Interviewing and Member Checking
There are two interview styles to promote discussion between interviewees and the interviewers during member checks. The first, Confrontation Style is only effective when there is a trusted, warm, and open relationship between the interviewer and the interviewee. This style promotes discussion empowering the interviewee to have confidence to "fight back" when his/her opinion is questioned. The second, Dialogue and Power, focuses on the inherent power struggle between the interviewer and the interviewee. Interviewers must be aware of this imbalance of power and promote discussion from the interviewee by valuing opinions and reinforcing equal collaboration between the two.
In an informal sense, member checks are carried out verbally throughout the conduct of fieldwork. The researcher constantly checks his or her understanding of the phenomenon by utilizing techniques such as paraphrasing and summarization for clarification. It is best to ask permission to visit the participant again at the time of the unstructured interview. Interviews are used as a way for the respondent to express their emotions and thoughts about their experiences and allow the interviewer to have a better understanding of a situation.
When the member check procedure is used in a sample of people who were not the original participants in the study, the procedure can be used to assess transferability. If the people who were not the original participants do not agree with the information, then the findings can be said to be biased or not transferable since transferability is the process of being able to apply the findings from one study to others in similar situations. A question to ask is whether the findings "ring true" in others' experiences.
It is critical to use member checking in qualitative research studies because these types of studies often involve interpretation. Thus, without allowing participants to validate the accuracy of their findings, one-sidedness will become a major concern. Since the most important issue in evaluating the rigor of qualitative research is trustworthiness, using the strategy of member checks, (along with other techniques such as independent audit, prolonged engagement, triangulation, peer debriefing), is critical to minimizing distortion. Prolonged engagement aids in the ability to detect and account for distortions that might be in the data. It also helps to become oriented to the situation so content is appreciated and the researcher builds trust. In general, member checks are a useful function in research, especially when there are questions about the adequacy of understanding based on limited time of exposure. Thus, a member check can serve to counterbalance concerns about whether engagement was sufficiently prolonged
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