Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 321

MAKING MEANING IN RESEARCH

INTERVIEWS:

A CRITICAL DISCOURSE ANALYSIS

Thesis submitted for the degree of


Doctor of Philosophy
February 1995
Lancaster University

Katherine Doncaster
B.A. (Hons.) Oxford Polytechnic
Katherine Doncaster
B.A. (Hons.) Oxford Polytechnic

MAKING MEANING IN RESEARCH INTERVIEWS:


DISCURSIVE PRACTICES IN INTERVIEWS WITH MATURE
STUDENTS

Thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy


February 1995
Lancaster University

ABSTRACT

This is a data-based study in which I use a Critical Discourse Analysis framework


to explore how meanings are discursively constructed in a group of one to one
research interviews. The interviews were conducted by me for the purpose of
gathering information about the initial university experience of thirteen new
mature undergraduate students. I describe the analytical framework and my
methods of data collection in Part I. Parts II and III contain analyses which
together comprise a set of intersecting 'takes' on the discursive practices in these
research interviews.

In Part III focus on interpersonal meanings and relations of power. I develop my


analyses around a distinction between two sets of discursive practices which
realise power in contrasting ways in the interviews: informal conversational
practices and practices associated with the institutionally defined roles of
interviewer and interviewee. In Part III I focus on meanings generated by the
interviewees about their experience. In my analyses here I explore how the
interviewees drew on their own and other people's experiences, and how they
discursively constructed them in narratives and represented discourse.

I argue that the discursive complexities which I expose in these interviews are of
general interest to social scientists because of the widespread use of research
interviews to collect data about people's lives.
MAKING MEANING IN RESEARCH INTERVIEWS:
DISCURSIVE PRACTICES IN INTERVIEWS WITH MATURE
STUDENTS

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Figures and Tables xii


Acknowledgements xiii
Conventions for the presentation of quotations and references xiv

PART I
THE RESEARCH INTERVIEW:
SOCIAL PRACTICE AND DATA COLLECTION SITE

INTRODUCTION TO PART I 1

CHAPTER 1
AIMS AND ANALYTICAL FRAMEWORK

1.1. INTRODUCTION 3
1.2. AIMS OF THESIS 3
1.3. APROACHES TO THE ANALYSIS OF DISCOURSE 4
1.3.1. LANGUAGE AS 'DISCOURSE' 6
1.3.2. THE RELATION OF DISCOURSE TO OTHER
SOCIAL PRACTICES 6
1.4. A RANGE OF TYPES OF ANALYSIS 8
1.4.1. THE DISCURSIVE EVENT AS TEXT 8
1.4.2. THE DISCURSIVE EVENT AS DISCURSIVE
PRACTICE 9
1.4.3. THE DISCURSIVE EVENT AS SOCIAL
PRACTICE 10
1.5. THE INTERVIEWS AND THEIR INSTITUTIONAL
CONTEXT - THE UNIVERSITY 11
1.5.1. CONVERSATIONAL TENDENCIES IN THE
ORDER OF DISCOURSE OF 'THE UNIVERSITY' 12
1.5.2. INTRODUCTORY WEEK: MULTIPLE
POSITIONING OF NEW STUDENTS BY A RANGE OF
DISCURSIVE PRACTICES 13
1.6. INTERVIEWS: A TOOL FOR QUALITATIVE SOCIAL
SCIENCE RESEARCH 15
1.7. OUTLINE OF THESIS 18
1.8. PERSONAL COMMENTS ON THE THESIS 20
1.8.1. BACKGROUND INTERESTS 20

1
1.8.2. SUBJECTIVE INVOLVEMENT IN THE
RESEARCH 21
1.8.3. WRITING THE THESIS 21
1.9. CONCLUSION 21a

CHAPTER 2
COLLECTION OF DATA AND ETHICAL ISSUES

2.1. INTRODUCTION 22
2.2. QUALITATIVE RESEARCH METHODS 23
2.2.1. QUALITATIVE VERSUS QUANTITATIVE
METHODS 23
2.2.2. THIS PROJECT - A QUALITATIVE ONE 24
2.2.3. VALIDITY, GENERALISABILITY AND
OBSERVER EFFECTS 24
2.3. DATA 25
2.3.1. DATA COLLECTION 26
2.3.1.1. Initial area of interest 26
2.3.1.2. Pilot studies 27
2.3.1.3. Preliminary sampling criteria for main
study 28
2.3.1.4. Summary of data collection procedures 29
2.3.1.5. Expanded description of data collection
procedures 30
2.3.2. THE DATA SET 32
2.3.2.1. A change of focus 32
2.3.2.2. The final data set 33
2.3.2.3. Biodata for the participants in the final
sample 34
2.3.3. THE DATA AS TRANSCRIPTS 36
2.4. ETHICAL ISSUES 39
2.4.1. ETHICS AND INTERVIEWS 40
2.4.2. ISSUES RAISED BY DATA COLLECTION
PROCEDURES 41
2.4.2.1. The unintentional selecting out of certain
participants 41
2.4.2.2. The unintentional selecting in of certain
participants 42
2.4.2.3. Informed consent and changes in research
focus 43
2.4.3. ISSUES RAISED BY MY RELATIONS WITH
THE PARTICIPANTS 45
2.4.3.1. Research on, for or with participants 45
2.4.3.2. My own conflict over relationships with
participants 46
2.4.4. ISSUES CONCERNING ANONYMITY 47
2.4.4.1. Reasons for my concern with anonymity 47

11
2.4.4.2. Possible ways of resolving the anonymity
issue 48
2.4.4.3. Why I did not check with interviewees once
I had changed the focus of my research 49
2.4.4.4. The action I took to resolve the issue 49
2.5. CONCLUSION 50

PART II
POWER AND INTERPERSONAL MEANINGS IN THE
INTERVIEWS

INTRODUCTION TO PART II 52

CHAPTER 3
POWER RELATIONS IN THE INTERVIEWS

3.1. INTRODUCTION 54
3.1.1. AIMS OF THIS CHAPTER 54
3.1.2. ANALYSING SOCIAL INTERACTIONS OF
WHICH I WAS A PART 55
3.2. THE RESEARCH INTERVIEW: A CONVERSATION
WITH A PURPOSE 56
3.2.1. DEFINING THE RESEARCH INTERVIEW 56
3.2.2. DEFINING MY INTERVIEWS 57
3.3. THE RESEARCH INTERVIEW: POWER RELATIONS
AND DISCOURSE 58

3.3.1. CONVERSATION IN INTERVIEWS 59


3.3.2. INSTITUTIONALLY DEFINED DISCURSIVE
PRACTICES 60
3.3.3. COMPLEXITY OF THE POWER RELATIONS IN
MY INTERVIEWS 61
3.4. OVERVIEW OF THE INTERACTIONAL STRUCTURE OF
THE INTERVIEWS 62
3.4.1. STAGE 1: PRELIMINARIES 63
3.4.1.1. What the interviewer is 'allowed' to do 63
3.4.1.2. The interview agenda 64
3.4.2. STAGE 2: STARTING THE INTERVIEW
PROPER 66
3.4.3. STAGE 3: THE INTERVIEW PROPER 67
3.4.4. STAGE 4: WINDING DOWN 68
3.4.5. STAGE 5: FURTHER CONTACT 68
3.5. CONCLUSION 69

CHAPTER 4
INTERACTIONAL CONTROL

4.1. INTRODUCTION 70
4.2. THE ANALYSIS OF QUESTIONS 71

111
4.2.1. CODING CATEGORIES 73
4.2.2. RESULTS: SPREAD OF INTERROGATIVE
TYPES ACROSS THE DATA SET 75
4.3. QUESTIONS AND INTERACTIONAL CONTROL 78
4.3.1. INTERVIEWER QUESTIONS: NON-POLAR 78
4.3.1.1. Non-polar questions give new information 78
4.3.1.2. The obligation to impart new information 80
4.3.2. INTERVIEWER QUESTIONS: POLAR 81
4.3.2.1. Extended rather than minimum responses 81
4.3.2.2. Polar questions that gave an expected
minimum answer 82
4.3.2.3. Reasons for extended rather than minimal
responses 84
4.3.3. INTERVIEWEE QUESTIONS 85
4.3.4. QUESTIONS AND TOPIC SHIFTS 89
4.3.4.1. Abrupt shift of topics 90
4.3.4.2. Incremental shifts of topic 90
4.4. FORMULATION 92
4.4.1. DEFINITIONS DRAWN FROM
CONVERSATIONAL ANALYSIS 93
4.4.2. FORMULATION AS A MEANS OF JOINTLY
CREATING MEANINGS 94
4.4.3. FORMULATION AS A MEANS OF
INTERACTIONAL CONTROL 95
4.4.3.1. Formulations by the interviewer 96
4.4.3.2. Formulations by the interviewees 97
4.5. CONCLUSION 99

CHAPTER 5
SELF DISCLOSURE

5.1 INTRODUCTION 100


5.1.1. DEFINING SELF-DISCLOSURE 101
5.1.2. FUNCTIONS OF SELF DISCLOSURE 102
5.1.3. SELF DISCLOSURE IN MY INTERVIEWS: AN
ASPECT OF THE POWER RELATIONS 103
5.2. CHARACTERISING SELF DISCLOSURE IN THE
INTERVIEW DATA 104
5.2. I . REASONS FOR NOT QUANTIFYING SELF
DISCLOSURE 104
5.2.1.1. Drawing in a range of topics 105
5.2.1.2. The elaboration of earlier self disclosure 106
5.2.1.3. Linguistic markers of self disclosure 107
5.2.1.4. Characterising self disclosure on several
parameters 108
DEPTH 109
5.2.2.1. Importance of the disclosure to the
interviewee 110

iv
5.2.2.2. Individual differences 111
5.2.3. VALENCY 111
5.2.4. EXPLICIT SELF REFERENCE 112
5.2.5. DESCRIPTIVE AND EVALUATIVE SELF
DISCLOSURE 114
5.3. POWER RELATIONS AND THE INTERVIEWEES' USE
OF SELF DISCLOSURE 115
5.3.1. SELF DISCLOSURE IN A PUBLIC DOMAIN
CONTEXT 116
5.3.2. VOLUNTARY AND ELICITED SELF-
DISCLOSURE 118
5.3.2.1. Directly elicited self disclosure 119
5.3.2.2. 'Textually determined' self disclosure 120
5.3.2.3. Voluntary self disclosure 120
5.3.2.4. The role of the recipient of self disclosure 121
5.4. POWER RELATIONS AND THE INTERVIEWER'S USE
OF SELF DISCLOSURE 123
5.4.1. PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS ABOUT
INTERVIEWER SELF DISCLOSURE 124
5.4.1.1. Self disclosures about my research interests 124
5.4.1.2. Complexities in my role as interviewer 126
5.4.2. RAPPORT: INSTRUMENTAL USE OF
CONVERSATION AND 'GENUINENESS' 127
5.4.2.1. The instrumentality of rapport 128
5.4.2.2. Rapport and 'genuineness' 128
5.4.2.3. Effects of the reciprocity norm 130
5.5. CONCLUSION 132

PART III
DRAWING ON EXPERIENCE:
INTERVIEWEE MEANING MAKING PRACTICES

INTRODUCTION TO PART III 134

CHAPTER 6
TOPICS OF THE INTERVIEWEES' TALK

6.1. INTRODUCTION 137


6.2. METHOD OF CODING TOPICS OF THE INTERVIEWEES'
TALK 138
6.2.1. INTRODUCING THE METHOD 138
6.2.2. TOPICS PRESUMED PRESENT IN THE DATA 138
6.2.3. THE TOPIC CATEGORIES WHICH EMERGED
FROM THE DATA 140
6.2.4. PROBLEMS WITH THE METHOD 143
6.2.4.1. The close juxtaposition of topics 143
6.2.4.2. Using the topic categories to enhance other
analyses in Part III 144
6.2.5. HIGHER ORDER ABSTRACTIONS IN THE
DATA 145
6.2.5.1. A time dimension: past, present and future 145
6.2.5.2. Public and private domains dimension 146
6.3. TOPIC CATEGORY: EMPLOYMENT 147
6.3.1. COMPARISONS BETWEEN EMPLOYMENT
AND UNIVERSITY 148
6.3.2. INFLUENCES OF PRIOR EMPLOYMENT ON
DOING A DEGREE 149
6.3.2.1. Building on past work experience 149
6.3.2.2. Dissatisfaction with work 150
6.3.3. INTERVIEWEES' DEGREE IN RELATION TO
FUTURE EMPLOYMENT 150
6.3.3.1. Career orientation 151
6.3.3.2. Future work not main reason for degree 151
6.4. TOPIC CATEGORY: EDUCATION 151
6.4.1. COMPARISONS OF UNIVERSITY AND PAST
EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCES 152
6.4.2. INFLUENCES OF FURTHER EDUCATION
EXPERIENCE ON DOING A DEGREE 153
6.4.2.1. F.E. College developed interest in coming
to university 153
6.4.2.2. F.E. qualifications a necessary prerequisite
for university 153
6.4.3. INITIAL EXPERIENCES OF UNIVERSITY 154
6.4.3.1. Comparisons with traditional age students 154
6.4.3.2. Perceptions of academic aspects of
university life 155
6.5. TOPIC CATEGORY: OTHER PEOPLE'S EDUCATIONAL
EXPERIENCE 157
6.5.1. MEMBERS OF THE EDUCATIONAL DOMAIN 157
6.5.1.1. University students 157
6.5.1.2. F.E. students 158
6.5.1.3. Teaching staff 159
6.5.2 MEMBERS OF THE EMPLOYMENT DOMAIN 159
6.5.3. MEMBERS OF INTERVIEWEES' FAMILIES 160
6.5.4. GENERAL FEEDBACK ABOUT DOING A
DEGREE 160
6.6. TOPIC CATEGORY: HOME LIFE 161
6.6.1. ORGANISATIONAL ISSUES RESULTING FROM
STARTING A DEGREE 162
6.6.2. FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS AND DOING A
DEGREE 162
6.6.2.1. Emotional support for interviewee from
family 163
6.6.2.2. Family pressures on the interviewee 163
6.6.2.3. Interviewees' feelings of guilt or selfishness 164
6.6.2.4. Interviewees' children and doing a degree 165

vi
6.7. TOPIC CATEGORY: SENSE OF SELF 165
6.7.1. PERSONAL FULFILMENT REASONS FOR
DOING A DEGREE 165
6.7.1.1. Wish to learn 166
6.7.1.2. Self discovery and personal change 166
6.7.2. FITTING IN AT THE UNIVERSITY 167
6.7.3. THE ISSUE OF SELF CONFIDENCE 168
6.7.3.1. Confidence develops with experience 168
6.7.3.2. Ambivalent feelings 168
6.7.3.3. Rising to the challenge 169
6.7.3.4. Realising intellectual capabilities 169
6.8. CONCLUSION 169

CHAPTER 7
TYPES OF PERSONAL EXPERIENCE NARRATIVE IN THE
INTERVIEWS

7.1. INTRODUCTION 171


7.1.1. REASONS FOR ANALYSING INTERVIEWEES'
NARRATIVES 172
7.1.2. OUTLINE OF CHAPTER 174
7.2. DEFINING 'NARRATIVE' FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS
CHAPTER 175
7.2.1. DEFINITION OF NARRATIVE 175
7.2.2. POLANYI'S TYPOLOGY OF NARRATIVES 175
7.3. CODING THE NARRATIVES IN THE DATA: CRITERIA 177
7.3.1. TYPE OF NARRATIVE 178
7.3.1.1. 'Concurrent generic narratives' 179
7.3.1.2. 'Stories' 180
7.3.1.3. 'Plans' 180
7.3.1.4. 'Hypothetical narratives' 181
7.3.2. TOPICS OF NARRATIVES 181
7.3.3. ADDITIONAL CRITERIA 182
7.3.3.1. Indications of length 182
7.3.3.2. Other 182
7.4. RESULTS 183
7.4.1. OVERVIEW OF THE NARRATIVES CODED BY
TYPE AND TOPIC ACROSS THE DATA SET 183
7.4.2. CONCURRENT GENERIC NARRATIVES 185
7.4.3. STORIES 187
7.4.3.1. Stories about the interviewees' education 187
7.4.3.2. Stories about other people's educational
experience 189
7.4.3.3. Stories about sense of self 189
7.4.3.4. Stories about employment 190
7.4.3.5. Stories about home life 191
7.4.4. PLANS 191

vii
7.5. THE CASE OF HYPOTHETICAL NARRATIVES 193
7.5.1. NARRATIVES ABOUT POSSIBLE FUTURES 193
7.5.2. HYPOTHETICAL NARRATIVES ABOUT
EMPLOYMENT 194
7.5.3. HYPOTHETICAL NARRATIVES ABOUT
EDUCATION 195
7.5.3.1. Academic work 196
7.5.3.2. The university institution 196
7.5.4. HYPOTHETICAL NARRATIVES ABOUT HOME
LIFE 198
7.5.5. HYPOTHETICAL NARRATIVES ABOUT SENSE
OF SELF 199
7.6. CONCLUSION 199

CHAPTER 8
CONNIE'S STORIES - DRAWING ON AN EVERYDAY WORLD
OF EXPERIENCE

8.1 INTRODUCTION 201


8.1.1. THE TEXT FOR ANALYSIS 202
8.1.2. OUTLINE OF THE CHAPTER 203
8.2. THE 'TEXTUAL' FUNCTION: DISCUSSION OF LABOV'S
METHOD OF NARRATIVE ANALYSIS 204
8.2.1. LABOV'S STRUCTURE OF NARRATIVES 205
8.2.1.1. 'Narrative clauses' 205
8.2.1.2. 'Free clauses' 206
8.2.2. APPLYING THE LABOVIAN METHOD 207
8.2.3. THE TEN STORIES 207
8.2.4. TEXTUAL FEATURES OF THE STORIES 209
8.3. THE 'INTERPERSONAL' FUNCTION: MEANINGS
ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER-INTERVIEWEE
RELATIONSHIP 211
8.3.1. THE OTHER ELEMENTS: EVALUATION,
ABSTRACT, ORIENTATION, CODA 711
8.3.2. SEMANTIC LINKS BETWEEN STORIES 213
8.3.3. THE ORIENTATION OF NARRATIVES TO TWO
CONTEXTS 215
8.4. THE 'IDEATIONAL' FUNCTION: REPRESENTING A
FAMILIAR WORLD 717
8.4.2. PERIPHERALISING THE ACADEMIC 218
8.4.3. TALKING ABOUT TALK 219
8.4.4. PROCESS TYPES 270
8.4.4.1. Mental and verbal processes: feeling and
saying 221
8.4.4.2. Material processes: human participants do
everyday things 220
8.4.5. SIGNIFICANCE OF REPRESENTING THE
FAMILIAR 222

viii
8.5. CONCLUSION 223
8.6. CONNIE'S TEXT 224

CHAPTER 9
DISCOURSE REPRESENTATION - INTRODUCTION

9.1. INTRODUCTION 227


9.2. DEFINING DISCOURSE REPRESENTATION 229
9.2.1. A CONTINUUM OF MODES OF DISCOURSE
REPRESENTATION 229
9.2.1.1. The Narrative Report of Discourse Acts,
(NRDA) 231
9.2.1.2. Indirect Discourse, (ID) 232
9.2.1.3. Free Indirect Discourse, (FID) 233
9.2.1.4. Direct Discourse, (DD) 234
9.2.1.5. Free Direct Discourse, (FDD) 235
9.2.2. DIFFICULTIES WITH DISTINGUISHING
BETWEEN MODES 236
9.2.2.1. The representation of thought 237
9.2.2.2. Borderline cases between the modes 238
9.2.2.3. The free modes: FDD and FID 239
9.2.3. PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS IN
RECOGNISING INSTANCES OF DISCOURSE
REPRESENTATION 240
9.3. DISCOURSE REPRESENTATION AS AN ASPECT OF
INTERTEXTUALITY 241
9.3.1. THE DIALOGIC RELATION OF
REPRESENTING AND REPRESENTED DISCOURSE 242
9.3.2. ASSIMILATION AND FAITHFULNESS TO THE
ANTERIOR DISCOURSE 243
9.3.2.1. Representing the university's written
literature 244
9.3.2.2. Representing the interviewee's own voice
or the interviewer's voice 245
9.3.3. 'CONSTRUCTED DISCOURSE' 247
9.3.4. INTERDISCURSIVITY - DRAWING ON
DISCOURSE TYPES 250
9.4. CONCLUSION 252

CHAPTER 10
DISCOURSE REPRESENTATION - REALISING POINTS OF
VIEW ON THE INTERVIEWEES' EXPERIENCE

10.1. INTRODUCTION 254


10.2. SUMMARY OF ALL INSTANCES OF DISCOURSE
REPRESENTATION IN THE DATA SET 254

ix
10.3. INSTANCES OF DISCOURSE REPRESENTATION
WHICH SPECIFICALLY REALISED POINTS OF VIEW ON
THE INTERVIEWEES' EXPERIENCE 257
10.3.1. FUNCTIONS OF DISCOURSE
REPRESENTATION IN THE DATA 258
10.3.2. THE INSTANCES REALISING POINTS OF
VIEW 258
10.3.3. THE REMAINING INSTANCES OF
DISCOURSE REPRESENTATION IN THE DATA 259
10.4. MODES OF DISCOURSE REPRESENTATION 260
10.4.1. FREQUENCY OF USE OF THE DIFFERENT
MODES OF DISCOURSE REPRESENTATION 261
10.4.1.1. Representation of thought 262
10.4.1.2. Representation of speech 263
10.4.2. THE RELATIONSHIP OF REPRESENTING
AND REPRESENTED DISCOURSE IN THE
DIFFERENT MODES 265
10.4.2.1. Oppositional dialogues in Direct
Discourse, (DD) 265
10.4.2.2. Reporting clauses 267
10.4.2.3. Interviewee evaluations of their
represented discourse 268
10.4.2.4. Free Direct Discourse, (FDD) 270
10.5. TOPICS ADDRESSED USING DISCOURSE
REPRESENTATION 271
10.6. WHOSE DISCOURSE WAS REPRESENTED: THE
VOICES INTERVIEWEES DREW ON 274
10.6.1. THE RANGE OF VOICES DRAWN ON BY THE
INTERVIEWEES 274
10.6.2. PUBLIC AND PRIVATE DOMAIN VOICES 277
10.6.3. INTERVIEWEES' OWN VOICES 278
10.6.3.1. Ambivalence realised as internal
dialogues -)78
10.6.3.2. Representing single points of view 280
10.6.3.3. The interviewee as participant in reported
conversation 280
10.6.4. VOICES WITH OFFICIAL EXPERTISE: THE
UNIVERSITY 281
10.6.4.1. A range of specific university voices 281
10.6.4.2. Hypothetical voice of university authority 284
10.6.4.3. Other voices of official expertise: school
and college 285
10.6.5. VOICES WITH INFORMAL EXPERTISE 286
10.6.6. UNNAMED VOICES 288
10.6.6.1. People 'in general' 288
10.6.6.2. Hearsay 288
10.6.6.3. Obfuscation of agency 289
10.7. CONCLUSION 290

x
CONCLUSION

CHAPTER 11
REFLECTING ON APPROACH FOLLOWED IN THESIS

11.1. INTRODUCTION 291


11.2. REFLECTING ON USEFULNESS OF APPROACH FOR
SOCIAL SCIENTISTS 291
11.2.1. WHAT INTERVIEWEES TALK ABOUT AND
HOW THEY DO SO 291
11.2.2. THE SOCIAL CONTEXT OF INTERVIEWEE
MEANING MAKING - THE INTERVIEW 293
11.2.3. THE DISCURSIVE PRACTICES
INTERVIEWEES USE FOR REPRESENTING
INFORMATION/DATA 294
11.3. REFLECTING ON THE RESEARCH PROCESS 295
11.4. CODA 297

BIBLIOGRAPHY 298

APPENDIX 1 301
APPENDIX 2 304

xi
FIGURES AND TABLES

Figure 1.1: Chapter by chapter outline of thesis 19

Table 2.1.: Table summarising data collection procedures 29

Table 2.2.: Biodata for the 13 interviewees 34

Table 4.1.: Table showing number and type of interrogatives asked by


interviewees and interviewer 76

Figure 6.1.:
The topic categories 142

Table 7.1.: Narratives in the data set, coded by type and topic 184

Figure 9.1.: Continuum of discourse representation, Leech and Short,


(1981:324), showing cline of reporter interference 230

Table 10.1.: Table showing both total number of instances of discourse


representation and number/percentage of instances used to represent points
of view, related to length of each interview. 256

Table 10.2.: Table showing number of instances of interviewees' use of


the different modes to represent points of view on their experience 261

Table 10.3.: Table showing topics addressed in instances of discourse


representation 272

Table 10.4.: Table showing range of voices the interviewees represented


and number of times they drew on them 275

xii
Acknowledgements

I would like to thank all the students who were so willing to talk to me about their

university experience when I was gathering material for this project. My thanks

also to the students and members of staff whose seminars I observed.

I would also like to thank the two people who supervised me during my time as a
research student, both of whom gave me generous amounts of their time and

expertise. Roz was a consistent source of encouragement and sound advice, while

Norman's writings developed my interest in the concept of 'discourse' in the first

place.

I am also grateful to all those whose heart-warming kindnesses, both small and
large, have kept me going. In particular, I would like to thank Helen, Faith, Roz,

Helen, Jodi, who, among many others, listened to me, opened their homes to me,

reminded me that there is more to life than a PhD. Finally, I would like to thank
my parents for their financial help and Lancaster University for awarding me a

grant.
Conventions for the presentation of quotations and
references

Quotations from book and articles are inset and enclosed in quotation marks. I

have used the following notation conventions, which also apply to quotations from

the data set:

[word] -adds word or replaces proform


to complete sense
••• -deleted text

Quotations from the interview transcripts are generally inset. These quotations are
in bold type with the speaker represented at the left hand margin by the first three

letters of her or his name, for example, 'Pen' for Penny, and 'It' for myself, as the

interviewer. I have also used the following notation conventions, (after Atkinson

and Heritage, 1984:viii):

( ) -Unclear speech
= -Contiguous speech between participants
[ [ -Non-speech sounds
. -Short hesitation
-Long pause, (over 3 secs. approximately)
[ -Overlapping
] speech
[name] -Deleted proper name of person or place

Quotations from the transcripts which are very short remain within the body of the

text. These quotations are in italics and followed by line number references.

Cross references to other parts of the thesis always refer to the most inclusive
section. So, if I refer to chapter 2, section 2.4.1., my reference includes the sub-

divisions within that section: section 2.4.1.1., 2.4.1.2. and so on.

xiv
-PART I -

THE RESEARCH INTERVIEW:

SOCIAL PRACTICE AND DATA COLLECTION SITE

INTRODUCTION TO PART I

In Part I I introduce the analytical framework for the thesis and the data set I use

for the analyses in Parts II and III.

