The Interview Process
This brief section outlines my process for setting up and conducting interviews. It explains the “courtship” ritual between an interviewer and an interviewee in which trust is developed.
The interviews were conducted after a long process of interaction, negotiation, and trust-building. The participants were allowed the freedom to choose their own environment for the interview. The locations ranged from fraternity houses, coffee shops, reserved campus rooms, or my house. Some interviews were all day events which might include dinner or recreational activities. At other times, several interviews were conducted on the same day. some interviews were very relaxed with several intermissions, others were so formal it made both parties uncomfortable.
At times the interview was a powerful experience that continued for hours after the tape ran out, yet at other times the interviews felt for me like a cheap conquest because I would not see the participant again after receiving his information. The interview process sometimes felt like a type of courtship ritual in the sense that I tried to involve, incite, or persuade fraternity members into participating. At times, I felt I was seducing them into a submissive position. Nevertheless, I have striven to make interviews honest, respectful, and rewarding for both parties involved.
Each tape recorded interview was approximately one-hour long, and was acquired by permission from the participants. The interviews consisted of three parts: personal background, information about fraternity membership, and individual response to questions raised about male bonding. The open-ended interview questions (see Appendix One) involved asking participants to define, describe, and analyze male bonding, hierarchy, inter-male conflicts, fraternity rituals, stereotype, and sexual harassment issues.
In the ethnographer style, interview questions were often developed in a revolving an devolutionary fashion. Participants were often asked to comment on other fraternity member’s responses, and to elaborate on answers that they had already given. I solicited feedback from participants about my own interpretations and, at time even allowed some to read rough drafts of thesis chapters. Whenever possible, I would involve participants in dialogue about rituals of other fraternity houses, asking them if they had a similar process or procedure. Using this tactic, I was able to encourage fraternity members to talk about their own fraternity’s rituals which might otherwise be considered sacred.
I conducted interviews under a strict policy of confidentiality. Participants understood that they would not be asked to reveal any secret rituals and that their personal name or fraternity name would not be referenced. Furthermore, participants were informed that no file would be maintained that could later link or identity them in this research. Each participant was offered an opportunity for a second interview in order to suggest modifications for interpretations, accuracy, and clarity.
Since I did not maintain a file of names or phone numbers, it was the participant’s responsibility to contact me for a second interview. Despite this limitation, five out of the twelve participants contacted me about my research at a later point. The second interviews were informal, unstructured, and seldom taped. There was considerable interest by fraternity members about how other participants answered my question, suggesting potential to bring fraternity members together for dialogue in a future project.