Participatory interviewing method


Participatory Geographies Research Group

Template for sharing examples of participatory methods and approaches

Topic Participatory interviewing method

Author name and email contact Hanne Kirstine Adriansen

Brief summary of method or approach:

The basic ingredients are a large piece of paper and a number of coloured pens. The interview may be taped (and transcribed); it depends on the type of analysis intended and on how the use of a tape recorder may affect the interviewee. The backbone of the method is the drawing of a timeline in the middle of the paper. I usually draw it horizontally, but it could be any other way the interviewee prefers. Ordering of events can be guiding the interview and both the interview and the interviewee can write and draw on the paper.

The paper serves as a ‘collective memory’ where the story can be seen both by the interviewer and the interviewee. It is easy for both parties to return to an issue already discussed and this can be linked with other events along the way. Whether the interviewee is participating in writing or not, she/he is usually engaged in following how the story enfolds on the paper. This is quite different from an interview where the interviewer writes notes on a piece of paper that the interviewee cannot see. Using the paper as a collective memory can make the interview a collective process allowing the interviewee to take ownership of the process.

Summing up, timeline interviewing allows the interviewee to participate in the reporting of the interview which may give raise to ownership and sharing of the analytical power in the interview situation.

Example of method or approach in practice:

Life history interviews with pastoral nomads in Senegal

Learning journey interviews with students in Denmark

Some of the limitations or risks of method or approach:

It may not be the most appropriate method for interviewing elites or for conducting insider interviews where positionality can be at play.

Suggested further readings:

Adriansen, H. K. (2012). Timeline interviews: A tool for conducting life history research. Qualitative studies , 3 (1), 40-55.