Generally theses begin with a review of the literature. However, this study

comprises a constellation of 'takes', from various analytical perspectives, on how

meanings are discursively constructed in a group of research interviews. The

relevant literature pertains to these various perspectives. Consequently, I outline

my general analytical framework in chapter 1, and in each of the chapters in


which I offer an analysis of the interview data I discuss literature specifically

relevant to that perspective.

So, in chapter 1 I introduce Fairclough's (1989, 1992), approach to discourse

analysis which underpins the thesis as a whole. I discuss here the concept of
discourse as a type of social practice, and how it may be analysed. I introduce 'the

interview' - the site at which I collected my data. I also provide an overview of

the aims and content of the thesis.

In chapter 2 I turn to the interview data I analyse. In this study I treat interviews

as a type of social practice which shapes the meanings made in them - not simply
as a site for the collection of data. However, in this chapter I describe how I
collected the interview data. I also discuss the ethical issues that arose from the

1
methods I used to do so. These are issues which have general significance for

social scientists, because of the frequency with which interviews are used as a

means of gathering data. My concern here with ethical issues acts as a bridge to

my focus in Part II on interpersonal meanings in the interviews.

2
CHAPTER 1

AIMS AND ANALYTICAL FRAMEWORK

1.1. INTRODUCTION
1.2. AIMS OF THESIS
1.3. APPROACHES TO THE ANALYSIS OF DISCOURSE
1.3.1. LANGUAGE AS 'DISCOURSE'
1.3.2. THE RELATION OF DISCOURSE TO OTHER SOCIAL PRACTICES
1.4. A RANGE OF TYPES OF ANALYSIS
1.4.1. THE DISCURSIVE EVENT AS TEXT
1.4.2. THE DISCURSIVE EVENT AS DISCURSIVE PRACTICE
1.4.3. THE DISCURSIVE EVENT AS SOCIAL PRACTICE
1.5. THE INTERVIEWS AND THEIR INSTITUTIONAL CONTEXT - THE UNIVERSITY
1.5.1. CONVERSATIONAL TENDENCIES IN THE ORDER OF DISCOURSE OF
'THE UNIVERSITY'
1.5.2. INTRODUCTORY WEEK: MULTIPLE POSITIONING OF NEW STUDENTS
BY A RANGE OF DISCURSIVE PRACTICES
1.6. INTERVIEWS: A TOOL FOR QUALITATIVE SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH
1.7. OUTLINE OF THESIS
1.8. PERSONAL COMMENTS ON THE THESIS
1.8.1. BACKGROUND INTERESTS
1.8.2. SUBJECTIVE INVOLVEMENT IN THE RESEARCH
1.8.3. WRITING THE THESIS
1.9. CONCLUSION

1.1. INTRODUCTION

In this chapter, I outline the aims of the thesis. I then discuss the theoretical

approach I take in it, in order to provide a broad context for the more specific
theoretical concerns associated with the analyses in Parts II and III. I end with a

chapter by chapter summary of the thesis, and some personal reflections on it.

1.2. AIMS OF THESIS

The data for this study are sixteen one to one research interviews which I
conducted with mature undergraduate students, newly arrived at Lancaster

University in September 1992. These interviews were unstructured invitations for

the students to talk about their experience of the university. My initial aim in
interviewing new members of the university was to explore how they discursively

constructed their initial experience of it. I discuss this in more detail in chapter 2.

3
This study is an exploration of how meanings are discursively realised in this

group of research interviews. My general aims in the three parts of the thesis are

as follows. In Part I I discuss Fairclough's, (1989, 1992), framework for the

analysis of discourse which I use in this project, and the collection of the

interview data I analyse. Parts II and III of the thesis comprise the analyses

themselves which, as I have said, form a constellation of 'takes' on the research

interviews from different analytical perspectives. In Part II I consider the

interviews as social interactions in which relations of power between interviewer

and interviewee shaped the discursive construction of meaning. My focus here is

on how meanings were generated from interpersonal elements of the interviews.

In Part III my focus includes the ideational meanings of what is usually taken as

the 'content' of research interviews, that is, what interviewees say in them. But I

also discuss how the interviewees constructed those meanings, by analysing two

discursive practices they frequently employed to draw other experiences into their
talk about starting at university - narratives and the representation of discourse.

In brief, my aim is to expose some of the complexity of how meanings were

generated in the specific social context of these research interviews. It is

significant for social scientific research generally that 'data' collected from
research interviews is the product of both interpersonal as well as ideational

elements, as I show in this thesis. A more limited aim, but one similarly oriented

to social science methodology, is to highlight difficulties in the actual practice of

applying analytical techniques to real data. I discuss this in each of my analyses.

1.3. APPROACHES TO THE ANALYSIS OF DISCOURSE

In this section, and in section 1.4. I outline Fairclough's approach to the analysis
of discourse which underpins this project. I note to start with that the concept of

'discourse' is a slippery one because of the number of ways in which it has been

4
defined and used, (Fairclough, 1992:3), both within Linguistics and in other social

science disciplines. However, the broad definition of discourse that I work with in

this thesis is language used in social situations, language as a form of social


practice, (ibid:63).

The analysis of discourse occurs in a range of disciplines and embraces many

theoretical and methodological frameworks, (Bublitz, 1990:262). Thompson,


(1984:99), suggests that approaches tend to have certain features in common: a

focus on the organisation of naturally occurring language; a focus on language

units above the sentence; and for 'critical' approaches such as Fairclough's, a focus

on how language is used for purposes of power and control in specific social
contexts. He notes that it is the

"supra-sentential concern of discourse analysis - its concern, that is, with


the interconnection of utterances in the flow of a conversation or a text -
[that] mark [discourse analysis] off from dominant perspectives in
linguistics, which have tended to focus on phonology and syntactic
structure", (ibid.).

Fairclough's approach, ('Critical Discourse Analysis' or CDA), developed out of


work in 'Critical Linguistics', (as presented, for example, in Hodge and Kress,
1993). Critical Linguistics focuses on the links between grammatical structure

and the social contexts in which language is used, and on

"the concern with power as the condition of social life, and the need for a
theory of language which incorporates this as a major premise", (Hodge
and Kress, 1993:xii).

Fairclough's approach is also concerned with critically analysing the interaction of

discursive practices with other social practices, though its focus is on broader

discursive processes than the emphasis in Critical Linguistics on grammatical


form. For the purposes of this thesis I use Fairclough's approach in the following

5
way. I situate my analyses within his three dimensional conception of discourse,

which I summarise in sections 1.3.1. and 1.3.2. below. In so far as a focus on


power is concerned, I discuss it in relation to the interview interaction, (see Part

II), but I do not focus on the relation of the interviews to wider social contexts.

1.3.1. LANGUAGE AS 'DISCOURSE'

Fairclough, (1993:136), breaks down the concept of 'discourse' by considering that


any instance of it, (a "discursive event"), has three dimensions. Firstly, a

discursive event is a written or spoken text. Secondly, it is an instance of

discursive practice, that is, the text is situated within the network of practices or
relationships that are involved in its production and interpretation. Signs of these

relationships are visible in the text: the process of production "leaves traces in the
text, and the interpretative process operates upon cues in the text", (ibid.).

Thirdly, it is an instance of social practice. In this dimension, Fairclough's


emphasis is on discourse and relations of power and domination. Using the terms

of Halliday and Hasan, (1985:46), he distinguishes between three levels of social

context in which power issues are manifested - the immediate 'context of situation'
in which a discursive event occurs; the level of the social practices associated with

the domain or institution in which it is embedded; and current trends in the larger

societal-level context. (Halliday and Hasan subsume the latter two under the term

'context of culture').

1.3.2. THE RELATION OF DISCOURSE TO OTHER SOCIAL


PRACTICES

An important concept in Fairclough's approach, and one which I return to in

section 1.4.2., is what Fairclough, borrowing from Foucault, calls "orders of


discourse", (1992:43). Fairclough uses the term to mean all the discursive

6
practices, (and the relations between them), which together establish the

conventions for language use in a particular institution. One of the ways in which
discourse is related to other social practices is that discourse conventions embody

particular world views and thus can help to reproduce social relations of

domination. Among the discursive practices which form the "elements" of orders
of discourse, Fairclough, distinguishes discourse types, that is, "ways of signifying

experience from a particular perspective", (which he argues should specify both

perspective and domain of experience, for example, 'holistic medical discourse');


and genres, that is, "uses of language associated with particular socially ratified

activity types, such as job interview", (1993:135).

Fairclough argues that the relationship of discourse, (as one type of social

practice), to other social practices is dynamic and mutually shaping. Discourse is

shaped and constrained by social processes and structures - by norms, institutional

practices and the like, but it is also involved in shaping them. He draws on

Halliday's, (1985), theory of the social 'meta-functions' of grammar, in order to

explain the shaping effect of discourse. These functions simultaneously express


different kinds of meaning in the grammar of texts. The "ideational" function
embodies representational meanings, that is, systems of beliefs, values and

knowledge, (i.e. what the clause is about). The "interpersonal" function realises

interactional meanings, (i.e. the meanings related to the clause as an exchange

between speaker/writer and listener/reader). Fairclough, (1992:64), divides the


interpersonal function into the "identity" and "relational" functions, which
concern social identities and social relations respectively. A discursive event

always has a grammatical realisation, and discourse shapes other social practices
by realising particular social meanings through these social meta-functions, (to

which I return in section 1.4.1.).

7
1.4. A RANGE OF TYPES OF ANALYSIS

Fairclough envisages each of the three dimensions of a discursive event - the

event as text, as an instance of discursive practice, and as an instance of social

practice - as supporting different, but related, types of analysis. In this section I


outline the types of analysis Fairclough, (ibid.:231), suggests for each of the three

dimensions of the discursive event, and the different theoretical concepts that

specifically underpin them. I then outline the particular types of analysis I have

done in this project at each level. It is important to point out that in this thesis,

where I analyse features of the discursive event of the interview, I relate analyses

associated with different levels. So, for example, in Chapter 4, my text dimension
analysis of interrogatives is related to my analysis of questions as an aspect of the

interactional control structure - part of the discursive practice dimension of the

interview.

Fairclough points out that analysis can move in many different directions. What

directions are taken is inevitably a selective process, the choices depending on the
emphases of the project. My own study is not an exhaustive analysis of one
particular feature, but incorporates a selected range of analyses, which provide a

number of intersecting 'takes' on the discursive event of the interview. As I have

said, the chapters devoted to analysis contain combinations of analyses from the
three different levels. Together these build up a complex picture of the social

situatedness of the interview texts which comprise the data set.

1.4.1. THE DISCURSIVE EVENT AS TEXT

Fairclough outlines a number of directions that the analysis of the text dimension

of a discursive event can take. His use of Halliday's socially oriented view of

texts, via the 'meta-functions' already mentioned, makes functional grammar an

8
appropriate method of grammatical analysis - to show up what choices have been
made in the text to signify social identities, relations and representations of the

world. (This can also include Halliday's 'textual' function to explore cohesive

relations between clauses - how the text is organised). Analysing the discursive

event as text can also involve analysis of vocabulary, and what choices in wording

have been made which may be ideologically significant.

The analyses I have done in my project at the textual level, focus on aspects of the
grammar of the interview texts. I explore certain interpersonal meanings by

analysing interrogative mood structures, (see chapter 4); and certain ideational

meanings by analysing selected transitivity structures, (see chapter 8).

1.4.2. THE DISCURSIVE EVENT AS DISCURSIVE PRACTICE

Analysis of the discursive practice dimension involves exploring how orders of

discourse are drawn upon in a discursive event. In other words, the focus is on

what elements of orders of discourse are used, (for example genres and discourse

types); what sorts of relationship exist between them; and especially whether
boundaries between orders of discourse, or elements in them, are maintained or

not. Fairclough theoretically underpins this dimension of the discursive event

with Kristeva's notion of intertextuality, (Kristeva, 1986:37), that is, the concept

that any text is more or less heterogeneous, constituted out of a mix of genres and
discourse types, out of a "mosaic of quotations", (ibid.). He distinguishes between

what he calls "manifest intertextuality", that is, the heterogeneity of a text, which

is the result of specific other texts being drawn on, and "interdiscursivity", where
the heterogeneous nature of a text is the result of the mix of genres and discourse

types that are drawn into it, (Fairclough, 1992:85).

9
I have already mentioned that Fairclough points out that texts embody markers of

the way they were produced, and indications about how they are to be interpreted.

The concept of intertextuality helps explain this because it highlights historical

aspects of text production - how they are constituted out of fragments of other,

pre-existing texts and conventions. It also highlights how readers/hearers always

interpret texts using interpretative frameworks established by their previous

experience of other texts. Analysis at this dimension of the discursive event

consequently focuses on the heterogeneous nature of texts. I analyse types of

narrative genre in chapters 7 and 8., and I devote chapters 9 and 10 to the analysis

of discourse representation, which is one aspect of manifest intertextuality.

Fairclough points out that another analytical focus for the discursive event as a

discursive practice is micro-social analysis - the detail of how people actually

produce and interpret individual texts. He suggests that the work of conversation

analysis and pragmatics is useful for this type of analysis. In my own study, I

draw on the work of conversation analysts to explore how interactional control

was achieved in the interview interactions, (chapter 4).

1.4.3. THE DISCURSIVE EVENT AS SOCIAL PRACTICE

As I have already pointed out, this dimension of the discursive event focuses on

its relation to different levels of social context, in particular to issues of power that

arise at these levels. Fairclough theoretically underpins this dimension of the

discursive event with Gramsci's concept of hegemony, that is, the "control of the

intellectual life of society by purely cultural means", (Kolakowski, quoted in

Waters, 1994:183). Fairclough summarises the concept of hegemony as a way of

theorising power which focuses on changing power relations in society.

Hegemonic dominance by one group is achieved and maintained not by coercion,

but by winning the consent of subordinate groups through legitimated authority.

10
One result of this is that the social power and authority established by the

dominant group is open to challenge by other groups. Power relations are thus

unstable. Fairclough points out that the usefulness of the concept of hegemony

for a social theory of discourse is that struggles for power are often struggles over

privileged discourses that embody the world view of dominant groups.

Analysis of this dimension of the discursive event involves large-scale social

analysis, that is identifying the immediate, institutional and societal contexts in

which the discursive event is embedded. It can also involve identifying the orders

of discourse associated with those social contexts, and how they are drawn on in

the discursive event. Additionally, it can involve discussion of how power


relations and ideologies are realised in texts, by looking at the choices that have

been made about what sorts of knowledge, social relationships and identities to

establish in them.

As I have said, (section 1.3.), I do not focus on the relation of the interviews to
societal-level social contexts. However, I devote Part II of this thesis, (chapters 3

to 5), to the analysis of discursive realisations of the unequal relations of power in


the interviews. This is a focus on their immediate social context. In order to
provide a theoretical underpinning for this analysis, I discuss the institutional-

level context of the interviews, (the university), in section 1.5. below.

1.5. THE INTERVIEWS AND THEIR INSTITUTIONAL


CONTEXT - THE UNIVERSITY

In this section and section 1.6. I turn my attention to the interview data I analyse

in this project. In this section I discuss the institutional context of the interviews -

the university setting in which they occurred - and in section 1.6. I discuss

interviews more generally as a social science research tool.

11
I distinguish here and for future reference between the university as part of the

'public' domain, (which includes both private and public sector institutions); and

the 'private' domain of everyday life, (Fairclough, 1994:267). To make sense of

the discursive complexity of the interviews - to understand how meaning was

made in them - it is necessary to bear in mind that they were a site where

discursive practices of both the public domain and the private domain, interacted.
In sections 1.5.1. and 1.5.2. below, I discuss this interplay between public and

private discursive practices more fully, as it is an important aspect of the

theoretical background, necessary for the contextualisation of subsequent

chapters.

1.5.1. CONVERSATIONAL TENDENCIES IN THE ORDER OF


DISCOURSE OF 'THE UNIVERSITY'

Universities, along with many other public domain institutions, are currently in a

period of change. There are changes such as the widening/increasing of access to


degree level education, reductions in government funding and the need to compete

for students. These changes affect the make-up of the university's order of
discourse. One way in which they do this is to weaken boundaries between the
university's order of discourse and the orders of discourse of other domains.

Fairclough gives as an example of this a commodifying trend widely apparent in


the public domain, including the universities, which involves "the reconstruction

of... public services on the analogy of commodity markets", (ibid.:253). He notes

that here there is a weakening of boundaries between market discourses and the

orders of discourse of public services such as education. This allows the


infiltration, or "colonisation" of these domains by "market discourses",
(ibid.:260). An aspect of this trend towards weakened boundaries between orders
of discourse which is of particular interest to me is what Fairclough terms a

"conversationalising of public discourse", (ibid.), that is, the incorporation of the

12
informal and conversational discourse practices usually associated with the private

domain into the public domain. The interview is a genre which both incorporates

conversational discursive practices, as I discuss in more detail in chapter 3, and is

manifestly colonising a range of orders of discourse, diversifying in the process.

Even within the university domain, the diversification of the genre is apparent -

one can distinguish job interviews, interviews with student applicants to the

university, and research interviews such as mine, among others.

1.5.2. INTRODUCTORY WEEK: MULTIPLE POSITIONING OF


NEW STUDENTS BY A RANGE OF DISCURSIVE PRACTICES

My research interviews were conducted either just before or during Introductory

Week. Introductory Week is one of the first face to face contacts a new student

has with the hitherto unfamiliar domain of the University, once she or he has
accepted the offer of a place. It involves a positioning of new students with

respect to the University in a number of ways, which, to a significant extent, are


realised discursively. For example, new students are positioned with respect to

the university as a rule-enforcing authority. This is hinted at in the Information


Pack received by new students prior to Introductory Week. A copy of the Rules
of the University is included in this pack, which refers to the "formal requirements

laid down by the University reiating to academic and other conduct of students"

and to "how the University expects its student members to behave", (Rules of the

University, pl). One of the interviewees, Anne, had interesting comments to

make about this, which I discuss in chapter 10, section 10.6.4.1.

The positioning of students is also accomplished through the various formal

events of Introductory Week, many of which are largely discursive social

practices, such as the registration procedures. A contrasting image that the

University also projects discursively is that of being a friendly, informal and

13
welcoming place. For example, the letter accompanying the Information Pack

concludes, "our congratulations on gaining a place at Lancaster University and we

look forward to welcoming you in Introductory Week". In chapter 8, I discuss

how another of the interviewees, Connie, focused on this image of the university,
in describing her experiences of Introductory Week, (section 8.4.).

Introductory Week is a site where the discursive practices of the university and

those of new students interface. The different (discursively realised) constructions

the university presents of itself during Introductory Week highlight some of the

heterogeneity of its order of discourse, with which new students must engage. The
interviewees from whom I collected my data were entering the domain of higher

education for the first time, (except for one, Penny). They brought with them their

experience of other domains. This included their discoursal experience of other


public domains, such as institutional work environments, school, and further
education, and also their private domain discoursal experience.

New students' experience of the university domain involves negotiating a


relationship with its discursive practices. For the students who became the

participants in my study, they had the additional negotiation of an element in the


institution's order of discourse that they would not necessarily otherwise have met

- the research interviews they had with me. For these students, this became an

additional aspect of their initial experience of the university's order of discourse.


My interviews are thus not only a site for the collection of data about the students'

interactions with the university, they are also a site where that interaction is

actually instantiated, where the interviewees are actually interacting with the

university's order of discourse. These are important themes for this thesis. They
underlie the analyses I do in Parts II and III, and I take them up again there, in
relation to the specific discursive features of the interviews which I analyse.

14
1.6. INTERVIEWS: A TOOL FOR QUALITATIVE SOCIAL
SCIENCE RESEARCH

The focus of this project is on how meanings are discursively constructed in a set

of research interviews. I do not treat them simply as a site for gathering content

data. In chapter 3 I begin my exploration of particular discursive features of the

interviews in line with the approach I have so far laid out in this chapter.

However, in this section I wish to discuss several critiques of the use of interviews

in social science research, in order to provide some background for the perspective

which I develop through my analyses.

Problematising the use of interviews for qualitative social science research has

recently become a focus of attention for some researchers, for example Silverman,

(1993), Briggs, (1986), and Mishler, (1986) - to whom I shall refer in this section.
They are each concerned with how, considering the widespread use of interviews

in social science research, the tendency is to focus on cook-book means of


perfecting interview techniques rather than on how the interview itself affects the

data collected in it.

Silverman, (op.cit.), points out that interviews are used as part of both quantitative
and qualitative research methods, but what is considered meaningful to measure

differs in each case because of the different underlying schools of thought. The
school of thought underlying quantitative uses of interviews is 'positivism'.
According to positivism interviewees are understood to report facts about the

world 'out there'. What they say is seen as valid, reliable and independent of the

interview setting, provided standardised procedures are followed. The school of


thought underlying qualitative uses of usually open ended interviews, is

'interpretative' social science. As I state in chapter 2, (section 2.2.), my own

research falls within the qualitative paradigm. According to the interpretivist

15
school the value of interview data is not that they give 'true', (or false)

representations of attitudes and behaviours but accounts, the main value of which
is what they reveal about the social construction of reality.

Silverman argues that one of these approaches is not better than the other. The

value of these different uses of interviews is related instead to the kinds of

question the researcher is trying to answer, (op.cit.:22). However he does criticise

both these approaches to the use of interviews. His criticism of the positivist

view of interviews is that it focuses exclusively on the referential function of

language, (ibid:93), a point that Briggs also makes, (see below). His criticism of

interpretivist views of interviews is that open ended interviews are still a form of
social control, (ibid:95). I return to this in Part II. There is also the tendency to
assume that data gathered in open ended interviews really are unique, authentic

accounts of experience, ignoring how experience is represented in predictable


cultural forms, (ibid:96). Mishler also discusses this point, (see below) - and I
discuss forms of representing experience in Part III. In short, Silverman argues

that qualitative research often tries to discover 'truths' about raw experience when
this is in fact mediated by the forms in which it is represented. He argues that
whatever the kinds of question interview data is being used to answer they must

be understood as socially situated accounts: the interaction in an interview is a


local and joint accomplishment, with both interviewer and interviewee relying on

their common sense knowledge of the social world to give relevant and adequate

utterances.

The focus of Briggs' critique, (op.cit), is the lack of attention researchers pay to

interviews as communicative events. He argues that this is an important omission

because interviews realise dominant communicative norms present in many types

of Western discursive events. These norms include implicit theories about social

reality and also about the kinds of data interviews produce. He argues that the

16
imposing of these on interviewees, even when they are from the same culture as
the researcher, ignores interviewees' own norms of communication, which may be
very different..

Briggs argues that one of the main norms which interviews encapsulate is a bias

towards referential meanings. This has a number of problematic consequences for

the use of interviews as a research tool. Firstly, a referential bias leads

interviewee talk away from the communicative event of the interview itself onto

other topics. These are introduced by the interviewer, and since she has usually

not been a part of them, they increase the illusion of her objectivity and the
tendency to view what is said in interviews as a reflection of the 'out there' world.

Secondly, this bias towards referential meanings involves a back grounding of

indexical meanings. These are the context sensitive features of language, and
therefore more related to the interview event than to the topics discussed in it.

Briggs calls for a focus on interviewees' meta-communicative routines, that is, on

utterances which comment on the interview situation itself and reveal


interviewees' orientation to it. Ignoring these routines decontextualises data

before analysis ever begins and can lead researchers to misinterpret interviewee
responses, a situation which may then be perpetuated in their analysis of the
interview data. He also argues that leaving the interview out of the analysis
means there is no need for the interviewer to examine her own role in meaning

making, when in fact the interviewer is a co-participant in the construction of the

discourse.

The focus of Mishler's critique is what he considers the inadequacies of the


positivist mainstream conception of the interview process. These are firstly that

the interview is conceptualised as a behavioural event, about information

exchange, not a discursive one. This results in the interview event being viewed
as essentially unproblematic. It also erases what he considers the primary feature

17
of interviews, that they are meaningful conversations, and ignores the social

conditions influencing what is said in them. Secondly, at a more detailed level,

the positivist behavioural paradigm is a stimulus-response one. This results in


attention being focused on how to standardise the stimulus, (the interviewer's

questions), so as to get the 'true' response from the interviewees. He argues that

this standard 'scientific' approach is inadequate for studying how people express
their experience because it does not examine how experience is related to social

context and how interviews are primarily a form of discourse. He proposes

instead that interviews should be considered as discursive events, with the

discourse constructed jointly by participants, and guided by norms of

appropriateness and relevance that are part of participants general and shared

linguistic competencies. This means that interpretation and analysis must take
account of how people talk to each other. He focuses on one way this may be

done, by seeing responses as narrative accounts, a pervasive means by which

people give coherence, meaning and relevance to their experience. I take this
approach to the analysis of my own interview data in chapters 7 and 8, and discuss
Mishler's advocacy of narrative analysis further in chapter 7, (section 7.1.).

The call of researchers such as Silverman, Briggs and Mishler for a greater focus

on the influence of the interview context is relevant to my own interests in this


project - both to my analysis of discursive realisations of interviewer-interviewee
relations in Part II, and my analysis of discursive forms the interviewees in my

sample used to represent their experience in Part III.

1.7. OUTLINE OF THESIS

In this section, I give a chapter by chapter summary of the thesis. This is a brief
outline, with the Introductions to Parts I, II and III containing more detail about

each chapter. The summary of the thesis is given in Figure 1.1. below.

18
-PART I -
THE RESEARCH INTERVIEW: SOCIAL PRACTICE AND DATA
COLLECTION SITE
- Analytical framework - data collection - ethical issues -
Chapter 1: Aims of the study; discourse analysis framework used in it.
Chapter 2: Situation of this study within the qualitative research paradigm; method of
data collection; data used in this study; ethical issues from methods used for collecting
data.
- PART II -
DISCURSIVE REALISATIONS OF POWER
- Analysis of interpersonal meanings resulting from the power relations in the interviews,
via a focus on two contrasting sets of discursive practices in them -
Chapter 3: The research interview as data collection site, and social situation in which
particular relations of power obtain; distinguishing of two sets of discursive practices in
interviews, characterised by different realisations of power - 'institutionally defined' and
'conversational' discursive practices; introductory analysis of shifts in balance of power
during different stages of my own interviews.
Chapter 4: Focus on 'institutionally defined' discursive practices in my interviews,
through analysis of two interactional control features: questions and formulation;
discussion of the finding that these control features were not the sole prerogative of the
interviewer.
Chapter 5: Focus on 'conversational' discursive practices in my interviews, through
analysis of self disclosure; critical commentary on characteristics of the interviewees'
disclosures, and the interviewer's rapport-building self disclosures.
- PART III -
DRAWING ON EXPERIENCE: INTERVIEWEE MEANING MAKING
PRACTICES
- Analysis of what the interviewees' constructed meanings about - analysis of how they
drew on narratives about their lives, and representations of discourse to construct
meanings -
Chapter 6: Analysis of the ideational content of the interviews; discussion of the five
domains of experience that the interviewees talked about.
Chapter 7: Analysis of narratives 1: Cross-sectional analysis of types of narrative,
(past, concurrent and future), in whole data set; critical commentary on the types of
narrative; particular emphasis on 'hypothetical narratives' about the interviewees' hopes
for the future.
Chapter 8: Analysis of narratives 2: In-depth analysis of story-type narratives in part
of Connie's interview; critique of Labov's method of narrative analysis; critical
commentary on the everyday world Connie represented in these narratives.
Chapter 9: Analysis of discourse representation 1: The modes of representation;
discussion of discourse representation as a type of intertextuality.
Chapter 10: Analysis of discourse representation 2: Analysis of selected instances of
discourse representation, (those specifically realising points of view on the interviewees'
experience of starting at university), according to mode, topic and voice used.
- CONCLUSION -
Chapter 11: Critical commentary on methodological issues arising from the study.

