One of the most efficient methods of qualitative research is interview. It allows the researcher to gather in-depth qualitative information about the research participants through direct interaction.
A qualitative research approach is needed for research to be conducted on Saudi education. It is because the researcher has the option to interact with extensive range of participants.
The key research tool in semi-structured interviews is the researcher himself. He facilitates the interviewees to narrate their stories and experiences through the development of his questions and responsiveness to them.
It is of utter importance to interact with persons working on improving the education system and providing education to understand the real impact of westernisation on Saudi education. To have a better understanding of the attitudes, views and feelings of the participants the researchers must collect qualitative data from numerous sources which can be analysed properly.
It is useful for research to use the experience of the policy makers as they are capable of providing valuable insights into their practices and knowledge.
Semi-structured interviews are helpful in two ways. First, it helps in accepting the outlook of the respondants. Second the researcher may also acquire useful data about the participants’ perceptions (Silverman, 2013). The researcher can gather more information from face-to-face interviews. The participants may also express their attitudes and opinions from a policy makers’ perspective how he ideas of the west can affect the Saudi education.
Researchers should gain the insight of the teachers and head teachers of schools by conducting face-to-face semi-structured interviews. This is necessary because it is the teachers and head teachers who are responsible to adopting as well as implementing the western ideas. The important information that can be collected from the research participants by the researcher may prove to be useful in adding to the findings of the research (Silverman, 2013).The person researching will be in a better place to conduct the research effectively as he is in a situation to understand the observation of the research respondents. The researcher will be more thoughtful about the research regarding the ethical issues.
As the setting of the research is the Saudi Arabia, the initial draft of interview questions are prepared in English and then translated into Arabic. There are several types of translations as suggested by Maxwell (2012). They are: back translation, multiple-forward translation, statistical review and translation review done by bilingual judges. Brislin (1970) opined that back translation is an effective process off translation in cross-cultural translations and it was used for translating the English question to Arabic in this research. This method has been adopted by Al-Harbi (2007) and most of the Arabic researcher for their PhD studies. The process of back translation as explained by Brislin (1970) has four steps: (a) translation of the original script into target language; (b) check the grammar of the target transcript; (c) translating back to the original language to check it against it; and (d) pre-testing the translation before final application. The translation procedure starts with the selection of the appropriate characteristics that require translation. Maxwell (2012) said this process requires superior level of knowledge in both the original (English) and target language, proper cultural understanding of the target language and sound skills in developing interview questions. For this research, four bilingual individuals who have experience in translating research questions and expertise in English-Arabic translation were employed. The task of reassessing the researcher’s conversion of the survey questions from original to target language was assigned to the first expert as he specialised in English-Arabic translation. The outcome of this assessment was handed over to the second expert for checking the grammar and soundness of the translation. The other two experts back translated the transcript into the original language. They also check it against the initial transcript. The outcome of the conversion was thorough and the meanings of the questions were compatible to each other in both English and Arabic.
During the interviews, several notes were taken. At the end of the interview the participants were asked about any ambiguity, comments and criticisms about the questions. Such expressions of the pilot participants were useful in improving the questions further. It also helped in structuring the interview more logically for the main study. I got an opportunity to perform and carry out the semi structured interview techniques from the feedback.
There is possibility of distortion or loss of data because of nonexistence non-verbal and visual cues (Cohen et al., 2013).
The advantages are:
The geographical distance between the participants and the researcher at times prevents face-to-face interviews due to shortage of time (Anderson and Arsenault, 1998).
Feelings of embarrassment are reduced (Cohen et al., 2013) and honesty is encouraged (Anderson and Arsenault, 1998) in absence of face to face contact while asking sensitive or difficult questions.
Interviewing teachers, head teachers and policy makers in the comfort of their own homes diminished the possibilities of interruption and thus, they could reflect better on the questions asked.