Interviews and Inference: Making Sense of Interview Data in Qualitative Research

Iddo Tavory

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The paper outlines different modes of inference that researchers are able to make from interview data. Rather than championing one correct mode of inference, I argue that most open-ended and semi-structured interviews contain (a) open contexts in which we can cautiously infer about other situations from the interview; (b) contexts that we should treat as hermetically closed; and (c) refracted contexts in which the relationship between the interview and other situations is patterned but not direct. Having outlined these contexts, the paper focuses on two forms of refracted relations between interviews and other contexts of action, analyzing interviews as refracted images of both people’s landscapes of meaning and talk’s promissory aspect. In doing so, the article makes two contributions. First, it seeks to clarify how researchers should think about the inferences they can make from in-depth interviews. Second, it is also meant as a contribution to our understanding of the relationship among situations by stressing how actors’ talk sets up collective action in ways that often end up supporting the projects they narrate.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)449-465
    Number of pages17
    JournalQualitative Sociology
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Dec 1 2020


    • Collective act
    • Inference
    • Interviews
    • Methodology
    • Qualitative research

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science


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