Figure 1.1:

Chapter by chapter outline of thesis

19
1.8. PERSONAL COMMENTS ON THE THESIS

In this section, I give some background to why I became interested in doing a

study of how meaning is constructed in a set of interviews.

1.8.1. BACKGROUND INTERESTS

My interest in the discursive practices of people at a point of change in their lives

- a point where they came into contact with a new domain of experience - was

influenced by four background interests. Firstly, my choice to explore the

experience of new mature undergraduate students entering the domain of higher

education was influenced by having been a mature student myself. During that

period I developed an interest in relationships between personal and institutional


aspects of social life, in particular, in how individuals manage the processes
involved in entering an unfamiliar social institution, and in how such an

institution positions them. Secondly, through my undergraduate studies in

English Language and Literature, I became interested in language as discourse,


and the part language played in relations of social power. Thirdly, I had carried

forward an interest in 'personal growth and development' from a previous job, in

which I helped to run workshops on these topics. This influenced me to think of


an individual's move into a new institutional domain, such as higher education, as

a moment of change and possible 'personal development'. I also wondered

whether the combined effect of many individuals making such changes might
have a potentially, albeit small, transformative effect on the social, (including

discoursal), practices of the institution. Fourthly, I had noticed a sharp contrast

between my aforementioned job and my undergraduate experience which


developed my interest in the effect on other mature students of moving from one

domain to another. On the one hand, my job focused on the identity of the

individual and practical methods of individual 'empowerment', paying little

20
critical attention to the social or political contexts in which people lived their

lives. On the other hand, as an undergraduate, I developed some critical skills and

a more socially, rather than individually, oriented perspective, but was

simultaneously separated from a world of work that had been highly involving

with other people in the nitty-gritty of their everyday lives. These interests are

particularly relevant to my discussion of self disclosure in chapter 5.

1.8.2. SUBJECTIVE INVOLVEMENT IN THE RESEARCH

During the process of doing this piece of research I developed an interest in my

own part in it. I was new both to research and to analysing discourse when I

started. So, part of my reflexive interest was the result of trying to orient myself

to a new area of experience - I was concerned to know how to do the research


'properly', with sufficient rigour and with sufficient attention both to detailed

analysis and to theoretical underpinnings. The most interesting offshoot of these

concerns for the content of this thesis was that it was my anxious retrospective
focus on my own performance as an interviewer that alerted me to how my own
role in the interviews was crucial to the meanings that were constructed in them. I
have incorporated my exploration of my own role in the interviews in Part II.

1.8.3. WRITING THE THESIS

In line with the acknowledgement of my own involvement in the research, I would

like to make explicit the following conventions that I have used in writing this
thesis.

Firstly, rather than use an impersonal and apparently objective style, I prefer to
refer to myself in the first person. This is to acknowledge my own participation in

the research scene, (Cameron et al, 1992:26). It obliges me to explicitly own the

21
commentaries I make in this thesis, to construct myself linguistically as the active

agent of my thoughts and ideas. This is a way of acknowledging my

responsibility for this text that I write - that I both construct the text, and am

giving a certain set of impressions about myself by the way I have done so,

(Ivanic and Simpson, 1992:144).

Secondly, there are a number of ways of naming the people from whom I gathered

the interview texts I analyse as my data set. As far as possible, I refer to them in

the thesis as 'interviewees'. This is a term which is more neutral than 'the
researched', which reiterates their traditionally passive role, or 'informants' or

'respondents' which names them only as information sources. I have also tended

to avoid using the term 'participants'. The BAAL Draft Recommendations on


Good Practice in Applied Linguistics suggest this is a term appropriate for use in

types of research which "make a good deal of space for informants' own priorities

and perspectives", (p11). A retrospective look at the relationship I had, in fact,


with the interviewees in my research suggests I did treat them more as

'respondents'. This is a point I discuss further in Chapter 2, (section 2.4.3.).

1.9. CONCLUSION

The role of this chapter has been to situate this thesis within the framework

developed by Fairclough. I have made clear the perspective from which I am

approaching this research, both analytically and personally, and have introduced

how I am conceptualising 'the interview' as the topic of this research.

In the following chapter, I turn to the interview data. I describe how I collected it,

and the ethical ramifications of the methods I adopted.

21a
CHAPTER 2

COLLECTION OF DATA AND ETHICAL ISSUES

2.1. INTRODUCTION
2.2. QUALITATIVE RESEARCH METHODS
2.2.1. QUALITATIVE VERSUS QUANTITATIVE METHODS
2.2.2. THIS PROJECT - A QUALITATIVE ONE
2.2.3. VALIDITY, GENERALISABILITY AND OBSERVER EFFECTS
2.3. DATA
2.3.1. DATA COLLECTION
2.3.1.1. Initial area of interest
2.3.1.2. Pilot studies
2.3.1.3. Preliminary sampling criteria for main study
2.3.1.4. Summary of data collection procedures
2.3.1.5. Expanded description of data collection procedures
2.3.2. THE DATA SET
2.3.2.1. A change of focus
2.3.2.2. The final data set
2.3.2.3. Biodata for the participants in the final sample
2.3.3. THE DATA AS TRANSCRIPTS
2.4. ETHICAL ISSUES
2.4.1. ETHICS AND INTERVIEWS
2.4.2. ISSUES RAISED BY DATA COLLECTION PROCEDURES
2.4.2.1. The unintentional selecting out of certain participants
2.4.2.2. The unintentional selecting in of certain participants
2.4.2.3. Informed consent and changes in research focus
2.4.3. ISSUES RAISED BY MY RELATIONS WITH THE PARTICIPANTS
2.4.3.1. Research on, for or with participants
2.4.3.2. My own conflict over relationships with participants
2.4.4. ISSUES CONCERNING ANONYMITY
2.4.4.1. Reasons for my concern with anonymity
2.4.4.2. Possible ways of resolving the anonymity issue
2.4.4.3. Why I did not check with interviewees once I had changed the focus
of my research
2.4.4.4. The action I took to resolve the issue
2.5. CONCLUSION

2.1. INTRODUCTION

In this chapter, I define my research project in terms of qualitative research


methods in the social sciences, (section 2.2.). I also outline my data collection
procedures and the changes that occurred in my research focus. I explain how
initial exploratory analysis of the data both developed and modified my aims for

the study, so that the data I collected for one purpose was finally analysed for a

somewhat different one, (section 2.3.2.). I make a point of discussing the


conventions I used in transcribing the data, as the reader will come upon these in

later chapters, where I quote from the interview transcripts, (section 2.3.3.). I also

22
discuss the ethical issues I faced in collecting spoken data through face to face

interactions with people, (section 2.4.), and this forms the basis for my analysis of
power relations in the interviews in Part II.

2.2. QUALITATIVE RESEARCH METHODS

Here, I discuss my research project in relation to the aims of qualitative research


methods. This follows on from my discussion in chapter 1, (section 1.6.).

2.2.1. QUALITATIVE VERSUS QUANTITATIVE METHODS

In very general terms, 'qualitative' research methods are about trying to discover
what people actually do or say; they are about studying the experiences and the

meanings of those being researched. There are major differences between these
and 'quantitative' approaches to research, in underlying philosophies about the

nature of reality, in the aims of research, (understanding the perspectives of the


researched versus making generalisations about a population, for example), and in
the methods of data collection and analysis used to achieve these aims. These

result in a difference in the way theory and the sequences of activities involved in
research are conceptualised: in qualitative approaches, theories and concepts tend

to arise from the process of doing the research, whereas in quantitative approaches
they are taken as the starting point, with the research being a process of testing
hypotheses deduced from the initial theories, (Robson, 1993:20). Robson also
points out, (ibid.). that in the actual practice of 'real world research' this difference
may be more apparent than actual, with, for example, qualitative researchers

usually having some idea of the 'lie of the land', before they start, and many

projects involving some sort of mixing of qualitative and quantitative approaches.

23
2.2.2. THIS PROJECT - A QUALITATIVE ONE

My own research project falls clearly into the qualitative category, in being an

exploration of particular discursive social practices occurring in a particular event,


the research interview. It is a data-driven enquiry, with an understanding of the

complexity of the social phenomena under scrutiny - that is, the discursive

meaning making processes occurring in the interviews - becoming apparent

through a range of detailed analyses of the data. I do however also make use,
though only minimally, of quantitative data analysis, to establish the frequency of

most of the discursive phenomena that I code in the data. This provides a

preliminary stage of analysis prior to using examples to discuss, in a more


extended way, why each phenomenon is interesting with respect to the discursive

meaning making processes of the interviews.

2.2.3. VALIDITY, GENERALISABILITY AND OBSERVER

EFFECTS

In this section, I lay out my position with respect to the quality of the findings in

this study - that is, my position with respect to validity, generalisability, and

observer effects.

For any piece of research there is a concern with assessing the validity of the
findings. Assessing validity involves establishing that the analysis is about what

it claims to be about. In the qualitative tradition, this does not mean trying to give
'the true' picture, since there are any number of 'versions' possible, without one

being truer than another. In CDA research, Fairclough, (1992:238), points out that

what is important is to be able to argue that the analyses offer a convincing

interpretation of the data. It is clear to me that other phenomena in my data set


could have been analysed. However, the discursive features I focus on were those

24
that seemed particularly interesting with regard to meaning making processes in

these interviews. Each of the analyses help to expose and make sense of the

complexity of how meanings were discursively constructed in these interviews,


even though they do not say all that could be said about this.

With regard to generalisability, it is not my intention to make generalisations


about the participants, who differed widely on many dimensions, and cannot

therefore be understood as a group similar in more ways than that they met the

selection criteria outlined in sections 2.3.1.3. and 2.3.2.2. below. However, the

selected discursive features of the interviews which I analyse, occurred in

sufficiently large numbers for me to make generalisations about the way in which

these features may contribute to the construction of meanings in research


interviews.

I have treated at length, (in my discussion of ethical issues in this chapter, section

2.4., and in Chapters 4 and 5), the approach I have taken with regard to 'observer
effects'. Basically, this is to regard my own utterances in the interviews, not as

potential distortions of the data, but as part of the data, the analysis of which is
necessary for understanding how meanings are discursively constructed in the
interviews.

2.3. DATA

In this section, I outline my data collection procedures and describe my data set.
Since my data are a set of transcripts, I also comment on what sort of

representation of the original interview speech events the transcripts are.

25
2.3.1. DATA COLLECTION

Outlining my data collection procedures is necessary, but involves considerable

detail, so I would like to highlight the most important point about this process

here. This is that the final data set ended up being only a portion of the data I

collected. This was because I realised that to analyse all the data I had collected
was too ambitious a task. I outline the process of coming to this decision in
section 2.3.2.1.

I have summarised the rather complex procedures involved in collecting the data
in Table 2.1., (section 2.3.1.4.).

2.3.1.1. Initial area of interest

I did not come to this research project with a fully formed hypothesis to test, but
an area of interest I wished to explore - the discursive construction of new

students' identities. (This area of interest was redefined during the data collection
process, as I explain). I began my collection of data with the following
assumptions:

1. New undergraduate students will draw on a range of discourse types as they

negotiate access to the new domain of higher education, and are positioned in

various ways by it. They will draw on familiar discourses - both the private ones
of everyday life and their prior experience of other public domain discourses, such

as those associated with employment. They will also draw on the less familiar
discourses of the university domain itself.
2. Mature students, (defined in the university literature as students aged 21 or

over), may have a wider repertoire of discourses with which they are familiar, as a

result of their longer life experience, than traditional age students. Their discourse

26
practices may therefore tend to show a more marked heterogeneity. This was my

original reason for deciding to collect data from older students, as a sub-group of
the whole population of new students.

In addition, in order to separate my research from that of colleagues working on

academic discourse, I chose to collect spoken rather than written data.

To explore students' discursive encounters with a new institutional domain, I

envisaged collecting the following two levels of data, the analysis of which would

provide two different 'takes' on my area of interest:

Level 1:

A broad base of about 25 unstructured interviews to gather data which could be

subjected to content analysis, about how mature students themselves felt about

their experience of university at two particular stages of it, (before starting their
degree course, and at the end of their first term of it).
Level 2:
A narrow focus on the discourse practices of about 6 of these students at a

particular site where the spoken discourse practices students bring to university
interface with those used by academic staff members of that domain. The seminar

was the site I chose.

2.3.1.2. Pilot studies

I did three small scale data collections with groups of mature students, to generate
ideas and interview questions about mature student experience, and to acquaint

myself with interviewing techniques. These studies were as follows:

27
1. I conducted a group interview with 12 mature students at a college of further

education. Some of these students were planning to do a degree at university. I


also conducted an interview with their tutor. These interviews gave me some

useful insight into one of the routes back into learning that mature students might

take before starting a degree; some of the reasons adults might have for

undertaking study as adults; and what taking on a student identity might mean to
them.

2. I conducted individual unstructured interviews with 7 second year mature

undergraduate students at Lancaster University, which focused on ways they told

the 'story of why they had come to university.

3. I conducted individual interviews with 6 non-British mature students, newly


arrived at Lancaster University, for an introductory programme prior to starting a
degree at the university. This gave me some insight into experiences students

may have had before coming to university which contrast strongly with their

university experience.

2.3.1.3. Preliminary sampling criteria for main study

When it came to collecting data for the main study, I used the following four

selection criteria.

1 - The new mature undergraduate students should be 26 years of age or over, to

ensure that they had had life experience outside education as adults.
2 - They should be native speakers of English, as this was a study of discourse
practices.

3 - They should be starting Social Science or Humanities degrees, as courses in

these disciplines were more likely to use seminar methods.

4 - I wanted my first interviews with new students to be before the start of their

courses, to hear about their initial constructions of the university and their

28
relationship to it. I understood 'before the start of their courses' in two ways.

Firstly, I anticipated being able to interview students living locally in the 3 weeks

before the start of term, and possibly again at the end of Introductory Week.
Secondly, I anticipated not being able to interview students coming from a
distance - and therefore not arriving until the start of term - until Introductory

Week, that is, the week prior to the start of their courses.

2.3.1.4. Summary of data collection procedures

There were two stages to my data collection procedures, and this made them

complex. I therefore give a summary of my data collection procedures in Table

2.1. below. This summary is expanded into a chronological account of the stages

of data collection, in section 2.3.1.5., (points 1 to 5); and an explanation of how


and why I chose my final data set, in sections 2.3.2.1. and 2.3.2.2.

Table 2.1.:

Table summarising data collection procedures

LEVEL 1 LEVEL 2
Beginning of Term 1: 31 initial
Initial interviews participants
Throughout Term 1: 4 of the 31 initial
Seminars + interviews participants
End of Term 1: 11 of the initial The 4 participants
Final interviews participants (above)
Participants in final sample:
All those I had interviewed at the end of term, i.e. 11 from Level 1, (discounting 2), +
the 4 from Level 2.
TOTAL = 13 PARTICIPANTS
Interviews in final data set:
The beginning of Term 1 interviews of these 13 participants.
TOTAL = 16 INTERVIEWS, (3 participants interviewed twice at beginning of term).

29
Table 2.1. shows that I conducted initial interviews with 31 participants at the

beginning of Term 1. I taped the seminars of 4 of these participants and


interviewed them regularly throughout Term 1. I conducted a final interview with

these 4 and with 11 of the other initial participants at the end of Term 1. The table

also shows how I drew the final data set of 16 interviews from the two levels of

data.

2.3.1.5. Expanded description of data collection procedures

1. Selecting the sample:


I collected my data before and during Term 1 of the 1992-3 academic year at

Lancaster University. I used name, address, age and course information on the
intake of new undergraduate students, supplied by the university, to select a

sample that met the preliminary criteria outlined in section 2.3.1.3.

2. Making contact:
I sent Letter A, (see Appendix 1), one month before the start of Term 1 to half the
students who met these criteria. I also sent Letter A to all students meeting these

criteria who had local addresses, to increase the potential number of participants I

might be able to interview before Introductory Week. This made a total of 109

letters. In this letter, I asked any full-time, British students over 25, who would be
interested in talking to me about their experience of starting a degree course to
contact me.

3. Level 1 - initial interviews at the beginning of Term 1:


I received 44 responses from Letter A, and conducted initial interviews with 31 of

those who responded, (see Table 2.1.). The remaining 13 were not interviewed
due to loss of contact, or late response to my letter. The interviews were informal

invitations for the participants to tell me about their initial experiences of

30
university. I interviewed 21 of these students before Introductory Week, (4 of

whom I interviewed again during Introductory Week); and 10 during Introductory

Week. During the interview, I asked the students whether they would be

interested in helping me further with my research, unless it was already clear that

they did not wish for further contact, or did not after all meet my selection criteria.

The two options for further contact were:

Level 1 continued - another informal interview at the end of the Term 1 to talk

about their experiences of their first term;


Level 2 - my weekly observation of one set of the student's seminars throughout

Term 1, followed by discussion of it with her/him.


19 participants were willing for further contact in one of these two ways.

4.1. Level 2 - seminar involvement throughout Term 1:

Once 10 of the 19 participants had expressed a definite willingness for Level 2

contact, I only asked participants I interviewed subsequently if they were


interested in a second interview, which would continue the Level 1 strand of data

collection. This was because I was only looking for 4 to 6 students who would be

willing for Level 2 contact. After consultation with seminar leaders, establishing
my presence was acceptable to other members of the seminar groups, and sorting

out time tabling problems, I obtained Level 2 data from 4 participants, all women,

throughout Term 1, (see Table 2.1.).

4.2. Level 1 continued - end of Term 1 interviews:

I sent Letter B, (see Appendix 1), to the remaining students who had indicated

they would be interested in further contact. 11 agreed to a further interview.

These were conducted at the end of Term 1. I also conducted interviews at the

end of Term 1 with the 4 participants with whom I had had Level 2 contact, (see

Table 2.1.).

31
5. Terminating contact:
With my data collection now complete, I sent Letter C (see Appendix 1) to all 31

students I had interviewed, to thank them for their help, and to clarify
confidentiality issues. I expressed the wish that they should contact me if they

were not happy with my use of the tape-recordings of their interviews for my
research. No one contacted me.

2.3.2. THE DATA SET

As I have already mentioned, after collecting the data, I decided to analyse only a
portion of it, and to reduce the range of my analytic focus. I account for this

change of plan below, and describe the interviewees in the final sample.

2.3.2.1. A change of focus

My change of focus developed in the following way. Firstly, through the process
of collecting the data, I had become more interested in the ways that students

themselves talked about their experiences and constructed meanings about their
worlds, than in analysing seminar interactions - for which it had also proved
difficult to get good quality tape-recordings. Secondly, having collected both

Level 1 and Level 2 data, I realised I had too much data to integrate, given the
level of detailed analysis necessary for a Critical Discourse Analysis based

approach, and the space constraints of a PhD thesis.

This necessitated a change in the research design of this project. It was a move

away from structuring my research as a 'funnel', in which I would look in


increasing detail at smaller and smaller sections of the data base, culminating in

longitudinal case study work of four individuals in relation to their seminars. It

was a move towards taking as my data base only one portion of all the data I had

32
collected and analysing it in a cross-sectional way, with the focus on discursive

constructions of meaning in it. I chose to focus on the research interview as my

site, rather than the seminar. In short, my initial interest in mature students'

perceptions of their relationship to the university became refocused on the formal


discursive strategies they used to construct meanings about it in the social
situation of the interview. (I discuss my change of focus in more detail in section

2.4.2.3.).

.2.3.2.2. The final data set

The new focus became how interviewees discursively constructed their experience

of higher education in their initial interviews with me. All 31 interviews was still

too large a body of data for detailed discourse analysis. So I decided to take as my
data set the initial interviews of the 15 students I had also interviewed at the end
of term - that is, the 11 participants from Level 1 plus the 4 from Level 2, (see
Table 2.1.). Two interviews were lost from this set, (poor tape quality for one,
misplacing the other), leaving as the final data set the transcripts of the interviews

I conducted with 13 participants. I chose the interviews of participants I had also


interviewed at the end of term because I thought that I might be able to contrast
their perceptions at the beginning and at the end of term. However, this also
proved too large a body of data to work with - the initial interviews being

sufficiently rich to warrant detailed discourse analysis on their own.

The final data set thus comprised the initial interviews with 13 participants, (11
women and 2 men). Eight participants were interviewed before Introductory

Week, with three of these interviewed again during it; and five participants were

interviewed during Introductory Week - making a total of sixteen interviews, (see

Table 2.2. below).

33
2.3.2.3. Biodata for the participants in the final sample

The following table gives background information for the 13 participants.

Table 2.2.: Biodata for the 13 interviewees

Age Marital Children Previous F.E. Degree No. of


status work College type interviews
Anne 26-40 M Yes Range Yes Soc Sci 2
Carol 40+ M Yes Home Yes F/T Hum 1
Connie 26-40 D Yes Range Yes Soc Sci 2
Maria 40 + M Yes Home Yes F/T Hum 1
Mary 26-40 D Yes One No Soc Sci 1
Pam 40+ M Yes Range Yes Hum 1
Penny 26-40 M No Range Yes Soc Sci 1
Sam 26-40 S No One Yes Soc Sci 1
Sara 40 + M Yes One Yes Hum 1
Sharon 26-40 D Yes Range Yes F/T Hum 2
Steve 26-40 S No One Yes Soc Sci 1
Tania 26-40 M Yes Range Yes Soc Sci 1
Wendy 26-40 M No One No Soc Sci 1

Key:
Age:
The two groupings, 26-40 or 40 and over were the ones I used in gathering initial
information from the participants.
Marital status:
S = single
D = divorced/separated
M = married or partner
Previous work:
One = one main job
Range = range of jobs
Home = mostly at home
F.E. College:
This refers to whether or not the respondent had undertaken qualifying study at an
FE College before coming to university.
F/T = full-time study
Degree type for which entered at university:
Hum = Humanities degree
Soc Sci = Social Sciences degree

34
These 13 interviewees were those whose interviews comprised the final dat set.
The only information I specifically asked each of them during their interviews was

age group and degree type. Other information shown in the table was inferred.

The table shows that 9 interviewees were under 40, and 4 were over 40. All those

over 40 were starting Humanities degrees. Sharon was the only one under 40

doing a Humanities degree, with the other 8 doing Social Science degrees. During

the course of the interviews it became apparent that all the interviewees had been

to F.E. College to gain a qualification that would enable them to come on to

university, except Wendy and Mary, who had shown their ability to study through

job-related pieces of written work.

The marital status information on this chart was either inferred or made explicit

during the course of the interview. Different biographical details seemed relevant
to different interviewees in the context of the interview. However, I include

information about marital status and children here because these are aspects of the

personal relational context and the commitments which the interviewees had to
sustain while undertaking a degree. The only single interviewees were the two
men, Sam and Steve. Of the women, 8 were married, 6 of them with children.
The 3 who were divorced or separated all had children.

Some of the previous work experience of the interviewees could also be inferred

from the interviews. The 'previous work' column in Table 2.2. is not a summary
of all the work experience of the interviewees, only that which was mentioned in
the interviews. This shows that 6 interviewees talked about a range of jobs that
they had done, 5 seemed to have been mostly in one job or on one career path, and

2 seemed to have mostly been employed in running their homes.

35
These biographical details are elements of the ideational content of the interviews.
They are referred to again along with the other topics of talk which were covered

in the interviews, in Chapter 6.

2.3.3. THE DATA AS TRANSCRIPTS

In this section I discuss the transcription of the tape recordings of my interviews

into written form, noting that transcription is really a preliminary - though


frequently ignored - act of data analysis.

"There we many ways to prepare a transcript and each is only a partial


representation of speech. Further, and most important, each representation
is a transformation. That is, each transcript includes some and excludes
other features of speech and rearranges the flow of speech into lines of text
within the limits of a page", (Mishler, 1986:48).

In the quote above, Mishler problematises the process of transcription. This is a

point worthy of consideration for the reasons Ochs gives: it is transcriptions of


speech that are used as research data; but how processes of transcription reflect the
theoretical goals and definitions of research tend to be ignored, (1979:44). What
actually happens in an interview is only partially captured on tape, and even more

partially in transcriptions of tape recordings. The result is that there are decisions

to be made about what other features of speech to include, (for example, prosodic

features, such as change of pitch, stress and so on), and what, if any, non-
linguistic features to note, (such as body language), when transcribing. All these
decisions reveal transcription as an interpretative act. The so called raw data

undergoes transformations associated with the turning of speech into written text
before formal analysis ever begins. As Mishler states, (op.cit.:48), points such as

how overlaps in speech are marked, (who is 'interrupting' who), and whether

pauses are just noted or timed, all reveal theoretical assumptions about the nature

36
of speech. Their presence or absence influences the interpretations which can be

made about the data.

Though I have not made the transcripts of the interviews I conducted generally

available, for the reasons I give in section 2.4.4., I wish to discuss what I included
in them in order to briefly highlight transcription as an aspect of data analysis. In

addition, in later chapters, quotations from the interviews are lifted directly from

the transcripts, complete with the notation conventions I mention below. (The

notation conventions are outlined at the beginning of the thesis).

1. Non-verbal features:
In my own transcriptions, I limited the non-verbal features I included to pauses
and laughter. This was because the most detailed level of analysis I did was at the

grammatical level, and I was not concerned with phonetic features of speech.

2. Pauses:
I included pauses, but these were subjectively evaluated only as short hesitations
or longer pauses, (over about 3 seconds). A short hesitation was one which I

evaluated as longer than a normal breath intake during speech.

