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The Utility of In-Depth Interviews for Studying the Meaning of Environmental Risk

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This paper explores the utility of in-depth interviews for understanding how individuals and communities socially construct the risks (degree of threat) from environmental hazards (phenomena which threaten), and describes some challenges for guarding against threats to trustworthiness (qualitative rigor). The paper involves the interface between a case study of the social construction of environmental risk (Baxter 1997), and a critical appraisal of criteria for establishing trustworthiness in qualitative research (Baxter and Eyles 1997). The review highlights challenges for the application of the criteria and the use of popular design and analysis strategies such as member checking and researcher triangulation. While such practices are problematic, this need not undermine the utility of these practices and the criteria they are meant to address. A critical appraisal of qualitative work must go beyond the mere mention of various strategies that are used to guard against threats to rigor.

Keywords: In-depth interviews; environmental risk; qualitative methods; rigor; risk; trustworthiness

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: University of Calgary, 2: McMaster University

Publication date: May 1, 1999

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