Methodological Pluralism and the Possibilities and Limits of Interviewing


Lamont, Michèle, and Ann Swidler. 2014. “Methodological Pluralism and the Possibilities and Limits of Interviewing”. Qualitative Sociology 37 (2):153-171.

Date Published:

Aug. 9-13


Against the background of recent methodological debates pitting ethnography against interviewing, this paper offers a defense of the latter and argues for methodological pluralism and pragmatism and against methodological tribalism. Drawing on our own work and on other sources, we discuss some of the strengths and weaknesses of interviewing, especially for work in the sociology of culture. We argue that concern over whether attitudes correspond to behavior is a misguided focus of the recent literature, and offer that we should instead consider what interviewing and other data gathering techniques are best suited for. In our own work, we suggest, we have used somewhat unusual interviewing techniques not to explore individuals’ characteristics, but to reveal how institutional systems and the construction of social categories, boundaries, and status hierarchies organize social experience. We also point to new methodological challenges ahead, particularly concerning the incorporation of historical and institutional dimensions into interview-based studies. We finally describe fruitful directions for future research, which may result in methodological advances while bringing together the strengths of various data collection techniques.

Last updated on 12/06/2017