3. Back channelling:
(i.e. feedback, for example, Mm, Right, Yes, used to indicate that the hearer has
understood what the speaker has been saying). I found that back channelling was

an interesting case with regard to transcription as interpretation. The inclusion of

back channelling by one participant, while the other was speaking, gave a visual

impression of non-continuity to what might also have been interpreted as a

continuous flow of speech by one participant. This was drawn to my attention

through having to employ a transcriber to help me with the transcription of what

amounted to a large set of data. When I checked her transcriptions I noticed that

37
she included simultaneous back channelling, and I had not done so in mine. I
decided to make the transcriptions more equivalent, across these differing

interpretations of the two transcribers, by deleting simultaneous back channelling

from the other transcriptionist's work. I took this decision after some reflection,

and on the basis that I was more interested in the 'wholeness' of utterances, and

their internal structure, (that is, in their grammar, discourse representation, themes

and story lines and so on). I note that back channelling, of course, could equally
well have been considered an aspect of what I discuss in Part II, the interpersonal

and'interactive nature of the interviews. However, this project is not an

exhaustive analysis of the discourse of the interviews and this was one of the
features I decided to select out. A more practical reason for doing so was that the
inclusion of back channelling, as I noticed from the other transcriptionist's texts,

made them hard and slow to read. The transcripts appeared, and indeed read, as

fragmentary texts when simultaneous back channelling was included, in a way


that did not seem to represent the flowing character of speech.

4. Practical constraints:

Despite the ways I have described that I reduced the amount of data I used in this
study, the final data set was still a large one. This meant that I did not return to

the original tapes to systematically check the transcription choices more than
once. In retrospect, I would have preferred to listen to the tapes more than this.
Due to the size of the data set, and the time constraints on the production of this

project, I found it easier to take the transcripts as data rather than the tapes -
which, I note, is a general criticism Mishler makes of social science research,

(ibid.).

5. Termination point of the transcriptions:


Another interesting point with regard to transcription as interpretation was

deciding how much of what I had tape recorded to actually define as the

38
interview. It was not always clear when the interview proper began or ended,
since there was always preliminary and final talk involved in making the

transition out of and back into the 'everyday' world. In order to establish some
equivalence between the interviews, I began all the interview transcriptions at the
point where I turned the tape on. I terminated them after I had established their

response to my question about further contact. In order to make the transition


between interview and 'farewell chat' smooth, it did not always seem appropriate

to suddenly switch the tape recorder off. I made switching off the tape recorder a

matter that I judged on the spot, but I consistently terminated the transcriptions at
the point I have just described. (I discuss these stages that occurred in the

interviews more fully in chapter 3, section 3.4.).

6. Anonymity:

Finally I note that to protect the anonymity of the participants, I changed all
person names in the transcripts. All place names, (except 'Lancaster University'),
and the names of lecturers at the university have been removed and replaced with

the notation [name]. Ages, number of children, type of past work experience and
academic subjects mentioned have been retained. Though these are
particularising, to change them would remove relevant contextualising
information. (I discuss the issue of anonymity further in section 2.4.4. below).

2.4. ETHICAL ISSUES

In this section I discuss the ethical issues I encountered while doing this study. I
reflect on the ethical consequences of what I did, why I did it and how I might

have done it differently. I suggest, as I mentioned in the Introduction to Part I,

that the ethical issues I encountered are of general significance to social scientists,

39
because interviews are such a common method of collecting data. In addition, my
discussion here sets the scene for my analysis of power relations in Part II.

The ethical issues of most concern to me in this project, and which I discuss here,

spring from the fact that this was my first large-scale piece of research. This

meant there were some things I only learnt in the process of doing the research. In

particular, my lack of previous experience of research affected the way I initially

designed the project, and led to some gaps in it that I only became aware of later.

This resulted in a certain amount of re-shaping work to try and reshape the project
to better accord with my developing ideas, and my increasing experience of the

research process itself.

2.4.1. ETHICS AND INTERVIEWS

A general ethical issue that forms a backdrop to the more detailed discussions in

sections 2.4.2. to 2.4.4. below has to do with interviewing as a method. I discuss

interviewing in more detail in Part II, but with particular respect to ethical issues,
the following point about privacy is important. Homan describes unstructured
interviews as "open methods of invasion [of privacy]", (1991:56). My interviews

were open in the sense that I shared my agenda with the interviewees - I wanted to

know about their initial experiences and perceptions of university, and I told them
so. My intended aim was that they should be free to talk around this theme with

some control on what and how much they said. I also presented myself in a
friendly way, with the intention of putting them at their ease. In retrospect, I think
the informality of my interviews may have had the unintended effect of making

the interviewees less guarded about what they said, or encouraging them to say
more about themselves than they realised. The result for me as researcher, of
course, was that the use of these methods gave me information which I might

otherwise not have received, (see chapter 5, section 5.4.2.). These are weighty

40
issues, which I do not claim to have resolved fully. However, what I do in the
remainder of this chapter is to give as full and honest a picture as possible of the
ethical dilemmas I faced in my research, and the action I took with regard to them.

2.4.2. ISSUES RAISED BY DATA COLLECTION

PROCEDURES

In this section I discuss the ethical issues that I encountered during the data

collection procedures that I have already outlined. In sections 2.4.2.1. and 2.4.2.2.
I discuss certain ways in which I was unwittingly involved in the selection of
participants for my research. In section 2.4.2.3. I discuss the issue of informed
consent.

2.4.2.1. The unintentional selecting out of certain

participants

I did not ask all of the 31 participants who I interviewed during Introductory

Week whether they would like to continue to help me in my research. I discuss


some reasons for this here.

In these initial interviews, a few interviewees responded in a way I found difficult


to deal with. At the time, I interpreted these responses as one of several things:

nervousness on their part, which I did not seem able to alleviate; using the
interview primarily as a platform to air grievances about the way they perceived

the university was handling their recent arrival; and not taking the interview as
seriously as I was and treating it as 'a laugh'. As a new researcher, I was not well

prepared for responses which showed up these kinds of mismatches between our
assumptions of what research interviews were about. Looking back, I realise that

these participants who made me feel uncomfortable, by which I really mean not in

41
control of the interview situation, or who were clearly uncomfortable themselves,
tended to be those I did not ask if they were interested in further contact. (By
further contact, I mean seminar contact during Term 1 and/or final interviews at

the end of Term 1, see Table 2.1.). This was because I sensed it would be face

threatening to me or the participant, or both of us, to broach the topic of meeting

again, and I made an on-the-spot decision to avoid doing so.

With more experience I might have been better prepared beforehand to face these

kinds of situations - not only 'difficult' interviewees, but the subtle way in which

my own choices could affect the shape of the research outcomes. Regrettably, it

was not until much later that I realised that, firstly, such mismatches in the

perspectives of myself and those interviewees who I did not ask for further contact
were potentially very interesting points for analysis; and secondly, the part my

reluctance unwittingly played in selecting out of my final sample people with


certain types of responses - people I tended to perceive as very different from me.

2.4.2.2. The unintentional selecting in of certain participants

This point follows from the one above. The final sample of 13 participants was

largely self-selected, (except for my unwitting selecting out as described above),


because at each stage they volunteered their help, by responding to my letters A

and B. I would simply like to make the observation here that my final sample was
made up of those who were most willing for contact with me at all the stages of
my research. This may imply that these 13 people shared some assumptions with

me about the meanings of my research - for example, that to explore the nature of

their initial experiences was interesting - leading to an understanding of what was


'appropriate' to talk about in an interview. This was another unwitting selection
process, and again it was not until much later that I realised that it would have

42
given me access to different types of research material to have analysed the initial
interviews of the 'difficult' participants who I did not ask for further contact.

2.4.2.3. Informed consent and changes in research focus

"The essence of informed consent is that the human subjects of research


should be allowed to agree or refuse to participate in the light of
comprehensive information concerning the nature and purpose of the
research", (Homan, 1991:69).

Homan goes on to point out that implementing this principle of informed consent
is easier to say than to do, (ibid:73). In this section, I discuss the problem I
encountered with keeping participants informed of my changing research focus.

This problem resulted from the way that exploratory qualitative research does
often involve successive formulations of themes and topics.

I have described my own shift in focus in section 2.3.2.1. During the data

collection period I was as open as possible with all the people from whom I
gathered data about my intentions as far as I knew them at the time. However, it
was not until some time after I had terminated contact with them that I shifted my
research focus. I did not inform them of this, and am still not sure in how detailed

a way it would have been reasonable to do so, since what was involved was a shift
within an academic discipline they knew little about. I describe below the

problems I encountered in keeping, firstly the seminar groups, and secondly the
interviewees, informed of my changing research focus.

I decided to drop the seminar data from my final data set once I realised ethical

issues would extend to the entire seminar group, not just the member of it who
had agreed to the interviews with me. I saw that the ethical issues were going to

be more complicated than I had originally anticipated. The seminar groups, as

43
opposed to the member of it who was the participant in my research, formed a sort

of grey area with respect to their status in my research. I had their consent to tape

record seminar meetings, and I liaised directly with the seminar tutor, but I had no

direct contact with other student members of the groups. The effect of the unclear

relationship I had with the seminar groups was that I found it difficult to keep
them informed of my successive changes in plan. I wrote to the seminar leaders

before the end of the academic year to say that I had decided to use the material I

had gathered from the seminars only as support data, not as linguistic data for

analysis. I left it up to them to inform their groups of this. It was not until the
following academic year that I decided there would not be room in the thesis to
incorporate the seminar data at all. The seminar groups were now disbanded and

so could not be informed of this change, and I was embarrassed to contact the
seminar leaders to tell them, after their willingness to let me observe their

seminars.

The general points I wish to draw out from this are firstly, informed consent is
difficult to obtain for research participants with whom the researcher does not

have direct contact. Secondly, obtaining informed consent once may not be
enough. This is especially the case where there is a shift in research focus.

Thirdly, collecting a diverse range of data involves ethical ramifications that

become increasingly complex.

The shift in my research focus had consequences with respect to the individuals I

interviewed, as well as the seminar groups. When I conducted the interviews I


was not sure exactly how I was wanting to use the transcripts. This was due to the
exploratory nature of the study - it was only through repeatedly scrutinising the

data I collected that a suitable focus for the project gradually emerged and, along
with this, the decision to only use selected parts of it. By this time I had
terminated contact with the interviewees and so did not inform them whose data I

44
was going to use and whose I was not. However, no one had responded to Letter

C in which I asked interviewees to contact me if they had concerns about my use


of their interviews for research purposes. I suggest that the difficulty of keeping

participants adequately informed was part of the inevitable evolution of ideas that
tends to occur in qualitative research.

2.4.3. ISSUES RAISED BY MY RELATIONS WITH THE

PARTICIPANTS

In this section, I discuss the issues raised by the type of research relationship I had
with the students from whom I collected data. I start by outlining the useful

distinctions Cameron et al, (1992), make between types of research relationship. I

go on to discuss this in the light of my own initial assessment, and subsequent


reassessment, of how my relations with them might be understood.

2.4.3.1. Research on, for or with participants

Cameron et al make a distinction between three kinds of relationship to

respondents: research on, research on and for, and research on, for and with
participants. The first two spring from a positivist, natural science view of
knowledge in which objective and value-free observation is held to be possible.

They point out that this is particularly problematic in social science research
because social reality is not transparently 'there', (ibid:7). In research 'on'
participants, basic ethical considerations are adhered to, with their rights to

privacy and the need to protect them from abuse setting limits on the research. In
research 'on and for' participants, though researchers advocate the interests of the

researched group, it is still they alone who have the power to decide how to use

their expert knowledge on behalf of the group they choose to research.

45
In contrast to these two, the type of research they argue for is 'empowering'
research, (ibid:22). This involves negotiating research agendas, disclosing the

researcher's goals, sharing research findings and negotiating control of them with

participants. It is research 'on, for and with' participants. This foregrounds, rather

than minimises, what Cameron et al view as inevitable - the interaction of

researcher and researched.

In terms of placing myself among the three types of relationship to participants

which Cameron et al lay out, I did research 'on' my interviewees, in a project


established by me for my purposes. I did not deliberately take a position of
advocacy or empowerment with respect to them when collecting data. I collected

data with the positivist assumption that I was gathering material about them, the

interviewees. However, later on I became aware that I was also gathering material

about us, the interviewees and myself, and that there was, inevitably, social
interaction between us in the interviews which affected the data. This made me
reassess the status I was giving to how the interviewees and I interacted, and my
reflections on this eventually led to the analyses in Part II of this thesis. I regard

as regrettable, though not perhaps surprising, that it was not until I actually

engaged with the practicalities of doing social science research - and my PhD
project was my first such endeavour - that assumptions I carried with me, but was

not aware of until then, came to light, about how I viewed my relationship with

the participants in my research. I discuss these in the next section.

2.4.3.2. My own conflict over relationships with participants

The assumption I most particularly became aware of was that researchers should

remain aloof from those they research so as not to affect the data they collect.
This assumption came to light when I was faced by interviewees asking questions
during interviews. I discuss how I found it necessary and desirable to give fairly

46
lengthy responses to interviewees' questions in Chapter 5, (section 5.4.). The
conflict I felt over answering such questions was the result of feeling that my

behaviour in interviews did not match what I had until then taken as the model for

research - that the researcher should remain as disinterested as possible, and that

my responses were thus a distortion of the data. Retrospectively, I decided that

the ways the interviewees and I related discursively in the interviews - which
includes the issue of interviewee questions - were actually part of the data, the

analysis of which could be perceived as enhancing the overall insights gained

from the data set. In short, I came to the conclusion that both of us contributed to
how the interviewees discursively constructed meanings about the university in

the interviews, and have incorporated this in my analyses in Part II of the thesis.
By doing this I feel I have done the best I can, retrospectively, to re-shape my use
of the data in a way that better fits my changing conception that social science
research inevitably involves relating to the researched, and that recognition of this

enhances a research project.

2.4.4. ISSUES CONCERNING ANONYMITY

In this section I discuss interviewees' anonymity, and the steps I took to safeguard

it. My particular concern about anonymity was whether what I established at the
outset as the means of anonymising interviewees was still adequate when I later
changed my research focus so as to focus on interviewees' discursive meaning
making practices.

2.4.4.1. Reasons for my concern with anonymity

There were four reasons for my concern with anonymity. Firstly, the interviewees

were members of the university which would hold a copy of the finished thesis.

Secondly, the informality of the interviews encouraged a relaxed and

47
conversational style of talking. This may have led to a more acute example of
what would anyway be the case, that interviewees may give away more or

different things about themselves than they intend. This is especially the case

where, as in my interviews, they are encouraged to talk about their own lives in

answer to open ended questions, and on the understanding that whatever they say

is likely to be relevant. A third reason for my concern with anonymity is that


personal experiences are by nature particularising. Finally, part of my interest in

the interview texts was in interactive aspects of them, particularly self disclosure,

(chapter 5), and personal experience narratives, (chapters 7 and 8). These features

of the interviews are revealing - both as data and of individual's identities.

Anonymity really becomes an issue where there are members of the potential
audience of the PhD thesis who might conceivably recognise the people referred

to in it - in this case, the interviewees themselves, their families, and members of


academic staff who taught them and who might know some defining features of
their lives. It is in the overlap between people who know the interviewees and
people who may read the PhD where anonymity becomes difficult to ensure, (I am

grateful to Telma Gimenez for enlightening discussion about this).

2.4.4.2. Possible ways of resolving the anonymity issue

One way of partially resolving the anonymity issue might have been to show the
transcripts to the interviewees and let them decide if there were any parts of the

interviews that they wished to be deleted. Another way might have been to show

them the final thesis, or the parts of it relating to them. Both these methods rely
on increasing the extent of informed consent, which I have discussed in section
2.4.2.3. I did not take either of these courses of action, for reasons I give below.

With hindsight I think they might have at least partially resolved the issue, though

they would not guarantee anonymity or confidentiality.

48
2.4.4.3. Why I did not check with interviewees once I had
changed the focus of my research

Once I had changed my research focus and decided on detailed analysis of the

interview data, I checked with Maria, the respondent who, in my opinion, revealed

most personal information, and she gave her consent for me to use even this

personal information. I did not do this with the other interviewees for several

reasons. Firstly, I wondered whether it might not seem yet another favour I was

asking of interviewees to ask them to read through 20 to 30 pages of informal talk.

They may not have been interested enough in what I was doing to wish to do this.

Secondly, a way to make interviewees aware of what I was going to do with the

data would have been to show them parts of the analysis, but here there would

have been the difficulty of explaining my analytical position to a layperson.

Thirdly, I recognise my own reluctance to show either transcripts or analysis to

the interviewees because of the investment I had already made in the data. Each

transcript alone took about 10 hours to transcribe. Each reading of the whole set

of 16 transcripts took two days. Developing lines of argument, selecting what to

analyse and starting preliminary analyses took many more hours. At none of these

points did I really want to give the interviewees the right to prevent me using the

data they had given me. There is a conflict over the ownership of knowledge here.

I realised with regret that once I had invested so much work in it, what was

originally personal experience belonging to the interviewees felt like my data.

2.4.4.4. The action I took to resolve the issue

These difficulties, and the awareness that it was not possible to totally guarantee

anonymity and confidentiality, made me decide to adopt the following strategy. I

did several things to safeguard interviewees' anonymity. Firstly, when I collected

49
the data I established with the interviewees, during the interviews, that they agreed

to my using pseudonyms, and I assured them that nobody would use the tapes of

the interviews except me. This was also the case with the transcripts.

Secondly, I decided not to append the transcripts to the written thesis or to make

them available for secondary analysis. I took these decisions as the best solution

to my shortcomings in dealing with the complex ethical issues I have discussed in

the preceding sections. I recognise that secondary analysis might offer new

insights about the meanings constructed in these interviews. Another researcher's

interpretation of my data might be very different from the one I present in this

thesis - though as I pointed out in section 2.2.3., in qualitative research there

cannot be claims about giving 'the true' picture. However, once other researchers

have access to the data, I no longer have control over how it may be used. In

short, I felt it was better to be overcautious where ethical issues were concerned.

2.5. CONCLUSION

In retrospect, I feel I could have resolved some of the considerable anxiety I felt

over the issue of anonymity if I had developed an approach to my research that

took more account of the 'on, for and with' approach of Cameron et al, (section

2.4.3.1.). With hindsight, I would like to have made the parameters of my

relationship to the researched more explicit at the outset. I would have liked to

ask the interviewees to check the transcripts shortly after the interviews, and to

have been more explicit about the extent to which I could reasonably protect their

anonymity. Regrettably, the complexity of this issue did not become apparent to

me until quite late on in the research process. There was a certain amount of

checking up on my own procedures that I could and did do afterwards, as I have

outlined here, but I realise that some of my shortcomings, with respect to

50
relationships with the researched, were due to my inexperience as a researcher,

from which I can only learn.

However, I consider I have made the best use I can of what I have learned from

these interpersonal aspects of the research process in the following two ways.

Firstly, I have explained what I have learned from engaging in this particular piece

of research in this chapter, through my discussion of ethical issues. Secondly, I

build on this in Part II by analysing discursive features of the interviews as

interpersonal events and drawing attention to how meanings were jointly

constructed in them.

51
-PART II-

POWER AND INTERPERSONAL MEANINGS

IN THE INTERVIEWS

INTRODUCTION TO PART II

In Part II, I analyse the interviews as social interactions between the interviewees

and myself as interviewer. This is an exploration in which I try to use a broad

analytical distinction to separate out what is actually closely entwined in the

interview data. The distinction I make is between two co-existing sets of

discursive practices that realise power in different ways. I attempt to expose some

of the complexity of the power relations in the interviews using this distinction.
This exploration is of general interest to social scientists, since my interviews are a

sample of research interviews - the means by which so much social science data is

gathered. What I show in Part II is that meanings generated in research interviews

are constructed from interpersonal as well as ideational elements. (Analysis of

ideational meanings is included in Part III).

In Chapter 3, I use the common social science definition of an interview as 'a


conversation with a purpose', as a starting point for identifying the two
aforementioned sets of discursive practices that are typically present in interviews.

I call them 'institutionally defined' discursive practices - which realise the


conventional power asymmetries of interviews; and 'conversational' discursive

practices - which realise more equal power relations. I conclude Chapter 3 with an
introductory analysis of how the power balance shifted during different stages of
my interviews. This constitutes a preliminary description of the control I exerted,
as interviewer, on the interview structure.

52
In chapters 4 and 5, I analyse features of the two sets of discursive practices I

defined in chapter 3. In Chapter 4, I focus on the 'institutionally defined'

discursive practices, and analyse questions and formulations as discursive

realisations of interactional control. My analysis shows that the discursively

realised power relations in the interviews are complex: though I, as interviewer,

asked most questions and did most of the formulating work, the interviewees also

sometimes used these strategies. I suggest that clear cut distinctions between the

positions of power occupied by interviewer and interviewees are blurred to some

extent, and that this is because of the unstructured nature of these interviews

which encouraged the use of 'conversational' discursive practices.

These are the topic of chapter 5. I focus my discussion on 'conversational'

discursive practices, by discussing the concept of self disclosure. After

characterising the interviewees' self disclosure, I discuss the self disclosures they

made - and also those I made - in relation to power in the interviews. A

requirement of an interview is that interviewees disclose information about

themselves and interviewers create rapport in order to encourage this self

disclosure. I discuss rapport as an instrumental use of conversation, and point out

that one way I created rapport was to make disclosures about the experience of

being a mature student - an experience which I shared with the interviewees. This

involves discussion of the effects on meaning making of the unstructured


interview as a research tool.

53
CHAPTER 3

POWER RELATIONS IN THE INTERVIEWS

3.1. INTRODUCTION
3.1.1. AIMS OF THIS CHAPTER
3.1.2. ANALYSING SOCIAL INTERACTIONS OF WHICH I WAS A PART
3.2. THE RESEARCH INTERVIEW: A CONVERSATION WITH A PURPOSE
3.2.1. DEFINING THE RESEARCH INTERVIEW
3.2.2. DEFINING MY INTERVIEWS
3.3. THE RESEARCH INTERVIEW: POWER RELATIONS AND DISCOURSE
3.3.1. CONVERSATION IN INTERVIEWS
3.3.2. INSTITUTIONALLY DEFINED DISCURSIVE PRACTICES
3.3.3. COMPLEXITY OF THE POWER RELATIONS IN MY INTERVIEWS
3.4. OVERVIEW OF THE INTERACTIONAL STRUCTURE OF THE INTERVIEWS
3.4.1. STAGE 1: PRELIMINARIES
3.4.1.1. What the interviewer is 'allowed to do
3.4.1.2. The interview agenda
3.4.2. STAGE 2: STARTING THE INTERVIEW PROPER
3.4.3. STAGE 3: THE INTERVIEW PROPER
3.4.4. STAGE 4: WINDING DOWN
3.4.5. STAGE 5: FURTHER CONTACT
3.5. CONCLUSION

3.1. INTRODUCTION

In this chapter, I set the scene for the analyses which follow in the rest of Part II

on interpersonal meanings, particularly power relations.

3.1.1. AIMS OF THIS CHAPTER

The scene-setting function of this chapter is accomplished in two ways, which also

serve to carry forward the themes of Part I. Firstly, I characterise interviews as

'conversations with a purpose', (section 3.2.). I then discuss 'the interview' as a

type of social practice in which particular configurations of discourse shape both

the relations between participants and the meanings they construct, (section 3.3.).

I describe here the two sets of discursive practices which underpin the analyses of

chapters 4 and 5.

54
I then turn to the data itself, and in section 3.4. outline the stages in the interaction

between the interviewees and myself which occurred in each interview. The scene

setting function of this is that it describes the interview structure in a way

appropriate to the concerns of this Part of the thesis. (The whole of chapter 6

functions in the same way for Part III of the thesis).

3.1.2. ANALYSING SOCIAL INTERACTIONS OF WHICH I WAS


A PART

To explore the relations of power between myself and the interviewees involved

me in analysing my own utterances, as well as those of the interviewees'. I

therefore make no claims to objectivity as an analyst. However, when I conducted

the interviews I did not plan to use them as linguistic data - I intended them to be

preparatory explorations to support my study of seminar interactions, (see chapter

2, section 2.3.1.1.). As a result, my behaviour in them was not influenced by an

intention to use them as data for the analysis of power relations, and they thus

provide an unusual opportunity to study power relations in interviews.

As I described in chapter 1, (section 1.6.), the lack of attention paid to the effects

of interview settings on the collection and analysis of interview data has been

critiqued. In Part II of the thesis my own contribution to this body of work is to


throw some light on the dynamics of the interaction between myself as the

interviewer and the interviewees - in short, to treat my own interviews not simply

as instruments for data gathering, but as social situations which are themselves a

valuable subject for analysis considering the widespread use of interviews in


social science research.

55
3.2. THE RESEARCH INTERVIEW: A CONVERSATION
WITH A PURPOSE

Interviews can, in general, be defined as conversations with a purpose, (Robson,

1993:228), or as particular kinds of conversation, (Kress and Hodge, 1979:64). In

this section, I begin my discussion of discursive characteristics of research

interviews. The broad definition I have just given highlights that all types of

interviews are discursive events, and in this section I lay out some general

discursive characteristics of research interviews.

3.2.1. DEFINING THE RESEARCH INTERVIEW

The research interview is an event initiated by the interviewer/researcher, and its

purpose is the gathering of research-relevant information. (Unless stated

otherwise, I shall now restrict myself to research interviews). Oakley, (1981:31),


reviews the traditional research interview paradigm and describes it as a particular

type of conversation in which roles for the participants are clearly prescribed: the

interviewees are sources of data, who conform to the definition of the interview

supplied by the interviewer; while the interviewer elicits what she or he considers

to be relevant information from the interviewees.

Types of research interviews can be distinguished on the basis of their degree of

structure, as Robson points out, (op. cit.:231). Fully structured interviews involve

predetermined sequences of standardised questions and standardised methods of

recording responses. Semi-structured interviews allow for modifications of

questions to fit the particular interviewing situation. In unstructured interviews


the interviewer has a general area of interest within which she lets the talk

develop.

56
3.2.2. DEFINING MY INTERVIEWS

My own interviews were not highly structured in terms of the definitions I have

just outlined. My purpose in them was to elicit the interviewees' initial

perceptions and experiences of university. (This is what the meanings made in the

interviews, and which I analyse in this thesis, were about). I made this purpose

explicit to each interviewee. The following extract is an example of how I

expressed this:

Int: Basically this time it isn't as though I've got a sort of


questionnaire or anything I'm going to ask you to answer questions in
a certain order or anything but I do have some sort of general
questions but basically it's what's you know important to you about
why you're doing your degree and that's the sort of kind of agenda
I've got for the interview
(Armel, 1-5).

This purpose was fulfilled by my use of six prompt themes, (see Appendix 2), to

express the areas I was interested in within the general field of the interviewees'

initial perceptions of university. These are the "general questions" in the extract

above. I only used these questions if the interviewee had not covered the relevant

topic in the course of her or his talk anyway. In addition, as I also say in the

extract above, I was interested in knowing what was important to them. This

allowed interviewees some room to develop their own concerns, though this was

definitely subordinated to the fact that the interview was ultimately an encounter

established by me for my purposes. I considered each interview to be complete

when the six areas I was interested in, and anything that the interviewees wished

to say in addition, had been covered.

