Using card-based games to enhance the value of semi-structured interviews

Jennifer Rowley

Manchester Metropolitan University

Rosalind Jones

Bangor University

Magda Vassiliou

Manchester Metropolitan University

Sonya Hanna

Bangor University

Introduction

Semi-structured interviews are widely used in qualitative research. They are particularly beneficial for research (and consultancy, and evidence gathering) where there are clear questions arising from practice or from the previous body of knowledge on a topic. They are a particularly useful approach for encouraging well-informed managers, professionals and other practitioners to report on their attitudes, experiences, knowledge and understanding of work practice and processes. This paper reports on one aspect of the research methodology adopted in three small-scale research projects where responses were being elicited from expert informants. These studies all incorporated an adapted version of the board game approach suggested and used by Muethel and Hoegl (2007) in investigating trust in international innovation teams. While the use of cards as prompts is common practice within commercial qualitative market research for activities such as brand mapping, word and picture association exercises, and prioritisation exercises, there is no mention of this in research methods textbooks, and no discussion of its applications and advantages. The essence of the card game method as used in the studies reported in this paper is simple: cards are created with words or images to represent the concepts or terms that are central to the topics in a semi-structured interview; the cards then act as visual cues to facilitate focus and prompt reflection. However, our experience suggests a range of benefits from this simple technique, including reduced interview bias and involvement, richer data sets and more straightforward analysis.