The Semi-Structured Interviewing Method in a Qualitative Study Examining Complementary and Alternative Medicine Providers’ Knowledge Discourse


This case draws upon my larger research project examining the complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) provider’s representations of their field of knowledge, their understandings of the body, and how CAM providers describe the relationship between patient experiences and the body. The goal of the case presented here was to examine how diverse understandings of health are reflected in the knowledge and practice of CAM providers and how their communication articulates particular understandings of health and wellness for different audiences including patients and providers from biomedical and integrative medicine models. I employed the in-depth, semi-structured interview to cultivate a rich understanding of the complexities underlying CAM providers’ beliefs, perceptions, and descriptions of their knowledge and practice. As a descriptive, exploratory study seeking to explicate complex inter-relationships, this case illustrates the steps I took to balance self-reflexivity, data collection, and description with my attentiveness to questions of participant voice, interpretation, and context. I describe how I balanced my positionality as researcher with cultivating a self-awareness of my role as an instrument for registering observations, noting participant gestures, and constituting the space along with the participant during interviews and during interpretation. This case provides pointers to identify how semi-structured interviewing can provide an opportunity to illuminate a particular research context and the important challenges and considerations that shape the process of gathering rich, contextual, deep data.

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