In this thesis I shall refer to my interviews as 'unstructured', in line with the three

types I distinguished in section 3.2.1. above. However, I note that it is a

57
somewhat misleading term. As I have pointed out, I did have themes that I wished

to cover and an agenda, albeit a loosely defined one. These imposed a certain

amount of structure on the interviews, as I show in section 3.4.

I would also like to make a further point, which is important for the discussions of

interactional control and self disclosure in chapters 4 and 5. Before conducting

the interviews, I had decided I was willing to talk about the fact that I had

experienced starting at university as a mature student like them, if this seemed

appropriate. This was because this experience had influenced the development of

my research interests, as I mentioned in chapter 1, section 1.7.1. The interviewees

were also aware of this from my first letter to them, (Letter A, Appendix 1).

3.3. THE RESEARCH INTERVIEW: POWER RELATIONS


AND DISCOURSE

In this section I re-articulate the social science definition of an interview as a

conversation with a purpose, (section 3.2.), in the terms of Fairclough's approach

to discourse analysis. This is important in order to contextualise the analyses and

discussion of the rest of Part II. I argue that, for analytical purposes, the way

discourse is used in my interviews can be usefully grouped into 'conversational'


and 'institutionally defined' discursive practices. This captures a discursive

heterogeneity that is true of interviews in general: they contain conversational

elements, because of their highly interpersonal nature; but they also contain
discursive practices which are shaped by their institutional context, (such as
discourse types peculiar to the institutional domain in which the interviews occur).

What I am concerned with here is the way power is discursively realised in

interviews. In the following two sections, I characterise more fully these two

58
groups of discursive practices and account for their presence in interviews

generally and in my own in particular. This will develop my discussion in chapter

1, (section 1.5.), on the conversationalising tendencies in public discourses.

3.3.1. CONVERSATION IN INTERVIEWS

In this section I discuss 'conversational' discursive practices, prior to

distinguishing them from 'institutionally defined' discursive practices in the next

section.

I characterise conversation here as everyday private domain talk. It involves

"symmetrical social relations, unconstrained topic and informality of style", (Agar,

1985:147), and concerns "feelings, states of mind, private thoughts and personal

motivations", (Fairclough, 1992:217). I consider conversation as a set of


discursive practices, rather than as a single discourse type. This is because, while

a conversational perspective tends towards informality and personal affect, as I

have described, it can refer to any domain of experience. (As I said in chapter I,

section 1.3.3., a discourse type is specified by both perspective and domain).

Fairclough explains the presence of conversational discourse in interviews using

the concept of "discourse technologies", that is, the instrumental use by

institutions of social scientific knowledge about language "for purposes of

bureaucratic control", (1989:211). One aspect of discourse technologies is that


they simulate private domain conversational practices, (ibid.:216), and appropriate

them for use in the public domain. This results in an appearance of equality which

is not in fact there. Fairclough contrasts this to discourse "which has no underlying

instrumental goals for any participant but is genuinely undertaken in a co-

operative spirit in order to arrive at understanding and common ground",


(ibid.:218). Private domain uses of conversation would exemplify this non-

59
instrumental use. However, in the context of an interview, conversation must be

understood as being instrumental or, in the terms of my definition of interviews in

section 3.2.1. - purposeful. I return to this in chapter 5, section 5.4.2.

In the following section I discuss what I mean by 'institutionally defined'

discursive practices, which then enables me to state clearly the distinction I am

making between 'institutionally defined' and 'conversational' discursive practices.

3.3.2. INSTITUTIONALLY DEFINED DISCURSIVE PRACTICES

First, I wish to distinguish what I mean by 'institutionally defined' discursive

practices from the notion of 'order of discourse', which I mentioned in chapter 1,

(section 1.3.2.). Orders of discourse are the totality of discursive practices

associated with specific institutions, including those discursive practices which

have been shaped by the colonising effects of conversation. 'Institutionally

defined' discursive practices is a term I am using to capture a particular way in

which power is realised in discursive practices across institutions: the vesting of

power in institutionally established roles.

In interviews there are clear power asymmetries resulting from power being vested

in the interviewer by virtue of her/his institutionally established role. These power

asymmetries between the participants can be partly explained by the fact that

interviews tend to exemplify an encounter between a public institution and a

private individual - Agar, (op.cit.:148), for example, argues that interviews

involve a fitting of the individual's perceptions to the institution's way of thinking

about them. This is achieved discursively, to a large extent, by the institutional


representative/interviewer having control of convening and terminating the

interview, and having the right to ask questions, select topics, or in other ways

elicit from interviewees what she or he establishes as relevant information This

60
one-way elicitation of information from one participant, (or group of participants),

by the other is an interview's main purpose and results in the unequal distribution

of social power and control. (I return to the topic of interactional control in my


own interviews in chapter 4).

Power asymmetries are inevitably present in all types of discourse. This includes

conversation, as Kress and Hodge point out, (op.cit.:64). However, what I argue

for here is a difference in type of asymmetry. In private domain uses of

conversation individuals may interact as equals. Where there are power

asymmetries, they tend to be seen as qualities of the participants as individuals. In

institutionally defined discursive practices, where there are power asymmetries,

they are chiefly the result of institutionally established roles. The distinction I am

making between 'conversational' and 'institutionally defined' discursive practices

rests on this contrast in the way power is realised in them. Clearly, these are
rather loosely defined theoretical terms. I use them tentatively, but I think they are

useful distinctions for analytical purposes and they make possible a discussion of

the complexity of the power relations in my interview data.

3.3.3. COMPLEXITY OF THE POWER RELATIONS IN MY

INTERVIEWS

I would like to point out here that interviews are widely and variously used in the

public domain, and are now part of the order of discourse of many institutions.

They are a common means whereby the infiltration or 'colonisation' by


conversation is achieved, which I mentioned in chapter 1, (section 1.5.). One

effect of the increasing use of conversation in public domain discourses is a

general reduction in the presence of overt markers of power and control,

(Fairclough, 1992:204). In my own interviews, I argue that the complexity of the

power relations was accentuated by features particular to them which increased the

61
conversational elements in them and thus reduced the presence of overt markers of

control. These are as follows.

I pointed out in section 3.2.2. that though I was the interviewer, and therefore

some sort of representative of the university, the interviewees knew from my

initial letter to them that I was both a research student and had been a mature

undergraduate student, as they were. I suggest my identity as a student researcher

and our sharing of relevant experience offset, to some extent, the power

asymmetry inherent in our roles as interviewer and interviewee. Insofar as this

was an approximation of symmetry in our social relations, I suggest it encouraged


conversational elements in our interaction. This was also likely to be encouraged

both by the unstructured nature of the interviews, and the topic of the interviews -
the interviewees' initial perceptions of university - which was about personal

experience. I return to this in more detail in chapter 5, (section 5.4.2.).

3.4. OVERVIEW OF THE INTERACTIONAL STRUCTURE OF


THE INTERVIEWS

I give here a brief analysis of the interactional stages through which my agenda

was realised, focusing on the power balance in the interviews. As I pointed out at

the beginning of this chapter, this analysis has a scene-setting function, to

contextualise those that follow in chapters 4 and 5. The five stages were as

follows:

STAGE 1: Preliminaries
STAGE 2: Starting the interview proper
STAGE 3: The interview proper
STAGE 4: Winding down
STAGE 5: Further contact

62
I include the beginnings and endings of the interviews, where the transitions were

made between the interview and the rest of the interviewees' and my own

everyday life. This is in order to highlight the concerns of this Part of the thesis -

that the interviews were social interactions, not just sites for the collection of

informational content, (which is largely confined to Stage 3, see section 3.4.3.


below).

3.4.1. STAGE 1: PRELIMINARIES

The first stage in each interview was to discuss a number of preliminaries with the

interviewees. These consisted in obtaining practical information about age, their

degree course and what Part 1 courses they were interested in doing. I also
checked it was acceptable to them that I tape record and described my

confidentiality procedures. The transcripts actually commence at different points


in this process.

3.4.1.1. What the interviewer is 'allowed' to do

It is worth noting here that, as the interviewer, I was 'allowed' to ask if I could take

notes and run a tape recorder as part of the conventional inequality of the roles in

interviews. For all the interviewees who formed the final sample, (though not for

all those I interviewed), I received permission to do this. This was the case even if

it was temporarily distressing, though Sharon was the only one to suggest this:

I'll forget about the tape recording in a few minutes


(Sharonl, 28).

Having the power to ask if I could take notes and run a tape recorder are

discursive features which exemplify the power asymmetries in interviews. It is

63
also worth noting that these conventions might already have been common

knowledge to the interviewees. Thus my broaching of these topics might have

fitted into a pre-existing frame of reference which they, (or some of them), had

about the power balances that normatively operate in interviews. Connie, (the

only one who did so explicitly), suggested her familiarity with these interview

conventions when she followed my broaching of the confidentiality issue with a

reference to her own experience of research at F.E. college:

Int: As regards this taping nobody'll . hear the tape and ah you know
your name won't be associated with it at all I hope that's alright for
confidentiality
Con: Yeah yeah...'cos when I did my project for Women's Studies I
went interviewing men ... [and] I couldn't say who [they were]
(Conniel, 2-16).

3.4.1.2. The interview agenda

I have already pointed out that the purpose of interviews in general, and this

includes mine, is to elicit information from the interviewees on topics established

by the interviewer. The statement of an agenda by the interviewer is a realisation


of 'institutionally defined' rather than 'conversational' discursive practices - it was

something I had the right to do by virtue of my role. However, I give two

examples below which show contrasting interviewee responses to my statement of

the agenda. Maria's response actually foregrounded a conversational element in

the interviews, while in Carol's interview, power asymmetries were foregrounded.

The first extract is from Maria's interview:

Int: It's more a case of a fairly informal discussion about what's


important to you about doing [a degree]
Mia: That's fine what are you doing it for
(Maria, 5-7).

64
Maria was alone among the interviewees in immediately following her agreement

to my agenda with a question of her own. This seemed to obey the rule 'this is a
conversation', where rights to extract information tend to be more equal. The

other interviewees seemed to obey the rule, (at this initial stage anyway), 'this is

an interview', by confining their utterances to agreement with my statements, and

not initiating anything. This example highlights the ambiguous status of these

interviews - that they could be understood in a range of ways, by different

interviewees, and at different stages in the interviews. In the further contact stage,

(section 3.4.5. below), for example, a number of interviewees asked questions.

In the second extract, from my interview with Carol, I compared the interview

with questionnaires in order to locate what I was trying to do against a type of

research interview Carol was likely to be familiar with as part of her everyday

knowledge. I followed the statement of my agenda with an attempt to put her at

ease by saying she could not Tail' at it. However, by comparing the interview with

a succeed-fail type encounter, (which she goes on to gloss as not an exam), rather

than, say, 'a chat', I unintentionally foregrounded the inherent power inequalities
of the interview.

Int: I don't have a sort of list it's not a sort of questionnaire kind of
thing it's more a case of just hearing what's important to you about
why you're doing a degree you know
Car: Yes yes yes
Int: And that's something interesting in it's own right so . urn. I you
won't there's no sort of failure you can't fail this interview
[both laugh]
Car: It's not an exam no
Int: No certainly it isn't
Car: Oh dear [ still laughing]
(Carol, 24-33).

This extract also shows that I recognised the power asymmetry inherent in our
roles, in my efforts to downplay it: the hedges by me, (e.g. you know, kind of

65
thing), and my rephrasing of utterances, (e.g. you won't there's no sort offailure),

which indicate tentativeness.

3.4.2. STAGE 2: STARTING THE INTERVIEW PROPER

The preliminaries sometimes led naturally into the interviewees beginning to talk

about their experiences of university or their reasons for doing a degree, so that the

topics of the interview proper were introduced without specific prompting by me.

For example, Wendy's talk about her husband's job led her into talking about why

she wanted to go to university - a topic which was one of the six prompt themes

on my agenda:

Wen: The job was getting to the stage that he just couldn't stay in the
job any longer, hence the reason we find ourselves in this part of the
world
Int: I see so it's a new start
Wen: Completely yes for both of us yeah
Int: Yeah
Wen: And that's why I decided to go to university
(Wendy, 56-62).

This led into a lengthy section of personal history that expanded her final

utterance above. If this did not occur, I would start the interview proper by

initiating a topic, as in the following example:

Int: Perhaps I can start us off by by asking you erm what made you
decide to do a degree at this point in your life
(Steve, 82-3).

My initiation of the move into the interview proper in this way was, of course, an

example of my control of the interview interaction.

66
3.4.3. STAGE 3: THE INTERVIEW PROPER

This section formed the bulk of each interview and consisted of the interviewees'

talk about their experiences of university so far - my general area of interest. I

discuss in detail the topics covered by the interviewees in chapter 6. Here I focus

on interpersonal aspects of this stage of the interviews.

This section of the interview did not only involve the interviewees meeting the

demands of the interview genre by talking to my agenda. There were demands of

the genre that I needed to meet too. This stage of the interviews included

utterances by me of various kinds - questions, formulations, evaluations,

observations and back channelling. In particular, I note here that it was necessary
for me to indicate to the interviewees that what they said was interesting and

relevant. For example:

Int: Well that's great that's all I mean you've been talking about
everything that sort of=
Wen: =Oh good [laughs]
Int: My interests
(Wendy, 554-6).

This was necessary precisely because the interviews involved open ended

questions and were not exams, as Carol pointed out. As loosely structured events
these interviews did not come with overt evaluation criteria - in the way modelled

by an exam - so, making a point of explicitly stating the usefulness of what

interviewees said was not just polite. It was a necessary means of compensating

for the lack of built-in methods through which the interviewees could assess how

they were doing. In addition, this illustrates the power asymmetry in the
interviews. My feedback to the interviewees signalled that what the interviewees

said was acceptable to me as the controlling participant.

67
3.4.4. STAGE 4: WINDING DOWN

Once the interviewees seemed to have covered all the points on my agenda, I

would indicate that I was drawing the interview to a close in the following way:

Int: Well I think we've urn . we've certainly, covered all the kinds of
themes that I've had in the back of my mind that I wanted to mention
I wondered if there was anything of particular interest to you about
doing a degree that we haven't talked about that you wanted to
mention just in closing
(Tania, 390-4).

This shift of topic is again a way in which I maintained control of the interview

interaction, but it also offered an opportunity for the interviewees to initiate a topic

of their own. In Tania's case, as well as in the cases of Mary, Connie (interviewl),

and Anne, (interview2), this led to quite lengthy continuations of the talk.

However, to offer an opening for the interviewees to say what they wanted was

my prerogative as the more powerful participant. It was not something jointly

negotiated, and it had an instrumental purpose and was thus not 'conversational'.

3.4.5. STAGE 5: FURTHER CONTACT

The final stage of each interview was a negotiation about further contact. The

power balance in this section of the interview was somewhat altered. This was

because I was now in the position of needing to make a request for further contact,

a point I return to in chapter 5, (section 5.4.1.1.). This stage involved me

dominating the talk to give a quite detailed plan of what I then perceived to be the

next stage of my research. This plan was a continuation of contact with

interviewees in one of two ways, either further informal interviews, or participant

observation in one of their seminars, as I have described in chapter 2, (section

2.3.1.4.). In some cases this provoked a lot of discussion, for example about

68
interviewees' concerns about the effect of my presence on seminar groups. This is

shown in the following extract from Connie's second interview, (I had mentioned
earlier that I had done Psychology as an undergraduate):

Con: I mean you've done Psychology and people don't react the same
when they know they're being watched do they...having done a bit of
Psychology [myself] this is one of the things they've...talked about
(Connie2, 308-9, 318-21).

3.5: CONCLUSION

In this chapter I have introduced the way I conceptualise the power relations in the

interviews for the analyses in chapters 4 and 5, by making a distinction between

two types of discursive practices in the interviews which realise power in

contrasting ways. I began to illustrate this from the data by describing the
different interactional stages of the interviews. This showed that the balance of

power varied from stage to stage in the interviews. From this rather cursory look

at the interviews as a 'whole', I move, in the next chapter, to a more detailed

analysis of particular discursive features which realised institutionally defined


asymmetries in the power relations between interviewer and interviewee.

69
CHAPTER 4

INTERACTIONAL CONTROL

4.1. INTRODUCTION
4.2. THE ANALYSIS OF QUESTIONS
4.2.1. CODING CATEGORIES
4.2.2. RESULTS: SPREAD OF INTERROGATIVE TYPES ACROSS THE DATA
SET
4.3. QUESTIONS AND INTERACTIONAL CONTROL
4.3.1. INTERVIEWER QUESTIONS: NON-POLAR
4.3.1.1. Non-polar questions give new information
4.3.1.2. The obligation to impart new information
4.3.2. INTERVIEWER QUESTIONS: POLAR
4.3.2.1. Extended rather than minimum responses
4.3.2.2. Polar questions that gave an expected minimum answer
4.3.2.3. Reasons for extended rather than minimal responses
4.3.3. INTERVIEWEE QUESTIONS
4.3.4. QUESTIONS AND TOPIC SHIFTS
4.3.4.1. Abrupt shift of topics
4.3.4.2. Incremental shifts of topic
44. FORMULATION
4.4.1. DEFINITIONS DRAWN FROM CONVERSATIONAL ANALYSIS
4.4.2. FORMULATION AS A MEANS OF JOINTLY CREATING MEANINGS
4.4.3. FORMULATION AS A MEANS OF INTERACTIONAL CONTROL
4.4.3.1. Formulations by the interviewer
4.4.3.2. Formulations by the interviewees
4.5. CONCLUSION

4.1. INTRODUCTION

In this chapter, I continue with the theme of Part II - to analyse interpersonal


meanings in the interviews, particularly focusing on relations of power. The focus

of this chapter is the 'institutionally defined' discursive practices I distinguished in

chapter 3, (section 3.3.). As I explained there, I use this term to denote those

discursive practices which realise conventional power asymmetries resulting from

the purpose of interviews - the one-way elicitation of information. In this chapter


I focus my exploration on interactional control, an area I began to look at in the

last chapter, in section 3.4. In this chapter, I analyse two discursive features for

what they can reveal about interactional control in the interviews. In sections 4.2.
and 4.3. my focus is on questions, and in section 4.4. on formulation.

70
My reasons for this focus are as follows. Firstly, the use of questions by the

interviewer are a definitive discursive feature of interviews, (though not the only

means by which she or he elicits information). Secondly, this use of questions

realises the unequal relations of power in interviews. However, what I point out in

this chapter is that though most questions were asked by me, as the interviewer,

the interviewees also asked questions. This shows up the complexity of the power

relations that actually occurred in the interviews. Thirdly, the complexity of these

power relations is further exemplified by a discussion of formulation, which

interestingly has the dual function of interactional control and aiding the joint

construction of meaning.

Other discursive features relevant for an analysis of interactional control, but not

covered here, are back channelling, interruptions, modality markers and aspects of

the turn-taking structure apart from questions. (See chapter 2, section 2.3.3. for a

brief discussion of back channelling and interruptions).

4.2. THE ANALYSIS OF QUESTIONS

As I have said, I am particularly interested in questions because they are a means

of expressing power relations in the interview context: power resides with the

interviewer partly because she has the right to ask questions and so develop the

interaction around her own agenda. In this chapter I limit myself to questions,

rather than expanding the analysis to include the turn-taking structure. This would

undoubtedly have been relevant to interactional control and issues of power, but

the size of the data set, and the necessity of making this analysis fit within one

chapter, precluded doing such a detailed analysis. However, I do contextualise my


discussion of questions in section 4.3. by reference to responses given to them.

71
I also limit myself to the analysis of questions that take the grammatical form of

interrogatives, as these are unambiguously identifiable in the data set. Questions,

which are utterance categories, are not always realised by interrogative mood

structures in the grammar. Mood structures are part of the interpersonal function

of language, because they realise interactional aspects of the clause, (Downing and

Locke, 1992:165). When the clause is used to exchange information it takes the

form of the indicative mood, with declaratives expressing statements, and

interrogatives expressing questions. In these interviews, as in other social

situations, it is sometimes the case that utterances which seek information take the

syntactic form of declaratives. These are not included in the analysis in this

chapter, because of the aforementioned space constraints, though they are

undoubtedly interesting with respect to interactional control. Indirect


interrogatives express doubt or lack of knowledge, (ibid.:80). I give below an

example of an indirect interrogative to illustrate their presence in the data:

Int: I wondered whether if you'd hoped [university] would be a


different kind of experience altogether
Ann: Yes yes I did
(Arme2, 131-3).

Though this is not a direct interrogative, there is a yes/no clause, (beginning with

whether...), to which Anne responds This sort of indirection was a way in which I

downplayed the power inequalities between us.

In the following sections I do a simple quantitative analysis of types of

interrogatives in the data, (the remainder of section 4.2.), using grammatical


definitions to quantify types of interrogatives. This acts as a summary of the

spread of the phenomenon in the data set. It is followed by a selective, qualitative


analysis that places questions in the context of my interests in this chapter - the

relations of power between participants, (section 4.3.). I mark this switch from

72
focusing on grammatical type to focusing on utterance category, by identifying the
phenomena from this point on as questions rather than interrogatives.

4.2.1. CODING CATEGORIES

In coding interrogatives in the data set, the main distinction I make is between

polar and non-polar interrogatives. I list the categories of interrogatives that I


used below:

1. Polar interrogatives:

Polar interrogatives ask for a yes or no answer, that is, polarity only, for example:

Int: Does that relate to this thing of somehow feeling abnormal


Mar: Yeah
(Mary, 323-5).

2. Non-polar interrogatives:

In non-polar interrogatives the type of information requested, but not the terms of
the content, is contained in the wh- word of the interrogative,. In the following

example, Maria asked me to give her information she did not have:

Maria: What are you doing [this interview] for


Int: Well it's going to be a PhD
(Maria, 7-8).

3. Alternative polar interrogatives:

I also distinguished alternative polar interrogatives, where two polar interrogatives


are joined by or, and the expected answer is found in one or other of the terms of

the question. In the following example, Steve picked as his answer one of the
alternatives I offered in my question:

-73
Int: Would [the difficulty of mixing with younger students] be mainly
socially or also in sort of seminars
Ste: Socially mainly
(Steve, 395-7).

4. Embedded interrogatives:

There were some cases where non-polar interrogatives were embedded in polar

ones. In this case there are two interrogatives - the polarity of the main clause,

and the content of the subordinated non-polar clause. Context and speaker

intention give one or other of these more importance, (Downing and Locke,

ibici:185). In the interviews, this was a form I sometimes used to request

information about the courses the interviewees were thinking of doing, for
example:

Int: And you're going to do do you know what Part One courses you
want to do . yet
Car: Well um I put down I haven't got the book with me now urn.
natural Man in the Natural World
(Carol 54-7).

The context of the interview, as an activity for me to gather information, resulted

in Carol responding to the embedded non-polar interrogative, rather than just


responding yes or no.

5. Tag questions:

I also counted tag questions, though they take the form of a declarative with a

polar interrogative marker attached to it, (ibid.:202). In the following example,

Connie used three tag questions, (italicised):

Con: I mean [psychology]'s a new subject anyway isn't it so I mean


perhaps new things will come up while I'm there you know what I
mean which will alter your perception of people and that won't it
really so I mean I must alter just by studying it in depth mustn't I
(Connie 1, 416-9).

74
In my count of the interrogatives in the data set, I did not count as separate
instances several attempts to formulate a single question. I also did not count

interrogatives which were internal to stories told by the interviewees and thus not

directly related to the interview interaction - for example, where direct discourse

was used to represent interactions the interviewee had with a third party, as in the

following extract from Connie, (polar question in italics):

Con: In fact one woman that I know she rang me up on Monday night
and said have you got anything from the university yet and I says it
came second post today
(Conniel, 54-6).

4.2.2. RESULTS: SPREAD OF INTERROGATIVE TYPES


ACROSS THE DATA SET

The coding of the categories of interrogatives I outlined in the previous section

resulted in the range of types in the data set that I give in Table 4.1. below.

75
Table 4.1.:
Table showing number and type of interrogatives asked by interviewees and

interviewer

Polar Polar alt. Polar tag Non polar , Embedded Total


Intee Inter Intee Inter Intee Inter Intee Inter Intee Inter Intee Inter
An! 1 6 4 3 11 1 1 25
An2 2 8 1 2 1 3 3 14
Car 1 6 2 3 2 6 1 4 17
Col 4 8 3 19 5 7 14 1 30 31
co2 2 1 5 2 3 9 4
Mia 3 2 4 3 10 1 5 18
Mry 1 21 3 5 4 4 19 1 10 48
Pam 2 10 3 1 10 3 15
Pen 3 7 2 6 1 3 1 6 17
Sam 1 12 5 1 3 2 20
Sar 1 10 4 1 9 1 24
Shi 2 8 2 16 2 26
Sh2 1 4 4 1 3 1 12
Ste 17 2 4 1 10 1 1 34
Tan 13 5 11 2 0 31
Wen 4 10 1 2 5 1 5 18
Total 25 144 3 25 34 47 21 136 0 10 83 354

Key:
Polar alt. = Polar alternative interrogative
Embedded = Embedded interrogative
Intee = Interviewee
Inter = Interviewer

Table 4.1. gives a visual summary of the frequency and type of interrogatives

asked by me, as interviewer, and the interviewee, in each interview. A brief

discussion of the table follows, after which I will focus in more depth on

examples, to tie the occurrence of questions to my main interest in this chapter in

power relations, (section 4.3.).

I ask 354, (81%), of all the interrogatives in the interviews. The interviewees,

taken together, asked 83, (19%), of them. All the interviewees except Tania asked

76
at least one interrogative, with Connie in her first interview asking the most, 19 of

them tag questions. 13 interviewees asked polar interrogatives, 5 asked tag

questions, and only Penny asked an alternative polar interrogative. 9 interviewees

asked non-polar interrogative. No interviewees used embedded interrogatives.

The number of interrogatives I asked in each interview varied considerably, for

example, in Connie's first interview I asked a total of 31 interrogatives, while in

her second interview I asked only 4. This was because by her second interview I

had already fulfilled some of my agenda. In addition, she was very excited to talk
about her experience of Introductory Week, which I let her do. This pattern of

fewer interrogatives in her second interview was true for each of the three

interviewees I interviewed twice - the table shows this for both Anne and Sharon

as well as Connie. The table also shows that, in total, I asked many more polar

and non-polar interrogatives, (144 and 136 respectively), than alternative or tag
questions, (25 and 47 respectively).

The table also shows that I asked more questions than the interviewee in each

interview. The difference between the number of questions asked by me and the
interviewee in each interview is considerable, except in Connie's first interview.

Here the total number of questions we ask is almost the same, but 19 out of

Connie's 30 questions are tag questions, as I have said. The example I gave in

section 4.2.1. to illustrate tag questions came from this interview with Connie and

shows well how she tended to use them: they seemed to function as a way of
ensuring sh2 was retaining my agreement with what she was saying. They
typically remained part of the flow of her talk, with no pauses to indicate that they

were functioning as requests for an answering utterance from me.

