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Probing in qualitative research interviews: theory and practice

Probing in qualitative research interviews: theory and practice

Robinson, Oliver ORCID: 0000-0002-6758-2223 (2023) Probing in qualitative research interviews: theory and practice. Qualitative Research in Psychology. ISSN 1478-0887 (Print), 1478-0895 (Online) (doi:

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The effective use of probing in research interviews is central to eliciting rich, deep data from participants. Probing achieves access to this extra level of detail and depth via verbal prompts to clarify, elaborate, illustrate or explain a prior answer to an interview question that the participant has already given. The theory that underlies the practice of probing has been minimally explored in past literature, and the means of distinguishing probes in taxonomic form has received relatively scant attention, particularly in the past twenty years. This article presents a four-part theoretical framework of narrative theory, self-disclosure theory, autobiographical memory theory and attribution theory, which together provide a sense-making structure for why probing works and why it is important to research interviews. I then summarise a taxonomic model, entitled the DICE approach to probing. DICE is an acronym that stands for four types of probe based on first letters: 1. Descriptive Detail Probes, 2. Idiographic Memory Probes, 3. Clarifying Probes, 4. Explanatory Probes. An example of using probes within a research interview is presented to show these probes in action, followed by a critical consideration of probing in relation to Yardley’s evaluation criteria for qualitative research.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: probing; self-disclosure; autobiographical memory; data collection; interviewing
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences
Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences > School of Human Sciences (HUM)
Last Modified: 11 Sep 2023 12:35

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