Respondents as Interlocutors: Translating Deliberative Democratic Principles to Qualitative Interviewing Ethics

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The epistemic interview is a conversational practice, which aims to generate knowledge by subjecting respondents’ beliefs to dialectical tests of reasons. Developed by Svend Brinkmann, this model draws inspiration from Socratic dialogues where the interviewer asks confronting questions to press respondents to articulate the normative bases of their views. In this article, the author argues that Brinkmann’s model is a valuable methodological innovation but warrants further development. The author suggests that the epistemic interview can be put on a stronger methodological footing when the Socratic model is complemented by developments in democratic theory, particularly its deliberative variety. Translating deliberative democratic virtues to methodological terms addresses some of the epistemic model’s gaps, including an account of the dynamic of knowledge production and the ethical norms that govern this method. To illustrate the practice of epistemic interviewing, the author draws on her experience in interviewing junior military officers
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)571-582
Number of pages12
JournalQualitative Inquiry
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


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