77
4.3. QUESTIONS AND INTERACTIONAL CONTROL

To briefly review the findings shown in Table 4.1.: with respect to the asking of

questions - the traditional means of eliciting information in interviews - it was

certainly true that I asked most, though not all, of them, (81% across all the

interviews). Interviewees asked 19% of them, as I have said.

In this section I discuss questions as a means of interactional control, and thus link

them to the concerns of this Part of the thesis - power relations and the

construction of interpersonal meaning in the interviews. I look selectively first at

my own use of questions, (sections 4.3.1. and 4.3.2.), focusing on effects of using

polar and non-polar types of interrogatives. I then look at the interviewees' use of

questions, (section 4.3.3.), focusing on their content. I discuss these in relation to

interactional control by looking not just at the question type, (polar, non-polar),

but also at the prior talk and the responses associated with them.

4.3.1. INTERVIEWER QUESTIONS: NON-POLAR

Table 4.1. shows that 136 of my questions, (39% of all my questions), were non-
polar questions. There are two issues I would like to raise about these, with

respect to interactional control, which are elaborated in the following two sections.

4.3.1.1. Non-polar questions give new information

I would like to make two points here. My first point is that non-polar questions

necessarily involve information being given which is not present in the terms of
the question, as in the following example:

78
1. Int: Why have you become interested in education
1. Ste: 'Cos I hate. disliked my job...
(Steve, 93-5).

As I had a rather open-ended agenda for the interviews, (see chapter 3, section

3.2.2.), I wanted to elicit responses that were rich in new information, rather than

just inviting yes or no answers. Non-polar questions were thus very useful for me

- since they pointed forward into as yet unshared aspects of the field of the

interviewee's experience.

However, as in the example above, the response to a non-polar question might be

information rich but brief. What I wanted was not only responses rich in new

information, but extended responses, in order to discover more about the meanings

interviewees were giving to their experiences. I achieved this in the example

above by asking a further non-polar question, (my turn marked 2, below). The

extract below follows immediately from the one above:

2. Int: You did- you did- . what were you doing


2. Ste: I was a fitter down the pit
3. Int: Ah ha
3. Ste: Colliery
4. Int: Mm
4. Ste: But I remember. I'd say it goes right back to being sixteen...
(Steve, 96-101).

Steve gave another information rich but brief answer, (turn 2), which was
elaborated, in turn 3, by a reformulation of the pit as colliery - an incidentally

interesting shift from an insider's to a standardised term. Since my subsequent

turn only amounted to a minimal response, Steve then returned, in turn 4, to the
topic of my first question, (why have you become interested in education), and
elaborated on this in an extensive turn of 15 lines.

79
This illustrates my second point - that, with regard to relations of power, non-polar

questions do not constrain the content of an answer in the way that polar questions

do by asking for a yes/no answer to a given option. So, what Steve said about the

topic I introduced was under his control. Interviewees may have had (some)

control of topics. This is because my questions frequently sprang directly out of

information the interviewees had given. They were built on the past utterances of

the interviewee, in order to find out more about what she or he had thus far said.

This was in line with my open ended agenda, in which one of my concerns was to
discover what was interesting to the interviewees.

4.3.1.2. The obligation to impart new information

However, it is also the case that in answering a non-polar question it was


obligatory to impart some sort of new information. This has the potential to be

coercive or invasive, as I discussed in chapter 2, (section 2.4.1.). The conventions

of the genre, (established around the elicitation of information from the

interviewee by the interviewer), mean that there are obligations for the interviewee
to respond on the topics set by the interviewer. The example from Steve's

interview given in the previous section, also highlights that even a minimal

response from me, (Mm), might have to be taken by Steve as a prompt for more

information. The point I wish to make here is that the obligation to give new

information is not necessarily confined to the obligation of answering non-polar

questions, though that may be a clear case where it occurs. One way of

understanding the lengthy answer Steve gave about the background to his interest

in education is that I may have given him some cue interpretable as Would you tell
me more about that? The information eliciting purposes of the interview genre
increase the likelihood that verbal or non-verbal behaviour which can be construed

as information-seeking will be taken that way.

80
However, several interviewees did express that they enjoyed the opportunity to

talk about themselves. For example, Maria said, with some pleasure:

Mia: All that talking about me I haven't done that for a long time
(Maria, 456).

4.3.2. INTERVIEWER QUESTIONS: POLAR

61% of my questions were polar, (including alternative polar and tag questions).

In the following sections I discuss the tendency the interviewees showed to

respond to my polar questions with extended answers.

4.3.2.1. Extended rather than minimum responses

Unlike in non-polar questions, in polar questions, (including alternative polar and

tag questions), the terms of the answer are given in the question. Since I had a

rather open-ended interview agenda, it is initially somewhat surprising to find that

61% of my questions were polar. However, my analysis showed that a great many

of my polar questions resulted in extended answers, rather than just the necessary
minimum polar one. In cases where I asked two questions as two different 'takes'

on the same topic this is perhaps to be expected. In the following example, which
received an extended reply, I asked Penny a non-polar followed by a polar
question:

Int: And what 's made you decide to come and do a degree II mean
was it any of those particular job experiences that made you decide
Pen: I think it was to backtrack a bit what will probably put all this
into perspective psi...
(Penny, 13-6).

81
However, even where I only ask a polar question, extended answers were
frequently given. This is illustrated in the following two examples, in which both

Carol and Sharon give a minimum answer, (Yes), but follow it with a lengthy

elaboration, the beginning of which is given:

Int: So is it a case of your confidence having grown as you've done


[educational] things
Car: Yes I think so because I do lack confidence ...I mean at one
time...
(Carol 147-51).

Int: Is [going on to university after school] something not natural in


the way you were brought up
Sha: Yeah it was. like the cherry on top of the cake if you're extra
good you can go to university...in a lot of ways I'm glad I didn't go
when I was younger because...
(Sharonl, 132-5).

The point I would like to make here is that it is likely interviewees so frequently

gave extended answers to polar questions because they were following the

guidelines of my stated agenda - that I want to hear about what university meant to

them - and so took even polar questions as opportunities to do that. This


collaboration with my purposes was very fortuitous for me as an interviewer since

it increased the amount of information I received, but it also involved the

interviewees in colluding with interactional control conventions of the interview


genre that favour the interviewer, and which may have resulted in the interviewees

saying more about themselves than they were aware.

4.3.2.2. Polar questions that gave an expected minimum

answer

There were very few cases of polar answers receiving simply a yes or no answer.

The following example is the clearest instance of where a polar question was

82
given a polar answer, (Mary's first turn below), but even this is elaborated, (her
second and third turns). The pronoun that in my first turn is an anaphoric

reference to observations I had been making about Mary's relative status as a nurse
and as an undergraduate student:

1. Int: Do you have any feelings about that. or thoughts about that
1. Mar: No
2. Int: ( )
2. Mar: I haven't really thought about it
3. Int: No
3. Mar: At all
4. Int: Yeah yeah
4. Mar: I . I suppose I've thought more about. erm . er . my relation
to erm . a normal age student
5. Int: Yes what are your thoughts about that
(Mary, 292-301).

My question, (turn 1), clearly did not link up with Mary's own perceptions of her

relative status. I had spent most of the previous 19 lines building an argument

about parallels between her roles in nursing and higher education. For example:

Int: ...and you're moving from a position of being. in a. somewhat


empowered position as a nurse but perhaps less in power than a
doctor into a position where you're going to parallel the patients
aren't you in education
(Mary, 281-4).

I was taken aback to receive her No answer, as it implied a disjunction in our

perceptions of the topic, and I did not find a way out of this, (my turns 2, 3 and 4).

Mary offered something she could talk to in her fourth turn. This was a complex

discursive position for her to be in, which is perhaps illustrated by her hesitations

in this topic-offering turn. Her offer was face saving for us both. It is suggestive

of either an obligation she may have felt, or a willingness to be jointly responsible,

for re-establishing the flow of talk. It also meant that she exerted temporary
control of the interaction as I agreed to her suggested shift of topic, (Yes in my

83
turn 5). Though this also acted as a statement of permission - yes you may talk

about that. My control of the interaction is further re-established when I ask her

the non-polar question what are your thoughts about that. The point I wish to
make is that considerable discursive work surrounded Mary's minimum response

to my initial polar question in turn 1. This suggests that in an unstructured

interview - in which the aim is the elicitation of personal information from the

interviewees - a yes/no response to a polar question may be grammatically

adequate but not always communicatively adequate.

4.3.2.3. Reasons for extended rather than minimal responses

I have already suggested, (section 4.3.2.1.), one reason for interviewees extended

rather than minimal responses to polar questions. This was that responses might
result from a recognition by the interviewees that my unstructured interviews, with

their open ended agenda, required quite expansive information giving on their

part, a requirement which they took the opportunity of even polar questions to

meet.

A second reason is that certain polar question expect more than a yes or no answer

anyway, and this would be a reason for giving an elaborated answer. For

example:

Int: Can you say more about that


(Carol, 276).

Int: Are there other things you're looking forward to specifically


about the degree
(Mary, 135-6).

This expectation of more than a minimal response was particularly clear in the
following situation in the interviews. A particular concern I had at the time of the

84
interviews was to discover whether the interviewees thought university would
change them in any significant way. In the interviews where I broached this topic

in the form of a question, it was necessarily as a polar question and frequently led

to lengthy responses. In the following example, this question led Tania to talk at
length about potential difficulties in juggling home and university commitments,
parts of which are given below:

Int: Do you think it will change you in any significant way coming to
university
Tan: I don't know...if it'll change me I must say there's only one thing
that worries me about it and that's the relationship with my
husband...he's been really supportive...I can't see me changing but I
can see sort of having to adapt family and university might be a bit
difficult
(Tania, 153-74).

This exemplifies the fact that where topics of interest to the interviewee were

broached - and asking whether university would change the interviewee seemed

often to be one such topic - it may not have mattered whether they were broached
as polar or non-polar questions.

4.3.3. INTERVIEWEE QUESTIONS

It was not only I who asked questions. Interviewees asked 19% of them. They

asked a range of types of question, as Table 4.1. shows. This is interesting in

terms of the 'institutionally defined' discursive practices which are my focus in this
chapter. I have so far discussed my questions, as the interviewer. I understand

these as a realisation of the asymmetrical power relations of interviews, where

power is vested in the institutionally established role of the interviewer. I suggest


that when the interviewees asked questions, this was an effect of the

'conversational' discursive practices which were also present in the interviews, and

which realised more equal power relations, (see chapter 3, section 3.3.3.).

85
However, as I go on to show in this section, interviewees use of questions was
limited.

Their questions fell into one of four categories. The first three categories were

about their own experience and could be grouped according to the following

functions, which I have illustrated with examples, (interrogatives in italics):

1. Self reflexive:

Mar: What would I say to [all those housewives], look at me...


(Maria, 429).

2. Practical:

Pen: Can I have an exploratory chat with some of my fellow course


members [about you sitting in on my seminars]
(Penny, 562-3).

3. Seeking confirmation:

(Sometimes an answer was not allowed for in this category, and the questions
were often in tag question form):

Car: I thought I'd take a GCSE. GCSE isn't it. erm English you
know . I thought that'll start me off...
(Carol, 120-1).

What is important for my discussion of questions and interactional control is that

there was, in addition to these three categories mentioned above, a fourth category.
These were questions which shifted attention from the interviewees' experiences,

(the focus of the three categories above), onto my experience. Six interviewees

asked such questions. The function of these questions was to elicit information
from me about my comparable experience to theirs as a mature student or my

86
research so far. These are the most interesting interviewee questions with respect
to interactional control. I suggest that the shift onto my experience was made

possible by the features of the interviews which accentuated the presence of

'conversational' discursive practices. What they effected was a brief switch in

roles: they were moments when the interviewees briefly controlled the interview

interaction.

I explore the complexity of these issues through a discussion of a section of Sam's

interview. Sam had been expressing his concern to know whether his B units at

F.E. college were an adequate preparation for university, (interrogatives in italics):

1. Sam: Have I no chance or am I alright you know . have I been er


adequate prepared by doing them B units are they adequate preparation
1. Int: Yes yes I felt just the same. I did my A level in Psychology in
evening classes to get my place at [name of H.E. institution] and . I'd
the same sort of worry at the beginning! mean you sort of. you just
don't know do you how you're going to fit into this new system
2. Sam: How did you manage
2. Int: I did alright actually. [( )
3. Sam: [Was it quite adequate preparation
3. Int: It w- it was for Psychology yeah but like you I had to do three
subjects in the first year...
(Sam, 217-227).

The questions in his first turn are of the 'self reflexive' type outlined above, but I

responded to them by saying I had a similar concern when I was at F.E. college. I

also made reference to general experience, using the second person pronoun and a
tag question, (you just don't know do you how you're going to fit...). The telling

about my own experience, (which I discuss further in chapter 5, section 5.4.), and

the tag question may have acted as cues that it was acceptable for Sam to ask me

questions about my experience, as he does in his second and third turns. In these

questions, he seems to be wanting to check his own experience against mine. I


answer his second question at some length, (my turn 3).

87
I had decided before conducting the interviews that to share information about my

comparable experience was something I would do, if it seemed relevant. In this

instance, it was my identification with the strong contrast of positions that Sam
expressed, (have I no chance or am I alright, turn 1), that led me to share my own

similar feelings, (I felt just the same, turn 1). Nevertheless, in terms of

interactional control, Sam's questions led to a switch in our roles, in which I

became the participant from whom personal information was being elicited. I then

had to reverse the temporary switch of roles and re-establish myself in my role as

interviewer. The following extract, which continues directly from the previous
one, covers this switch:

Int: ...but in fact I found that the psychology. I was well prepared by
having doing the A level . but partly I was so anxious that I'd . you.
know I'd really overworked on the A level and done far more on it
than I need to have done and I think that that's another thing that
mature students often tend to say . you know the- . they do feel
anxious ... [they] may. perhaps you know over work or feel they
overwork erm . in order to sort of. I don't know. feel like they're.
they're alright . you know that they're doing well enough . yes . yes -
yes . what were the other things . we've talked about most the things
erm - I had in mind really - oh one other thing ...one of my particular
interests in my research is about. power relations erm . and. for
example. the power relations between you know there's academic
institutions . very prestigious. and students like you and me you know
who come into it and have to sort of learn to play the game and . you
know, do we want. do we want to play the game and how much do we
and that kind of thing and I wondered if you had any thoughts about
that, at all
Sam: I've no worries on that score ...
(Sam, 227-45).

I reversed the temporary switch of interactional control by degrees, firstly, by

shifting the emphasis from my own experience to that of mature students in


general, (that's another thing that mature students often tend to say...); then by

reviewing how our talk so far had met my agenda for the interview, (we've talked

88
about most of the things I had in mind...); this leads in turn to a shift to another

topic on my agenda, (oh one other thing...). These were deliberate and conscious

means for reclaiming the control of the interaction and refocusing it on Sam's
experience.

What is less conscious, and retrospectively, I think, a reflection of my concern

over managing this small reorganisation of the power dynamics, is that the new

topic I asked Sam about, (ironically enough), concerned power relations in the

university setting. In articulating the interest I had in this topic, I put myself on
the same side as Sam, against prestigious academia, (there's academic institutions

very prestigious and students like you and me...) Retrospectively, I interpret my

own discursive behaviour at this point as, at one and the same time, reclaiming
control of the interaction and attempting to downplay it.

4.3.4. QUESTIONS AND TOPIC SHIFTS

Asking questions is part of a larger interactional control strategy - that of


controlling topics. This is worth brief discussion.

As I have already said I had a rather open ended agenda for the interviews - I was

both interested in what the interviewees found important about their experience of

university thus far, but I also had six themes within this general field that I wanted
to ensure were covered, (see Appendix 2). My analysis of the interviews showed

that I used two main strategies for controlling topics. These are interesting with
respect to my concerns in this chapter with interactional control.

89
4.3.4.1. Abrupt shift of topics

The roles of asymmetrical power in interviews mean that fairly abrupt shifts of

topic can be initiated by the interviewer as more powerful participant. These are a

realisation of what I have called 'institutionally defined' discursive practices. This


was not a strategy I frequently used, except at the beginning of the main part of
the interview, for example, (see italics):

Int: Yes yes it does take a while yeah I think we'll be able to phase
[our consciousness of the tape recording] out ( ) well how do you feel
generally at this point about starting
Sha: Oh excited
(Sharonl , 29-31).

In addition, I would shift the talk to a new topic if one of the six themes I was
interested in did not get covered in the course of interviewees' talk, for example,
(see italics):

Wen: There is a lot of. I've got to work at. but I know that. that
weakness [for skim reading articles] is there so . I know that's
something I have to work at
Int: Yeah. yeah. are there any things that you . at this point.
anticipate as being. sort of more difficult ...
(Wendy, 283-6).

This example shows that I made an abrupt shift to a new topic after only a brief

acknowledgement, (Yeah yeah), of what Wendy had said.

4.3.4.2. Incremental shifts of topic

I tended to exercise my topic shifting prerogative in a more incremental way. By

this I mean I tended to pick up on some aspect of the interviewee's previous

utterance in order to shift topics, rather than initiating new topics 'out of the blue'.

90
The shift to the topic of power relations in Sam's interview, which I discussed in

the previous section, is an example of this. In this extract, the topic shifting

activity, (I wondered if you had any thoughts about that. at all), does not take the

form of a direct interrogative, but an indirect one, of the sort I mentioned at the

beginning of section 4.2. However, this example is quite typical of howl dealt

with the need to make changes of topic, in that I pointed out the possible relevance

of the new topic to Sam, (as it was not something he had hitherto expressed as

relevant to him), and invited his response to it. In short, I created a bridging

context for the new topic to lessen its abruptness. Retrospectively, I interpret the

pauses and hesitation phenomena associated with my lengthy utterance in this

example, as mitigations of the way this shift of topic foregrounded my more

powerful status as the interviewer.

I often used questions in this way, to direct and develop a prior topic through

incremental changes to a new topic. In the following example, Anne had been

talking about her concern about the social side of fitting in at university as an

older student with children. I picked up on her use of the word conflict and asked
for clarification about the relationship between it and what she had already said

about fitting in, (question in italics):

Ann: ...it [the concern] just sets a little bit of a conflict going somehow
it
Int: Is the conflict about where you're going to fit in
Ann: Mm ... mm • mm I think so
(Annel, 112-7).

Her following elaboration on fitting in led me, 47 lines later, to gloss her feelings
about it as those very real worries, and to use this as the basis for asking two

questions on a new topic, (see italics below):

91
Int: I mean - you know given those . very real . worries . which are
not the worries you expected to have
Ann: Mm
Int: I think that's very interesting. erm what made you decide to go
through with this whole process. why do a degree
(Armel, 164-8).

My preference for such gradual rather than abrupt shifts in topic downplayed the

power inequalities inherent in the interview interaction, by simulating

conversational practices to some extent. In conversation many topics can be

considered relevant to the one in hand, (Fairclough, 1992:155), and what is talked

about is negotiated, rather than imposed by one participant. I anticipate

discussion in chapter 5, (section 5.4.2.), to note here that the generation of

informality, by building on what interviewees had already shared, may have

encouraged them to say more about themselves than if the interviews had been

more highly structured, (and the 'institutionally defined' discursive practices thus

more pronounced).

4.4. FORMULATION

As Fairclough, (1992:157), has noted, formulating has potential as a means of

interactional control. In this section, I will draw briefly on the work of

conversation analysts Heritage and Watson, (1979), cited by Fairclough, and

describe their definitions of formulation. I will then look at the occurrence of


formulation in my own interviews. Formulations cannot be defined neatly at the

grammatical level in the way that interrogatives can be. Consequently, I have not

attempted a quantitative analysis of them in my data but have restricted my

discussion to selected examples of particular relevance to my concerns with

interactional control.

92
4.4.1. DEFINITIONS DRAWN FROM CONVERSATIONAL

ANALYSIS

Heritage and Watson point out that formulation is a reflexive aspect of

conversation, a point where the talk itself becomes the topic which is described or

summarised, where participants "say-in-so-many-words-what-it-is-we-are-doing",

(quoting Garfinkel and Sacks, ibid.:124). Formulating involves participants in

selectively preserving, deleting and transforming some or all of the talk so far,

(ibid:129). They argue that its interpersonal function is to provide an opportunity

for the participants to check that the interpretations of what they have been talking

about are held in common. I illustrate this in the following example. The

quotation is the tail end of a list of jobs Penny had been telling me she had done.

The example illustrates the preserving, deleting and transforming functions of

formulation:

Pen: I spent three months working in a newsagent's...then I went and


spent three weeks working in a secretarial agency...
Int: ...so you've really done quite a range of things
Pen: Yes
(Penny, 1-12).

My turn is a formulation that deletes the specificity of the list of jobs, but

preserves the concept that there were a number of them. This transforms Penny's

original lengthy utterance, only part of which is quoted, into a summary of what I

think the main point is - that Penny has done a range of things, a formulation
which Penny seems to agree with by her second turn affirmative.

93
4.4.2. FORMULATION AS A MEANS OF JOINTLY CREATING
MEANINGS

Conversation analysts focus on formulation as an opportunity for participants to

check that the interpretations of what they have been talking about are agreed

upon. Heritage and Watson point out that formulating, by giving the gist or

upshot of prior talk, is an economical strategy for ensuring ongoing understanding

without the need to recycle whole sections of the talk itself. They argue that it is

the abilityto do this, rather than to just repeat what has been said verbatim, that

demonstrates talk has been understood.

In my interviews, it was I who did most of the formulating. It was a prominent


feature of the interviews that I formulated interviewees utterances frequently.
This was because it was important for me, as interviewer, to make periodic checks

that I was understanding the meanings the interviewees were constructing in their

utterances. In the following example, I used the clause it sounds like to herald the
formulation that follows. I observed, retrospectively, that this was a frequent

grammatical strategy I used:

Int: It sounds like it. erm . it feels a bit scary trying to know what are
the right sort of criteria that make an essay an essay rather than a
report
(Wendy, 312-4).

Though it was I who did so much of the formulating, all these summaries of talk

could still be understood as collaborative achievements, (ibid.:128), because a

gloss on the talk thus far by one participant still entailed the agreement of the

other. The following example suggests this:

Tan: At the moment I'm really not thinking too far ahead...I wanted
to do Social Work eventually but now I mean there's probation work

94
open to me and ... there's all sorts of things I'm really not sure at the
moment [what job I'll aim for]
Int: So you're sort of holding it open and seeing how the degree goes
and what sort of stimulates you and
Tan: That's right
(Tania, 18-29).

Here, my gloss of what Tania had been saying, was confirmed by her, (that's
right).

Mishler, (1986:53), supports this collaborative view of formulation when he

points out that an interview develops a specific internal discourse history, shaped

by the exchanges between the participants. By this he means that repeated acts of

formulating-the-discourse-thus-far provide successive platforms of shared

meanings from which to proceed. He points out that even in interviews with fixed

question schedules, variation between interviews occurs because questions take on

"particular and context-bound shades of meaning", (ibid.), as a result of the

formulating work that occurs in them. Agreement or disagreement with, and re-

negotiation of, thus-far meanings is a joint accomplishment and a necessary pre-


requisite for the construction of later meanings in any particular interview.

4.4.3. FORMULATION AS A MEANS OF INTERACTIONAL


CONTROL

In addition to formulation involving agreement by both participants, it is also the

case that formulation acts as a means of interactional control. Fairclough,

(op.cit.:122), points out that this is because it is a type of metadiscourse, that is, it

involves one of the participants stepping outside the discourse to comment on it


and thus potentially to control it.

95
4.4.3.1. Formulations by the interviewer

The general aim of interviews - the elicitation of information from one participant

by the other - means that a strong focus of formulating activity will be the

information the interviewee gives. In my own interviews, as I have already said, I

did most of the formulating. This meant that it was my formulations which tended

to become the accepted versions of the meanings generated thus far, and it was I

who thus controlled the ongoing organisation and direction of the interview talk.

It was frequently true that interviewees readily agreed with my formulations, (as

in the example from Tania above). In the rarer occasions where this did not occur,

our negotiations over meanings still resulted in my formulations being accepted,

even if I got it wrong to start with. The following example illustrates this. In it I

hazarded a guess, based on what Connie had so far said, that she had decided

against doing the diploma. Connie corrected this formulation by explaining what

the situation was, (her first turn), and then affirmed my second formulation that
the diploma was a back up option, (our second turns):

1. Int: Mm yes so in a way you you've decided against doing a


diploma
1. Con: Oh no actually what I've done is deferred my place I thought
if I really hate university [laugh]
2. Int: You'll go to that as a back up
2. Con: Yes
(Conniel, 176-9).

The point I wish to make is that once agreement was reached, even if it took some
negotiating, it tended to be an agreement with my formulation of the talk. This

meant that what was accepted as the basis for subsequent turns were my versions,

(transformations, preservations and deletions), of what had been said thus far.

This is how formulations act as a significant means of controlling the interaction.

96
4.4.3.2. Formulations by the interviewees

Interviewees also formulated my utterances. This was typically at points where

there was a switch of roles - so that I was the one who was giving personal

information - and was a relatively infrequent occurrence. In the following two

paired examples, I juxtapose a formulation made by the interviewee about my

utterance, with a formulation made by me about an interviewee's utterance. This

is in order to show how formulating created, even if only briefly, a position of

power for the formulator, whatever her more global power position was in the

interview, (as either interviewer or interviewee).

In the first pair, the formulations are each summaries of the other's experience as it

had been stated immediately prior to the quote. I did the formulating in the first

example, and Pam did the formulating in the second, (see italics):

Example 1:
Sar: I'd got to come to that point of realisation myself where I felt yes
I can do it I can do it
Int: Proved it
Sar: I've proved it I can and that has given me a sense of worth
(Sara, 152-5)

Example 2:
Int: ...when I arrived [at Lancaster university] I changed my
wardrobe fairly drastically in order to sort of not stand out
Pam . [laugh] Blend in like
Int: Though why I wanted to blend in...I'm not quite sure
(Pam, 202-5).

What I wish to point out about this pair are the similarities between the

formulations. Whether it was I, as interviewer, who did the formulating or the

'. interviewee, the response pattern was the same - a formulation by one of the first

97
participant's talk, which was reiterated by the first participant in her second turn,

implying acceptance of it. I suggest that the disclosure of personal information by

both Sara in the first example, and I in the second, led to a local pattern of

formulating behaviour which in both cases temporarily overrode the more global

power inequalities associated with our interviewer and interviewee roles.

