-authored a methods textbook How to Do Qualitative Interviewing (SAGE, 2022) with Dr Katy Wheeler.

Course Content

This intensive one-week course aims to introduce participants to the most widely used qualitative research technique in the social sciences – the interview. The course is intended to systematically guide participants through the research process specific to a qualitative interview project, from research design through to conducting interviews, analysing them and writing up the findings. The course will focus on different types of qualitative interview – including in-depth interviews, psycho-social/sensitive interviews and expert interviews. We reflect on the different techniques at an interviewer’s disposal to encourage participants to share their stories and reflexively discuss how interactions between interviewer and interviewee shape the data that is generated. This is a practical course and participants will gain first-hand experience of conducting and analysing qualitative interviews of different types, as well as critically reflecting upon their own interviewing practice (assumptions and techniques). There will be space for participants to bring their questions about interviews to the course for group discussion.

The course begins with an overview of the key principles and theoretical assumptions underlying the qualitative interview before moving onto the practicalities of setting up an interview research project. Participants are asked to collectively devise an interview guide, test out this guide and then conduct an in-depth interview with another summer school participant. Specific techniques/tools for approaching sensitive topics and dealing with elite interviewees are then considered. Psychosocial interviews are introduced as a special category of qualitative interview and participants can experience this approach through practical exercises. Using the qualitative data analysis software MAXQDA, we introduce techniques for analysing interview data before we conclude the course with top tips on writing up interview research.

Course objectives

The aim of this course is to equip participants with the skills and confidence to conduct their own research projects using qualitative interviews. The course is introductory so it is well-suited for participants who are at the beginning of their research, but it will also appeal to those who are already using qualitative interviews and are seeking to deepen their knowledge and skills (perhaps in terms of how to ask the right questions and deal with difficult or sensitive topics/participants). By the end of the course, participants should understand the principles behind and practicalities of doing a research project based on qualitative interviews.

Course prerequisites

No prior knowledge or experience of qualitative interviewing is assumed.

Required text – this text will be provided by ESS:

Morgan Brett, B & Wheeler, K (2022) How to do Qualitative Interviewing, London: Sage


Course outline

Week 1

Day 1:               

AM      Introduction to Qualitative Interviews

  • Welcome and introduction to the course
  • Icebreaker: The art of active listening
  • Introduction to the qualitative interview
  • Group discussion of key expectations for the course


PM       Planning your qualitative interviewing project

  • Practicalities of conducting qualitative research, focusing on issues of ethics, safety and consent
  • Sampling and recruiting participants
  • Practical exercises
    • Ethics case studies discussion
    • Setting up the course qualitative interview project


Day 2:              

AM      The in-depth qualitative interview and designing an interview guide

  • Key qualitative interviewing skills
  • Practical exercises
    • Designing interview guides in small groups and pilot testing 


PM      Practical: conducting your interview (between 3.30-4.30pm)           

Transcription issues

  • Transcribing interviews and anonymisation
  • Use of automatic transcription software


Day 3:            

AM      Narrative and psychosocial interviews

  • Free association narrative interviews
  • Introduction to the biographical narrative interview method
  • Practical exercises:
    • Psycho-social interviewing practical and discussion


PM      Power and the interview process (expert/elite interviews)

  • Practical exercises
    • Reading discussion 


Day 4:            

AM      Reflecting on the research process

  • Judging the quality of your interviews
  • Practical exercises:
    • Evaluating your own interviews
    • Repeat interviews with a class member in light of what they have learned


PM       Introduction to the analysis of qualitative data

  • Key principles of qualitative data analysis
  • Coding and thematic analysis
  • Practical exercises:
    • Devise a list of codes for the analysis of group interview 


Day 5:               

AM      Using Computer-Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis (CAQDAS) package MAXQDA

  • Practical exercises:
    • Introduction to coding using MAXQDA
    • Using MAXQDA to analyse your own interview


PM       Writing up your findings and course close

  • How to write up qualitative research for different audiences
  • Practical exercises:
    • Critical appraisal of a qualitative interview journal article
    • Reflection on course expectations


Required reading – This book will be provided by the Summer School as part of your course material.

Morgan Brett, B & Wheeler, K (2022) How to do Qualitative Interviewing, London: Sage

There will be some pre-reading for class discussion which will be sent to participants a month before the start of the summer school


Further Reading

Barbour, R. (2014) Introducing Qualitative Research: A student’s guide, London: Sage

Bloor, M., Frankland, J., Thomas, M., and Robson, K. (2000) Focus Groups in Social Research. London: Sage

Braun, V. & Clarke, V. (2013) Successful Qualitative Research: a practical guide for beginners, London: Sage.

Holliday, A. (2016) Doing and Writing Qualitative Research, London: Sage

Hollway, W. & Jefferson, T. (2013) Doing Qualitative research differently: a psychosocial approach, London: Sage.

Gubrium, J. et al. (eds) (2012) The Sage Handbook of Interview Research. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Keats, D. (2000) Interviewing. A Practical Guide for Students and Professionals. Buckingham: Open University Press

Kvale, S. & Brinkmann, S. (2014). InterViews: Learning the Craft of Qualitative Research Interviewing. London: Sage

Lewins, A and Silver, C (2007) Using software in qualitative research – a step-by-step guide. London: Sage

Lyon, D., Morgan-Brett, B. and Crow, G. (2012) ‘ Working with material from the Sheppey archive’, International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 15(4) [Special Issue: Perspectives on working with archived textual and visual material in social research], pp.301-309.

Mason, J. (2002) Qualitative Researching. 2nd edition, London: Sage

Ritchie, J., Lewis, J. Nicholls, C. & Ormston, R. (eds.) (2013) Qualitative Research Practice, 2nd Edition. London: Sage

Rubin, H. & Rubin, I. (2012) Qualitative Interviewing: The Art of Hearing Data, London: Sage. 

Silverman, D. (2009) Doing Qualitative Research London: Sage.