Interviewing First Gen. Scholars about the academic year of Covid (2020-21); some reflections on data collection using Semi-structured Interviews conducted online

Part #5 of 5

Blog by: Dr. Lewis Mates, School of Government and International Affairs (SGIA), Durham University

Parts #2 and #4 of this blog series are on the PSA website

13. Some of the ideas could be acted on immediately..

Most of the concrete suggestions made by interviewees were longer-term and would require formulating and passing at departmental or, say, Faculty level. But specific action also came as a direct result of the interviews.

‘Amy’, for example, suggested that I use Instagram to advertise departmental First Gen. events:

it is just going to pop up on my page and I think oh there’s a pizza meeting on Friday for First Generation Scholars. I’ll go to that like, or like, or you can send it to your friends as well, like I can just click […] send to. […] I would really recommend Instagram ’cause all the societies and have it. […] if I was gonna create a society, I’d go for Instagram all the way.
LM: OK, I’ll look into that then. Did you […] kind of volunteer then? It tentatively sounded like you had volunteered, but I don’t know.
‘Amy’: So I mean […] I actually would volunteer if, ’cause I was thinking to myself and you could actually put like “Social media director” or something like […] if you gave me a title and then [its] something you can add [to a CV] my mind revolves around CVs and job applications […]
LM: […] So do you know what? That’s entirely legitimate, and if that’s the thing that’s going to get you to do the gig, ‘Amy’, then let’s go for it.
‘Amy’: Yeah, […] there’s something, like, we could discuss on Friday with everyone, to be fair, […] face to face…

We then had a departmental group first gen. face-to-face meeting and it did for a while after that seem as though the group would self-organise and be truly student-led for the first time.

14. The interviewer can also help with the empowerment thing…

Notwithstanding the general tenor of this blog series so far, that the first gen. interviewees were ‘intelligent, self-reflective, insightful people’ (See Point #1) and certainly ‘experts in their own lives’ did not necessarily seem to register with them. This has to be a function of the imposter syndrome that first gens can feel, especially at so-called ‘elite’ institutions. At the end of a lengthy and excellent interview, for example, ‘Bob’ asked me ‘Was it actually helpful?’

I tried to reassure him:

LM: Yeah, everything. […] So I’m hoping to write something out of [this] as well as get pointers, specific pointers, and you’ve just talked at length about all elements of it and as I say, said some things that no one else has said […] do you not believe me when I tell you, though?
‘Bob’: It’s not that. […] I was thinking, “Oh, I don’t know, that’s going to be a quick call. I don’t, I don’t know anything; I don’t know what to say”.
LM: [it is] part of that self-perception thing as well isn’t it? And about just having a bit more, you know, trying to get a little bit confident, [to have] more confidence in yourself about how you present and how you come across.[…] Take the confidence from the really good marks that you’ve got and just, just go for it, but fundamentally enjoy it as well, you know?

Maybe my intervention here is not, strictly speaking, ‘empowering’, but the interview did give me a chance to point out to the interviewee that, yes, they had a lot of important things to say and to remind him about how well he had done in his first year.

15. NVIVO seems easy to use for SSI transcript analysis, and worth using…

In terms of analysis, I started trying to code the data manually on MS Word but this was laborious, confusing and inefficient. I thus resolved to use NVIVO for the first time. I had one introductory session from a colleague and then began experimenting with it.

My experience to date has been pretty positive with NVIVO; it seems intuitive to use and has certainly helped me to get to grips with my lengthy, conversational-and-not-entirely-accurate transcripts. This blog represents my first efforts at using NVIVO’s fruits.

I am currently working with a team thematically analysing other elements of these transcripts and most of us are new or fairly new to NVIVO. We’ll maybe try to put a blog together on what we’ve learned for the uninitiated, if anything useful occurs….

Thanks a lot for reading this and please do feedback to me.

Blog by Dr. Lewis Mates, School of Government and International
Affairs (SGIA), Durham University


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