In the second pair, the formulations, (in italics), by summarising what had been

said thus far, acted as orienting statements prior to the asking of a question. In

both cases this was introduced by the conjunction so. In the first example I did the

formulating, and in the second Mary did:

Example 1:
Int: You've talked about being very excited about [the degree] so I
wonder you know what your what your hopes are that you will gain
or achieve
Sha: I don't know I don't like to look too far into the future I've no
idea what sort of job...I think it will improve my life
(Sharon!, 116-22).

Example 2:
Mar: So you've explained to me sort of why you're interested [in
mature students' experiences] a little bit. so . so how are you going to
pull it through . you're doing initial interviews
Int: Yes . well my plan is...
(Mary, 515-7).

In these examples the formulation by one participant was closely juxtaposed to the

other interactional control feature I have already discussed - questions. I suggest

that this contiguity put whichever of the participants who was using this
combination of interactional control features in a powerful position. For the

interviewee this was a momentarily held position of control, (as I discussed in

section 4.3.3.). For myself, as interviewer, it was the more usual position - one

endorsed by the conventions of the interview genre.

98
4.5. CONCLUSION

I suggest that it is of interest to social scientists to be able to understand the


complexity of power relations that operate between interviewers and interviewees

- and this is what I have explored in this chapter. I have discussed this complexity

in relation to questions - as the most defining feature of interviews, and

formulation - as one of the means by which understanding is achieved between

interview participants. I have shown that in my own unstructured interviews these

features were not the sole prerogative of the interviewer despite their potential for

interactional control. I have accounted for this use of both features by both

participants in the following way. I suggested that the interviewer's prerogative to

use these discursive features was sanctioned by the nature of the genre, but that

interviewees' use of them was the result of elements of conversation in the

interviews.

I discuss the effects of these 'conversational' discursive practices in my interviews

in chapter 5.

99
CHAPTER 5

SELF DISCLOSURE

5.1 INTRODUCTION
5.1.1. DEFINING SELF-DISCLOSURE
5.1.2. FUNCTIONS OF SELF DISCLOSURE
5.1.3. SELF DISCLOSURE IN MY INTERVIEWS: AN ASPECT OF THE POWER
RELATIONS
5.2. CHARACTERISING SELF DISCLOSURE IN THE INTERVIEW DATA
5.2.1. REASONS FOR NOT QUANTIFYING SELF DISCLOSURE
5.2.1 I. Drawing in a range of topics
5.2.1.2. The elaboration of earlier self disclosure
5.2.1.3. Linguistic markers of self disclosure
5.2.1.4. Characterising self disclosure on several parameters
5.2.2. DEPTH
5.2.2.1. Importance of the disclosure to the interviewee
5.2.2.2. Individual differences
5.2.3. VALENCY
5.2.4. EXPLICIT SELF REFERENCE
5.2.5. DESCRIPTIVE AND EVALUATIVE SELF DISCLOSURE
5.3. POWER RELATIONS AND THE INTERVIEWEES USE OF SELF DISCLOSURE
5.3.1. SELF DISCLOSURE IN A PUBLIC DOMAIN CONTEXT
5.3.2. VOLUNTARY AND ELICITED SELF-DISCLOSURE
5.3 2.1. Directly elicited self disclosure
5.3.2.2. Textually determined' self disclosure
5.3 23. Voluntary self disclosure
5.3 2.4. The role of the recipient of self disclosure
5.4. POWER RELATIONS AND THE INTERVIEWER'S USE OF SELF DISCLOSURE
5.4.1. PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS ABOUT INTERVIEWER SELF
DISCLOSURE
5.4.1 I. Self disclosures about my research interests
5 4.1 2. Complexities in my role as interviewer
5.4.2. RAPPORT . INSTRUMENTAL USE OF CONVERSATION AND
'GENUINENESS'
54.2.1. The instrumentality of rapport
5.4.2 2. Rapport and 'genuineness'
5.4.2.3. Effects of the reciprocity norm
5.5. CONCLUSION

5.1 INTRODUCTION

This chapter concludes Part II of the thesis, and in it I continue my focus on how

power and interpersonal meanings in the interviews are realised by the two

contrasting sets of discursive practices I outlined in chapter 3. In chapter 4, I

discussed linguistic evidence for the institutionally defined relations of unequal

power in the interviews. In this chapter, I turn to a contrasting feature of the

interviews - the presence of self disclosure.

100
This chapter needs to be understood as an exploratory discussion of self

disclosure: though it is a prominent feature of the interviews it is difficult to

analyse because it is so pervasive. My two aims in this chapter are as follows.

First, I characterise self disclosure in the data, (section 5.2.). I then go on to

discuss self disclosure as an aspect of the conversational discursive practices of

the interviews, (sections 5.3. and 5.4.).

5.1.1. DEFINING SELF-DISCLOSURE

Self-disclosure in conversation has been a topic of research in interpersonal

communication, particularly in social psychology, for over 30 years. Holtgraves,

(1990), points out that though there are many studies of self disclosure they have

tended to focus on it as a "unitary behaviour independent of how it actually occurs


in conversation", (ibid:203). In reviewing recent literature, he focuses on research

concerned with how self disclosures are managed within turns in conversation - a

linguistic focus appropriate for my purposes here. Berger and Bradac, (1982),

offer a brief theoretical discussion of self disclosure as a type of interactive

linguistic strategy which individuals use for gaining knowledge about other people

in interpersonal relationships. This is also pertinent to my concerns in this

chapter. They summarise the consensus of opinion on how self-disclosure in

conversation may be defined as:

"the voluntary and intentional revelation of personal information which


cannot be obtained from other sources", (ibid:85).

In this chapter I shall be drawing on this definition of self disclosure in

conversation and applying it to my own research interviews, on the basis that these

interviews contain conversational discursive practices. This definition can be

made more specific in the following ways, which I shall return to in sections 5.2.2.

101
to 5.2.5. Firstly, Holtgraves, (op.cit.:192), suggests that self-disclosure can be

either explicit or implicit self referential talk. Secondly, he also suggests it can
describe external facts and experiences, and/or evaluate internal states. Thirdly,
Berger and Bradac, (op.cit.:88), suggest four dimensions on which every instance

of self-disclosure is situated. These are the quantity of self-disclosure, its valency,

(positive or negative information), its accuracy or honesty, and its depth or

intimacy. They also point out that participants in a conversation must judge how
much self-disclosure is appropriate for that situation, (with the general 'rule' being

moderate amounts of self-disclosure); and weigh up the 'rule' that self-disclosure

should be honest and authentic against needs for politeness. With new

acquaintances, they suggest that the rules are to disclose positively valenced, non-

intimate information.

5.1.2. FUNCTIONS OF SELF DISCLOSURE

Traditionally self-disclosure has been considered to serve the function of


developing affiliation in interpersonal relationships, (Holtgraves, op.cit.:197), via

what has been a common finding in research, namely the "norm of reciprocity",

(Cozby, 1973:81). This term denotes the tendency for one self-disclosure to lead

to another, which it matches in depth and valency.

The affiliation function of self disclosure is likely to be prominent in private

domain conversational discursive practices, which as I said in chapter 3, (section

3.3.1.), involve the non-instrumental expression of personal feelings and thoughts.

In addition to its affiliative function, self disclosure also leads to the acquisition of

personal information, (Berger and Bradac, op.cit.:93). I note that the


conversationalising tendency in the public domain, which I also mentioned in

chapter 3, and which involves the simulation of conversation for instrumental

purposes, is likely to affect this function of self disclosure when it occurs in

102
interviews. (I return to this in section 5.4.2.). In particular when conversational
discursive practices get transposed into the public domain, the knowledge

acquisition function of self disclosure can clearly be used for instrumental

purposes. What I discuss in this chapter, in relation to my own interviews, is how

self disclosure can function in the achievement of an interview's main purpose,

that is, the one-way elicitation of information.

5.1.3. SELF DISCLOSURE IN MY INTERVIEWS: AN ASPECT


OF THE POWER RELATIONS

Both I and the interviewees made self disclosures. I divide my discussion of the

presence of self disclosure in the interviews into two - focusing first on the

interviewees' then on my own self disclosures.

First, I characterise the interviewees' self disclosure in the interviews, (section

5.2.). Then, in section 5.3. I discuss their self disclosure in relation to the

definition I gave in section 5.1.1. - the voluntary revelation of personal


information - because in the interviews the interviewees were required to make

self disclosures. My discussion of my own self disclosure, (section 5.4.),

revolves around the notion of rapport as an instrumental use of conversational


discursive practices. I point out that self disclosure was a way in which I
developed rapport.

103
5.2. CHARACTERISING SELF DISCLOSURE IN THE
INTERVIEW DATA

In this section I give my reasons for not quantifying self disclosure, (section

5.2.1.). I then go on to discuss the parameters by which I recognised and

characterised self disclosure in the data, focusing on the interviewees' self

disclosures, (sections 5.2.2. to 5.2.5.).

.5.2.1. REASONS FOR NOT QUANTIFYING SELF

DISCLOSURE

I have not undertaken a quantitative analysis to underpin my discussions of self-

disclosure in the data, as I do in the other analyses in this thesis. A meaningful

quantification relies on being able to make distinctions between instances of the

phenomenon. There were two reasons why this was difficult with the

phenomenon of self disclosure. Firstly, interviewee self-disclosure in the

interviews was endemic: in line with the interview agenda, which demanded self

referential talk, the interviewees spent a lot of time giving 'personal information'

of one kind or another. Almost all of their talk could be understood as self
disclosing. Self disclosure as a feature of my talk was less of a problem as regards

quantification because my self disclosures were less frequent and pervasive. I

characterise my own self disclosure in section 5.4. Secondly, self disclosure is not

a grammatically defined phenomenon.

I would like to illustrate the difficulty of making distinctions between instances of


self disclosure using two examples from the data set. These illustrate two
common features of the interviewees' self disclosure - the drawing in of several

topics, (section 5.2.1.1.), and the elaboration of previously given self disclosures

with further personal information, (section 5.2.1.2.).

104
5.2.1.1. Drawing in a range of topics

The following example is part of an extended account that Sara gave, in which she

detailed how she came to be at university. It clearly revealed personal

information. In one sense, the whole of this account could be called a single

instance of self-disclosure on the topic of how Sara came to be at university.

However, it is also possible to interpret it as a string of small self disclosures

about a range of aspects of her life. I suggest the following four, which I have

used to number the text. The letters represent specific topic amplifications within

these divisions. Topic (1) was about the timing of doing a degree. She returned to

it towards the end of the extract, (lb and lc), and tied it in to topic (4), her

children. Topic (2) was about influences on her to change careers, and topic (3),

was about her original career, nursing:

(1) Now I really started thinking about coming to. doing a degree a
few years ago
(2) when one or two people at the school I work at suggest that I think
about teaching.
(2.a) in fact one particular teacher said to me had I ever thought about
teaching and I said well I had I hadn't.
(3) I was a nurse originally
(3.a) I was a nurse midwife
(3.b) so that's my profession . professional background
(2.b) and teaching was always something I thought about if I didn't
like nursing.
(3.c) and I did a short time in nursing and then I got my ( )
(4) I've got four children.
(4.a) and was taken up obviously with bringing them up and I ( ) to
look after them
(4.b) I didn't go out to work when they were little
(4.c) and anyway the youngest is now seven and the eldest fourteen
(1.b) so I have begun to think about this time last year Spring last year
(1.c) that it's time for me to think about what I wanted to do now the
children are all safely in school...
(Sara, 16-27).

105
This account occurred at the beginning of the interview, which meant that all this

was new information about Sara for me. However, Sara returned to the topics of

these early disclosures at later points in the interview, sometimes expanding on

them in amount or depth, and tying them to yet other aspects of her experience,

(see section 5.2.2.1.). This intertwining and relating of one topic to another made

it difficult to decide how such sections of text could be quantified in terms of their

self disclosing material.

5.2.1.2. The elaboration of earlier self disclosure

Interviewees' self-disclosures early on often formed the basis for elaborations

later. For example, Pam disclosed that she had felt selfish about deciding to come

to university because she wanted to:

Pam: It was very much erm . a conscious decision . II was very aware
of the fact that. something inside me would now make everybody else
take second seat and I . I felt selfish at first erm but now I don't. I've
got past that
(Pam, 97-9).

Later in the interview, this is referred to again, and elaborated: her feeling of

selfishness is given a reason, (...and that's why..), and contrasted to the bafflement

some of her acquaintances felt about what she would do with her degree

afterwards:

Pam: ...the main reason to me [for coming to university] is I just want


to learn and enjoy learning and that's why I feel selfish because I'm
not coming here just for ...afterwards
(Pam, 231-3).

106
In cases where earlier self disclosures were later elaborated it was difficult to

decide in what way the later one should be counted as a new or different self

disclosure.

5.2.1.3. Linguistic markers of self disclosure

As I have said, self-disclosure is not a grammatically defined phenomenon though

it was realised discursively in the interviews. Nor could self disclosure in the

interviews be distinguished solely on the basis of regular associations with any

particular linguistic features, (grammatical, metalinguistic and so on). However, it

is worth noting that three linguistic markers were frequently associated with self

disclosures. I list these as follows.

1. Hesitation phenomena:

Many instances of self disclosure were preceded by a pause or hesitation. Such

markers were not only associated with self disclosure, of course, but a more

noticeable disfluency was sometimes apparent in conjunction with disclosures of

personal information. This suggests that talk thus marked may have been

perceived by the interviewee as more difficult to say or requiring more

forethought. In the first example from Pam's interview given in section 5.2.1.2.,

her self disclosure is punctuated by a number of noticeable short pauses. This

suggests she may have been choosing her words carefully.

2. Metalinguistic markers:

There were also a range of metalinguistic clauses which explicitly presented what

was said as coming from the heart and being self disclosing. Whether these
markers of honesty - which is one of Berger and Bradac's dimensions of self

disclosure - were indications of what the interviewees really thought and felt, is of

course, another matter. Two examples follow, (see italics):

107
Example 1:
Pen: I am I am absolutely amazed and very very impressed by what
some people have done to get [a place at university] it makes me feel
quite small actually because to be honest it was easy for me...
(Penny, 126-8).

Example 2:
Wen: The only taste of erm formal education! have had since I left
school erm was that I did a year's evening classes...and to be quite
frank with you I hated it...
(Wendy, 197-9).

3. Verbs of thought and affect:

There were also many verbs of thought or affect that marked evaluative self

disclosures, for example the verbs amazed and impressed in the example above by

Penny, and the following verb of cognition by Mary:

Mar: I think it's quite frightening being a woman


(Mary 97).

I return to the topic of evaluative self disclosures in section 5.2.5.

5.2.1.4. Characterising self disclosure on several parameters

I did not quantify self disclosure because of the difficulties I have discussed in
distinguishing between instances. In trying to find a way to structure my

exploration of the phenomenon in the data, I then postulated that the interviewees'

self disclosure might be analysed as a cline. This was because I felt intuitively

that interviewees varied in the depth at which they revealed themselves - both

different interviewees and the same interviewee at different times. Using a cline,
some of their talk could be understood as more and some less deeply revealing,

even if quantification was not possible. In practice, however, depth was difficult

108
to assess. There are a number of reasons for this. One was that I did not have

recourse to interviewees' retrospective views on what they had said in the

interviews. Another reason, and the one I go on to discuss in the next section, is

that depth of self disclosure is not simply a matter of one thing, such as subject

matter.

As a result, I characterise interviewees' self disclosure in sections 5.2.2. to 5.2.5.

below in relation to a number of parameters. My discussion of these amounts to a

set of observations, illustrated with examples, rather than being a comprehensive

analysis. It provides an introduction to how the phenomenon was actually realised

in the data, before I go on to discuss it as an aspect of the power relations in the

interviews. The four parameters which I will discuss, and which I listed in section

5.1.1., are depth, valency, and self disclosure as explicit/implicit and


descriptive/evaluative. These, in combination with the exact topic being
disclosed, the amount of previously disclosed information and the way self

disclosure is received by the listener, all affect the character of self disclosure

throughout each interview.

5.2.2. DEPTH

Holtgraves (1990:193), points out that intimacy or depth is not easy to define.

This is because depth is not so much a property of topics, with particular topics

being intrinsically more intimate than others, but of the way in which topics are

talked about, whether they are personalised or trivialised. He argues that depth of

self-disclosure is actually better understood as an emergent phenomenon, a

product of the interactional conditions developed in the prior talk, such as the

encouraging or discouraging responses self disclosure has so far received.

109
Judging depth of self disclosure in my interviews was partly a matter of noticing

how self-disclosures stood on other dimensions, and I go on to discuss these in

sections 5.2.3. to 5.2.5. Here I discuss two interactional factors influencing

depth: the importance of the self disclosure to the interviewee and individual

differences.

5.2.2.1. Importance of the disclosure to the interviewee

As I have said, without feedback from the interviewees it was difficult to know

whether information about the self was being personalised or trivialised.


However, even within the space of single interviews my perception of the

importance of some interviewee self-disclosure to them changed. This was

because, as the recipient of successive self disclosures by an interviewee, the

amount of contextualising information available to me increased during the

interview and affected my interpretation of her/his disclosures. The example I

gave from Sara's interview in section 5.2.1.1. illustrates this. One of the things

Sara said at the beginning of her interview was:

Sar: ...[a degree] has been something I've wanted to do for a while
(Sara, 14).

This is a disclosure that doing a degree was a long standing wish, but the

importance of this wish to Sara became much clearer only near the end of the

interview, when she reiterated her initial disclosure and elaborated it:

Sar: Yeah I mean it is something I've always wanted to do but I never


had the opportunity when I was younger and when I was at school I
was written off...I was told...that I was thick that I'd never get very far
in life
(Sara, 262-8).

110
This led into a lengthy account of her experience of being 'written off at school.

No doubt many of interviewees self disclosures had such histories behind them,

over which they made decisions about how much or when to divulge.

5.2.2.2. Individual differences

Here I note that there seemed to be individual differences in the depth at which

interviewees felt comfortable disclosing about themselves. Some social

psychological research suggests that individual differences in self-disclosure may

be related to differences in 'self monitoring', (for example, Ludwig, Franco and

Malloy, 1988, citing Snyder). 'High self monitors' are said to pay more attention

than 'low self monitors' to external cues in the social situation as a guide to

behaviour. While none of my interviewees had been assessed on Snyder's self

monitoring scale, it is an interesting thought that the readiness of certain

interviewees to share more about personal aspects of their lives might be the result

of their greater wish to appear outgoing and friendly.

5.2.3. VALENCY

Where valency was apparent in interviewees' self disclosure, it tended to be

positive. This is in keeping with what Berger and Bradac suggest is the norm for

new acquaintances, as I mentioned in section 5.1.1.

However, there were occasions when negatively valenced personal information

was disclosed. Sam's extract below was negatively valenced about school, but

was compared to his positive experience of F.E. College:

Sam: [College] were a complete contrast it weren't like at school


[where] you were told that you were you know you were useless

111
you were going to fail
(Sam. 174-5).

Interestingly, in this example, the disclosure was depersonalised to some extent,

by Sam's use of the pronoun 'you' instead of 'I', when the context suggested he was

referring to his own experience. Some other examples of negatively valenced self

disclosure seemed to have less, or more limited, importance to the interviewees,

(as distinct from the long term importance of past educational experience or

family relationships), for example, criticisms of the administration surrounding

new students arrival at university:

Sam: [The university have] allowed me to bring the car up now but
by the time I got the I only found out last Thursday which I wasn't
very happy about...you know it's quite short notice
(Sam, 27-33).

There were also quite a lot of negatively valenced references to sitting exams or

writing, essays as undergraduates, for example:

Car: I don't feel too happy with exams at the moment having not
done any you know apart from last year and I don't feel er under
stress I don't work too well you know in the exam situation
(Carol, 87-90).

These were likely to have considerable current importance to the interviewees.

5.2.4. EXPLICIT SELF REFERENCE

As I pointed out in section 5.1.1., self disclosure can be explicit or implicit.

Holtg.raves. (op.cit.:192), states that speakers may make indirect references to


themselves, but he notes that the degree of intentionality to refer to the self is more

difficult to discern in these cases than in the case of explicit self disclosure. In my

interviews, many of the interviewees' numerous references to other people's

112
experiences, which I discuss in more detail in chapter 10, could be understood as

implicit self disclosures. Interviewees might well have been saying something

about themselves by using other people's experience to instantiate some aspect of

their own - though I agree with Holtgraves that in cases of such indirect self

reference it is more difficult to assess how intentionally the interviewee is

disclosing her or himself.

I discuss this using the following example. In the first extract, Connie started with

a self-disclosure which included her feelings, (annoyance) and a description of the

events that made her feel that way, (lack of time to decide on her Part 1 courses

before returning completed forms to the university).

Con: ...in fact do you know it's really annoyed me because...all this
stuff [about course choices] came on Monday ...well have you got time
do you know I've got to have it back there by Friday...
(Connie 1, 26-32).

A few lines further on she cites the comparable experience of a friend:

Con: One woman I know she rang me up on Monday night and said
have you had anything from the university yet...she says how am I
going to do this I'm still working full time and she's got to have it in
for Friday...
(Connie 1, 54-9).

I suggest that the similarity of topic links these two extracts as self-disclosures -

the first is explicitly about Connie's feelings and circumstances, but the second

could be understood as an implicit self-disclosure: using another person's


experience to foreground her, Connie's, experience and confirm its importance by

suggesting it didn't only happen to her. The difficulty of knowing how to interpret
references to other people's experience means that I focus on explicit self

references in my discussions in this chapter.

113
5.2.5. DESCRIPTIVE AND EVALUATIVE SELF DISCLOSURE

Another parameter by which self disclosure could be characterised in the

interviews, and which I mentioned in section 5.1.1., was the extent to which it was

descriptive or evaluative. This is a distinction Holtgraves, (ibid.:193), cites in his

survey of the literature.

'Descriptive' self-disclosures are disclosures of facts about the self In the

following example, Steve gave factual information about an event in his life,

redundancy, which led to him applying to university:

Ste: ...last year I was made redundant and that. I've had in the back
of my mind. on watching Open University programmes . I would like
to do that and . the year before I was made redundant I. I sent away
for leaflets for open University. but I didn't quite take the jump then.
and when I got my redundancy last year. I decided er well. I'll give it
a go
(Steve, 85-9).

'Evaluative' self-disclosures are disclosures of internal states, such as feelings or

opinions. In the following example, Wendy described how she felt when she first

visited the university:

Wen: I felt very small I don't know whether it's the actual buildings
or what and it's you felt very sort of I felt very vulnerable as if I stuck
out like a sore thumb
(Wendy, 423-5).

In much of the self disclosure in the interviews description and evaluation was
closely intertwined. This is apparent in Steve's extract above, which expressed

what he thought as well as external events. Self disclosures often revealed a lot of

facts about the self that were additional to a minimally adequate answer to a

114
question or prompt, as the following example shows. Carol began her answer to

my question with a minimally adequate answer (it just sort of happened). But this
was followed by 38 lines of elaboration, the first part of which is given below.

This gave factual detail about her F.E. course, (for example, it was a beginners

course, in French and nearby). It also included other factual information about

her, for example that she had children, (more than one):

Int: What made you interested in doing a degree


Car: ...It just sort of happened erm when the children were a bit
younger a school nearby near us were putting on a French course for
beginners and I hadn't really done a lot you know when I was at
school I'd just done music and that sort of thing and so I sort of
thought oh I'll go along to that I felt a bit nervous about going you
know I thought I wish I had someone to go with me...
(Carol, 108-15).

This extract also shows how descriptive self disclosures coexist with evaluative

self disclosures expressing opinions or feelings. In addition to factual

information, Carol expressed her feelings about the F.E. courses, (nervousness and

a preference not to go on her own), and an evaluation of her performance at

school, (she didn't consider that she had done very much at school, perhaps

meaning academically -just..music).

5.3. POWER RELATIONS AND THE INTERVIEWEES' USE


OF SELF DISCLOSURE

In this section, I continue to characterise the interviewees' self disclosure, but my

main aim is to discuss it in terms of the interview power relations. As I said at the

beginning of this chapter, I view self disclosure as an aspect of the 'conversational'

discourse practices of the interviews. In chapter 3 I argued that in conversation

power is deployed differently from in 'institutionally defined' discursive practices.


In conversation power tends to be more equally distributed and asymmetries,

115
where present, are seen as invested in individuals. In 'institutionally defined'

discourse practices power asymmetries are structural.

What I explore in the rest of this chapter is the changed functions of self

disclosure - as an aspect of conversational discursive practices - when such

practices are appropriated by the public domain, as they are in interviews. In this

section I discuss interviewee self disclosure in this regard, and in section 5.4., my

own self disclosures, as the interviewer. The most important point for this section

is that the interviewees were required to disclose information about themselves by

the nature of the interview genre, because an interview is for the one-way

elicitation of information.

5.3.1. SELF DISCLOSURE IN A PUBLIC DOMAIN CONTEXT

There are several overlapping features of the interviews which help to account for
the presence of self disclosure. Firstly, it is a requirement of the interview genre

in general that interviewees disclose personal information. Secondly, the

requirement for self disclosure was increased by the personal experience topic of
my interviews - the interviewees' initial perceptions of university. Thirdly, these

requirements were fulfilled in unstructured interviews. In unstructured interviews

the presence of 'conversational' discursive practices is likely to be increased

because such interviews are not forwarded solely by highly structured and

asymmetrical discursive practices, such as uni-directional question-answer

sequences. Fourthly, my own use of self disclosure as a means of creating


rapport, (which I discuss in section 5.4.), is likely to have encouraged the

interviewees to make self disclosures as if we were in a private domain

conversational context, on the basis of the norm of reciprocity.

116
The point I wish to make, and which is relevant to social scientific research more

generally, is that when interviewees respond to the conversational aspects of

interviews, which are events occurring in the public domain, their personal

experience gets transformed into 'data'. It seems to me an important reflection on

open-ended, informal interview styles in particular, that in them the boundary

between interview and conversation, between a public domain research activity

and private domain chat becomes blurred: the use of conversational practices

helps to make them invasive techniques, as I pointed out in chapter 2, (section

2.4.1.).

However, unstructured interviews also allow interviewees some room to respond

with the amount of personal information they see fit. It is interesting to speculate

about their use of the pronoun 'we' or 'you' instead of 'I', (which I mentioned in

section 5.2.3.). This marked some interviewee self disclosure and may have been

a way in which they objectified what they were revealing, or created ambiguities

over who the participants actually were, and thus distanced themselves from their
self disclosures. The widespread presence of interviews in the public domain is

likely to have educated the general public about them, (see, for example, chapter

3, section 3.4.5.), which may limit their invasive potential to some extent.

Nevertheless, informal interviews such as mine, which appropriate conversational

practices extensively, can be subtly invasive. My interviews were not private

conversations. Where they might have been treated as such by interviewees or

encouraged to do so by me, are points of concern with regard to ethics, even while

such appropriations may be interestingly explicable in terms of

conversationalising tendencies in public discourses.

117
5.3.2. VOLUNTARY AND ELICITED SELF-DISCLOSURE

The second point I would like to make about the interviewees self disclosure, in

terms of the power relations in the interviews, concerns the definition I gave in

section 5.1.1., that self disclosure was voluntary. The interviewees disclosed

personal information but, as I have said, the interviews were not private

conversations between 'equal' participants where self disclosure is more likely to

be voluntary. They were situations where I, as interviewer, had the right to ask

questions about an agenda that required self-disclosure. I have said the

interviewees had some control over the quantity of their self disclosures, and I
have discussed this issue with regard to answering questions, in chapter 4,

(sections 4.3.1. and 4.3.2.). However, they did not have a choice about whether to

disclose information about themselves. This was a prior decision they took when,

based on the information I gave them about the interviews in Letter A, they

decided to talk to me. The self disclosure by the interviewees therefore cannot be

said to be voluntary, except in degree.

However, Holtgraves draws attention to the interactive context in which self-

disclosure occurs, and cites research showing that it is frequently the case that self

disclosure is not voluntary even in private domain conversation. He argues that

self-disclosure is a jointly managed achievement, because inherent in self

disclosure is the need for a response to it - there has to be a recipient. Self

disclosure is thus part of the interpersonal processes of an interaction. It is these


processes which create the conditions under which self-disclosure can occur. I

argue that this applies to the interactive context of an interview, because of the
conversational discursive practices in them, as well as to private domain contexts

of self disclosure.

118
Holtgraves, (ibid.:195, citing Coupland), refers to three interactional conditions in

which self disclosures in conversation may occur. These are:

1. Self disclosure which is elicited by the future disclosure recipient - 'recipient


determined' self disclosure;

2. Self disclosure which is relevant in the conversational context - 'textually


determined' self disclosure;

3. Self disclosure which is not determined by the conversational context, but

volunteered out of the blue - 'discloser determined' self disclosure.

The first two of these conditions are those under which most of the self-disclosure

in the interviews occurred. I discuss all three in turn in sections 5.3.2.1. to 5.3.2.3.

below, and conclude with a discussion of the role of the recipient in section

5.3.2.4.

5.3.2.1. Directly elicited self disclosure

A self disclosure may be preceded by an elicitation, in which case the self-

disclosure is obligatory. This is frequently the case in my interviews. In the


following example, my non-polar question was a request for personal information,

self-disclosure:

Int: What makes you so excited about [starting university]


Sha: Oh I don't know I think I must be that sort of person you know I
love meeting new people when I started at the Adult College last year
it was the same there...
(Shatonl, 41-4).

It is interesting to note that Sharon's first clause in her answer, (oh I don't know),
could be understood as a disclosure that she actually did not know why she was

excited. It could also be a way of countering the invasive potential of the

question. She then went on to disclose social reasons for her anticipation. Faced

119
with a direct elicitation such as this in an interview situation - that is, where the

interviewee's role is to respond to questions - there are few other options for her

than to disclose something.

5.3.2.2. 'Textually determined' self disclosure

Self disclosures may be 'textually determined', that is, the talk so far makes a self-

disclosure an appropriate or relevant response. Occasions where interviewees

gave self disclosures as examples of a point they were trying to make illustrate

this. In the following extract, Pam talked about her theory of being part of a

minority group as a mature student. It was relevant for her to exemplify what she

meant by this with a self disclosure about the thought she had at the entrance to

the university:

Pam: my main theory is that I'm part of a minority group ...you know
I was sort of racing through at the entrance [to the university] and I
thought I've seen one person in a skirt ...all my working life I've been
in suits and I can't turn up at university in a suit...
(Pam, 168-72).

Another sense in which self disclosures may be textually determined is where one

participant has already disclosed something. It is then more likely that the other

will do so also, in keeping with the reciprocity norm. I discuss this in section

5.4.2.3.

5.3.2.3. Voluntary self disclosure

Thirdly, self-disclosure may be voluntary, in the sense of being 'out of the blue',

with no contextual obligation, though Holtgraves points out this is less co=on

even in private conversation. As I have said, because a demand for self-disclosure

was built into the agenda of the interviews voluntariness in them was only a

120
matter of degree of self-disclosure. The unstructured nature of the interviews did
mean that interviewees could develop topics they were interested in talking about.

The example from Sara's interview about why she came to university, (given in

section 5.2.1.1. and 5.2.2.1.), illustrates this, and this could perhaps be understood

as voluntary self disclosure, insofar as I was not obligating her to share as


extensively as she did.

5.3.2.4. The role of the recipient of self disclosure

Self disclosure implicitly demands a response. Holtgraves points out that the
recipient of a disclosure can encourage further self-disclosure by asking for

elaboration or by positively evaluating the disclosure. This was a frequent

strategy of mine, as the recipient of the interviewees' self disclosures. The

following example illustrates both these means of encouraging further disclosure.

In my second turn, I asked Sam, via several unfinished clauses, to elaborate on his

interest in the political side of Sociology, and my repetition of his word relate was

an implicit positive evaluation of what he had been saying because it was an

acknowledgement of his terms of reference:

1. Sam: Well I'm more interested in you know the political side er
stratification side that sort of thing I think I can more relate to that
1. Int: Yes
2. Sam: Through working outside you know
2. Int: Yes yes you do feel in what ways would that erm do you feel
that's going to relate
3. Sam: Well I think there definitely is an us and them situation at
work ..
(Sam, 102-7).

In the next example, I positively evaluate more explicitly what Anne had disclosed

about her perception of university, (I like the idea...). It is interesting that she then

went on immediately to develop at length an opinion about another aspect of

121
university life - the way the university enforced its rules, the first part of which is

given in her second turn:

1. Ann: Whatever goes on in these sort of. institutions on the hill. is


obviously something that's quite different. from what everybody else
experiences...
I. Int: I like this idea . this thing about you know as you say this
institution on the hill. idea . because it somehow suggests that it's . it's
a whole world of its own
2. Ann: I think reading through the rules as well...
(Annel, 245-57).

The recipient can also discourage further self-disclosure by changing topic. The

followirw, extract shows how I experienced some difficulty in discouraging further

self-disclosure by Connie so that I could terminate the interview. Each of my

three turns below contained an attempt to shift the topic to whether she would like

to meet me again. The first and last of my turns also contained positive feedback

on what Connie had been saying:

1. Con: ...and I says well I feel so proud of myself


1. Int: Yes yes well it sounds like this week has I mean I'm very glad
the reason I wanted to talk to you again today was
2. Con: Oh well I thought I'd be [totally
1 . Int: [was in order to ( )
3. Con: The opposite the more I've gone up [to the university] the
more I feel like this is where I should be and I should have done it
twenty years ago
3. Int: yeah well that's good I wond- I mean as well as sort of knowing
specific- you know you know your general impressions as you've been
telling them which is very very interesting and just what I wanted to
hear about I also wanted to ask you ...
(Connie2, 281-91).

As the recipient of her self disclosures, I gave her contradictory cues - both

positive evaluations, (for example, I'm very glad, turn 1; that's good, turn 3), and
attempts to discourage further self-disclosure by changing topic. I suggest Connie

122
responded to my positive evaluation and that it was this that led to her continued

disclosures.

5.4. POWER RELATIONS AND THE INTERVIEWER'S USE


OF SELF DISCLOSURE

In this section I discuss my own self disclosure. The agenda for the interviews

was the elicitation of information about the interviewees' initial experiences and

perceptions of university. This meant that the interviews were thoroughly

pervaded by interviewees' self references - this was what the interviews were

about. So, a clear precedent was set, by the agenda itself, for interviewees to

disclose aspects of themselves.

Unlike the interviewees' talk, a great deal of my talk did not involve the disclosure

of personal information. In accord with my role as interviewer, many of my turns

were instead oriented directly to the interviewees' experiences as questions and

prompts for information from them, as I have discussed in chapter 4. However, on

a smaller scale, I also made self disclosures. I discuss this here - focusing, as I

said in section 5.1.3., on the notion of rapport. I do not claim to be objective. I

aim instead to comment critically on how and why I think I made self disclosures.

I had conscious reasons for some of them at the time of the interviews, while the

import of others only became apparent through retrospective analysis. The

discussion of my own self disclosure has the value of being an insider's view of an

aspect of the interviewer's role.

In the following sections I offer several reasons for the fact that I made self
disclosures in the interviews. This takes the form of some preliminary

observations in section 5.4.1., and then a focus on rapport in section 5.4.2.

123
Though these reasons infiltrate each other in the data, I shall deal with them

separately for the sake of clarity.

5.4.1. PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS ABOUT INTERVIEWER


SELF DISCLOSURE

In this section I discuss three aspects of my role as interviewer which led me to

make self disclosures.

5.4.1.1. Self disclosures about my research interests

In the interviews I made self disclosures about my research. The reason for this

was that I wished to be open about what my research interests were, rather than

keeping them as a covert agenda. So, for example, I sometimes added

contextualising information about my areas of interest to what the interviewees

were talking about, as in the following extract from Anne's first interview:

Ann: It's erm you know very definitely a question of identity


Int: Yes yes yes I mean this is absolutely a key something a key
interest to me this whole question that exactly you're talking about
(Anne 1, 75-7).

Typically, lengthier disclosures about my research happened in the 'further

contact' stage of the interviews where I asked if the interviewees would like to

maintain contact with me, either through further interviews or via my participation

in their seminars. These disclosures were generally descriptive - laying out the

options for further participation. The following example is the first part of this

stage from Tania's interview:

Int: ...the next stage of my research is going to be to follow two sets of


people through the next two terms one set fairly intensively following

124
them through a seminar...the other set of people I want to follow
through would be on a more casual basis it would be interviewing
them rather like this...
(Tania, 471-80).

I suggested in chapter 3, (section 3.4.5.), that there was a shift in the power

balance in the 'further contact stage of the interviews. This was the stage where I

needed to elicit information about whether the interviewees were interested in

staying involved in the research project. The same need to elicit information was

present, of course, throughout the interviews, but what I point to here is that at this

stage of the interviews I was conscious of being in the less powerful position of

needing to ask about the possibility of their continued help.

It is interesting that I sometimes made evaluative self disclosures about the

seminar option. This was because I was unsure about its viability. I also felt

apologetic about how complex it was to explain to the interviewees. With Anne,

the result was the following comment:

Int: ...the seminar thing which is you know rather involved and is
already giving me an incredible headache [laugh]
Ann: [laugh]
(Anne2, 353-5).

I found asking the interviewees if they were willing for further contact stressful,

(for example, I made three attempts in my first turn in the extract below from
Sara's interview to broach the topic). If all the interviewees said no I thought, at

the time, that I would not be able to continue my research. My perception at that

time, therefore, was that the interviewees had considerable power.

In the interviews with Pam and Sara, I expressed my relief at their willingness to
continue in a way that does not match the traditional interviewer role of aloofness,

(which I discuss in section 5.4.2.2. below). I find these two instances

125
embarrassing for that reason, but I think they occurred because the unstructured

nature of the interview, and the build up of self disclosures that had occurred in

them, allowed me to give a particularly conversational response to their agreement

- that is, one oriented to my private feelings. Here is the example from Sara's

interview:

Int: Well er does it er would you be interested in either of those two


options
Sar: Mm yes I would
Int: Oh that's wonderful I'm delighted because my worry is everyone
is going to say no I don't want to see you again [laugh]
Sar: Oh no no no provided I can fit it in
(Sara, 348-53).

It was only in retrospect that I became aware that, as the participant with the more

powerful role at most stages of the interview, it might have been difficult for

interviewees to say no to my request, had they wished to. However, none of the

13 interviewees did and I note that Sara was able to make a statement of provisos

at the end of the extract above, (provided I can fit it in).

5.4.1.2. Complexities in my role as interviewer

I pointed out in chapter 3, (section 3.4.5.), that my position as interviewer was

complex. On the one hand, I had the power, which the interviewees did not, to set

the agenda, ask questions, introduce and terminate topics. On the other hand, I

was known by the interviewees to be a research student and one-time mature

undergraduate student. I argue that this shared experience, added to the


unstructured nature of the interviews, increased the amount I disclosed about

myself.

126
However, yet another reason for my use of self disclosure was that I was a new

researcher, with a limited experience of interviewing behind me. I realised before

conducting the interviews that, with as many preparations as I was able to make,

both practical and in reading about interview techniques, there was going to be a

certain amount of learning by doing. I was not an experienced interviewer with a

great range of 'techniques' available to me upon which I could draw, and thus

sometimes fell back on a familiar discourse - the conversational sharing of

experiences.

5.4.2. RAPPORT: INSTRUMENTAL USE OF CONVERSATION


AND 'GENUINENESS'

In addition to the reasons I have already mentioned self disclosure was a way in

which I built rapport. This is the topic of this section.

There were two ways in particular in which I intentionally made self disclosures in

order to build rapport. These are as follows. One way was by sharing aspects of

my own experience as an undergraduate mature student - both aspects of what I

studied, as in the first example below, and how I felt about it, as in the second

example:

Example 1:
Int: I did my first degree in psychology for similar reasons [to you
you know
(Sam, 127).

Example 2:
Ann: I think [university is] something that I was missed out on
Int: Mm yes I felt the same
(Annel, 189-90).

127
Another way I developed rapport was through the disclosure of opinions. As I

mentioned in section 5.3.2.4., I used positive evaluations to encourage self

disclosure, for example:

Int: I think it's an incredible amount to take on when you've got a


family and especially with four children still at home to to take on a
degree too
(Sara, 226-7).

Such positive evaluations were disclosures of my opinions and were intended to

have a rapport building function.

5.4.2.1. The instrumentality of rapport

In chapter 4 I discussed how fulfilling the purpose of an interview, to elicit

information from the interviewee, involves interactional control by the


interviewer. It also, and equally necessarily, involves the interviewer in creating

rapport, (Oakley, 1981:51). This means drawing on conversational discourse, in


order to put interviewees at their ease, (Fairclough, 1992:55), and so create

suitable conditions for the elicitation of information. As I pointed out in Chapter

3, (section 3.3.1.), the presence of conversation in interviews can be understood as

a simulation of informal talk because it has an instrumental' puipose. The creat)on


of rapport is one such instrumental use of conversation in interviews.

5.4.2.2. Rapport and 'genuineness'

Oakley argues there is a contradiction in the relationship of the interviewer to

interviewee, where:

128
"a balance must be struck between the warmth required to generate
'rapport' and the detachment necessary to see the interviewee as an object
under surveillance", (op.cit.:33).

She points out that this positions interviewees ambiguously as both data sources

and as people requiring "humane treatment", (ibid.). As Mishler comments, these

requirements

"for both 'neutrality' and 'rapport' may at the same time both conceal and
incorporate the pervasive hierarchical structure of relationships in society",
(Mishler, 1986:31).

In her own research, Oakley describes how she found it impossible to remain

uninvolved with interviewees whose experience of becoming a mother was one

she herself had undergone, who asked her many questions about her own

experience of motherhood during interview, and with whom she had several

months of contact at a very critical time in their lives.

Like Oakley, I had shared with my interviewees the set of experiences which were

the topic of the interviews, that is, being a mature undergraduate student, and like

her I experienced contradictory demands in my role as an interviewer. I found as I

was conducting the interviews that the interviewees' sharing of their experiences

of being mature students did not flourish in a situation where I remained aloof,

and in all the interviews I made at least one comment about 'how it was for me' as

a mature student. This was an instrumental use of conversation, but I would like

to add the following point.

In using the term 'genuineness' in the heading to this section, I am referring to its

use by Carl Rogers, (1961:37), as a condition "in which I am my real feelings", a

condition he argues is necessary in relationships established for the "facilitation of

personal growth". I had become familiar with this view of interpersonal

129
relationships in my previous job running seminars on personal growth. I suggest

that I carried this view into my research as an unconscious assumption about

interpersonal relationships. The result was that I used self disclosure to be honest

in this Rogerian way. On the one hand, this was a way of genuinely

acknowledging to the interviewees that I was not just an interviewer, but also 'like

them'. On the other hand, it was also a simulation of private domain

conversational practices for the instrumental purpose of aiding the elicitation of

research-relevant information.

5.4.2.3. Effects of the reciprocity norm

In closing, I would like to point out that there were effects of the 'reciprocity

norm', which I mentioned in section 5.1.2., which were advantageous to me as the


interviewer though I was not fully aware of this at the time.

It was a feature of the interviews that a disclosure by one participant was

sometimes directly followed by a disclosure by the other - as the reciprocity norm

in private conversation would suggest. I give some examples of this here. In the

first example, Penny's disclosure of her opinion about other mature students, (her

first and second turns), was followed by a brief one by me, (my second turn

below), in the form of agreement:

1. Pen: Some people have really put so much into getting [to
university] that it it is it is awe-inspiring
1. Int: Yes it is isn't it
2. Pen: It makes me feel very very humble it really does
2. Int: Yeah yes I feel the same [both laugh]
(Penny, 129-32).

In the second example a disclosure by Steve also led to one by me. Prior to this

extract, I had asked Steve what Part One courses he was intending to take, and he

130
mentioned Psychology. He went on to say that Psychology was what he was

really interested in, but he thought Politics might be easier. The extract below

starts with Steve summing up this disclosure, (his first turn). I follow his self

disclosure with one of my own, with the intention of developing rapport, since this

was right at the beginning of the interview: The first part is given in my second

and third turns, where I disclose that I did Psychology as an undergraduate:

1. Ste: 'Cos that's my I think I suppose that's my rea- real enthusiasm


for Psychology
1. Int: Really
2. Ste: But it depends how it's taught here
2. Int: Yes yes I did Psychology for my part of my first degree as a
mature student I did an A level like you
3. Ste: Yeah
3. Int: And went on and did it at university...
(Steve 37-44).

In both these examples, interviewees' self disclosure led to one by me. In the next

example, a lengthier self disclosure by me led to a disclosure by Penny about

something important to her, the hardest thing about coming to university, which
she went on to explain at length. The extract starts with the end of my self

disclosure. I gave it to illustrate, through my own experience, how becoming an

undergraduate might change views of the self and it built on a prior disclosure by

Penny:

Int: ...certainly when I was an undergraduate that was one of my


reasons for going too it wasn't just. to get academic intellectual
knowledge it was to do something um . I don't know something inside
felt it would it would change me in a. I don't know it's difficult to put
into words actually
Pen: It sort of fills you out somehow
Int: Yes yes yes yes
Pen: If I have a fear about [coming to university] from that point of
view saying about changing I think I am I'm very conscious as a
married student I'm trying to juggle two different worlds...and I think
that is going to be the hardest thing I really do
(Penny, 219-31).

131
In practice it was difficult to judge whether there were causal links between

disclosures by the two participants, (though proximity is suggestive), because self

disclosure was so pervasive and varied on so many parameters. However, I

suggest that disclosures by me which were about my experience as a mature

student were likely to encourage interviewees to make similar self disclosures, as

an effect of the reciprocity norm. The example I have just given from Penny's

interview seems to show this. I was not fully aware of this effect at the time. My

intended use of self disclosure was to generate rapport by being 'genuine', as I

have mentioned. However, when I generated rapport through the sharing of

elements of my own experience, I note that I was setting a standard for the sort of

information I was wanting from the interviewees.

In addition, the tendency for reciprocation meant that self disclosure had an

important information acquisition function as well as an affiliation function: we

both learned more about the other. However, insofar as my self disclosures

encouraged the interviewees to share more of themselves, they helped to forward


my purposes in the interviews - to elicit information about their personal

experience and perceptions of university. I was only intuitively aware of this at

the time, but I note, retrospectively, that this was an instrumental function of my

own self disclosure which was advantageous to me.

5.5. CONCLUSION

In this chapter, I have attempted to describe the pervasive presence of self

disclosure in the interviews, and to discuss it as part of the relations of power

between the interviewees and myself. I have noted how the purpose of interviews,

to elicit information from interviewees, is partly achieved by the appropriation of


'conversational' discursive practices from the private domain. Self disclosure, as

an aspect of these conversational practices, was related to power in my interviews


in complex ways, as I have shown, and this is suggestive for the use of informal

interview styles in the social sciences.

This chapter concludes my discussion of power and interpersonal meanings in the

interviews. In Part III, I turn to discursive practices through which the

interviewees talked about their experience.

133
- PART III -

DRAWING ON EXPERIENCE:

INTERVIEWEE MEANING MAKING PRACTICES

INTRODUCTION TO PART III

In Part III I move from focusing on meanings generated by interpersonal elements

of the interviews, to focusing on two discursive practices the interviewees used to

construct meanings. In general terms this focus for Part III is about how the

interviewees drew on various domains of experience, both their own and other

people's, in constructing meanings about their initial experiences of the university.

I explore two strategies they used to do this - how they told stories and other types

of narrative about aspects of their lives, (chapters 7 and 8), and how they

represented the discourse of others, (chapters 9 and 10).

Chapter 6 is about the ideational content of the interviews. In it I introduce the

five domains of experience the interviewees talked about. The analysis of these

topics of the interviewees' ta)k has the scene-setting ftInction of giving an

overview of what they said under the umbrella agenda I set for the interviews -
'tell me about your initial experiences of university'. I describe these topics in

some detail, and use them again in chapters 7 and 10, to enrich the analyses of the

more specifically discursive phenomena of narratives and discourse representation


which I undertake in those chapters.

In chapters 7 and 8, I focus on narratives told by the interviewees - the way they

constructed meanings about the university by drawing on other times and other

domains of their experience, (the five topic categories discussed in chapter 6). I

134
focus on narratives in two different ways. In chapter 7, I analyse narratives by

type, in all the interviews. The types of narrative are distinguished by their use of

past, present or future time in relation to the 'present moment' of the interview. In

particular, I discuss narratives which express the interviewees' hopes and

expectations, their hypotheses about the future.

In chapter 8, I undertake a narrative analysis of a contrasting sort: a more detailed,

grammatical level analysis of a few narratives in one interview. It was not

possible to do this sort of analysis for the entire data set as it was so large. So this

analysis leads to different kinds of insights from chapter 7, insights about how one

particular interviewee constructed some of her initial experiences of the university

by using narratives.

In chapters 9 and 10, I move from the analysis of narratives to the analysis of

discourse representation - how the interviewees drew on other voices as they

constructed meanings about their experience. The interviewees' act of

representing the discourse of others in their own talk gave those voices varying

degrees of 'otherness', depending on the mode of discourse representation the

interviewees used. In chapter 9 I discuss how the different modes of discourse

representation are realised grammatically, and I also point to how the represented

and representing discourses were related to each other through a discussion of

intertextuality.

In chapter 10 I focus on a selection of instances of represented discourse - those

which specifically realised perspectives on the interviewees' experience. I argue

that this use of other voices was a strategy the interviewees used to understand the

new experience of starting at university - for example, by drawing on various

types of expertise about it. I discuss the points of view these instances realised in

terms of mode, topic and whose voice was being represented.

135
CHAPTER 6

TOPICS OF THE INTERVIEWEES' TALK

6.1. INTRODUCTION
6.2. METHOD OF CODING TOPICS OF THE INTERVIEWEES TALK
6.2.1. INTRODUCING THE METHOD
6.2.2. TOPICS PRESUMED PRESENT IN THE DATA
6.2.3. THE TOPIC CATEGORIES WHICH EMERGED FROM THE DATA
6.2.4. PROBLEMS WITH THE METHOD
6.2.4.1. The close juxtaposition of topics
6.2.4.2. Using the topic categories to enhance other analyses in Part III
6.2.5. HIGHER ORDER ABSTRACTIONS IN THE DATA
6.2.5.1. A time dimension: past, present and future
6.2.5.2. Public and private domains dimension
6.3. TOPIC CATEGORY: EMPLOYMENT
6.3.1. COMPARISONS BETWEEN EMPLOYMENT AND UNIVERSITY
6.3.2. INFLUENCES OF PRIOR EMPLOYMENT ON DOING A DEGREE
6.3.2.1. Building on past work experience
6.3.2.2. Dissatisfaction with work
6.3.3. INTERVIEWEES' DEGREE IN RELATION TO FUTURE EMPLOYMENT
6.3.3.1. Career orientation
6.3.3.2. Future work not main reason for degree
6.4. TOPIC CATEGORY: EDUCATION
6.4.1. COMPARISONS OF UNIVERSITY AND PAST EDUCATIONAL
EXPERIENCES
6.4.2. INFLUENCES OF FURTHER EDUCATION EXPERIENCE ON DOING A
DEGREE
6.4.2.1. F E. College developed interest in coming to university
6.4.2.2. F E. qualifications a necessary prerequisite for university
6.4.3. INITIAL EXPERIENCES OF UNIVERSITY
6 4.3.1. Comparisons with traditional a ge students
6.4.3.2 Perceptions of academic aspects of university life
6.5. TOPIC CATEGORY: OTHER PEOPLE'S EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCE
6.5.1. MEMBERS OF THE EDUCATIONAL DOMAIN
6.5.1.1. University students
6.5.1.2. F.E. students
6.5 1.3. Teaching staff
6.5.2 MEMBERS OF THE EMPLOYMENT DOMAIN
6.5.3. MEMBERS OF INTERVIEWEES' FAMILIES
6.5.4. GENERAL FEEDBACK ABOUT DOING A DEGREE
66. TOPIC CATEGORY: HOME LIFE
6.6.1. ORGANISATIONAL ISSUES RESULTING FROM STARTING A DEGREE
6.6.2. FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS AND DOING A DEGREE
6.6.2.1. Emotional support for interviewee from family
6.6.2.2. Family pressures on the interviewee
6.6.2.3. Interviewees' feelings of guilt or selfishness
6.6 2.4. Interviewees' children and doin g a degree
6.7. TOPIC CATEGORY: SENSE OF SELF
6.7.1. PERSONAL FULFILMENT REASONS FOR DOING A DEGREE
6 7.1.1. Wish to learn
6.7.1.2. Self discovery and personal change
6.7.2. FITTING IN AT THE UNIVERSITY
6.7.3. THE ISSUE OF SELF CONFIDENCE
6.7.3.1. Confidence develops with experience
6.7.3.2. Ambivalent feelings
6.7.3.3. Rising to the challenge
6.7.3 4. Realising intellectual capabilities
6.8. CONCLUSION

136
6.1. INTRODUCTION

The purpose of this chapter is to provide an overview of the data set, in a way

relevant to the aims of this part of the thesis, as Chapter 3, (section 3.4.), provided

a relevant overview for the aims of Part II.

The overview I provide in this chapter takes the form of an analysis of the topics

the interviewees talked about. It is interesting in and of itself to note the range of

topics the interviewees talked about in responding to my agenda to tell about their

initial experiences of university. It also sets the scene for the discourse analyses

that follow in the rest of Part III, which explore two ways in which the

interviewees drew on these domains of experience: telling 'stories' and other

narratives, and representing the discourse of others. In short, this chapter is about

what those domains of experience are, and chapters 7 to 10 are about how the

interviewees drew on them.

In this chapter, I briefly review methods of coding qualitative data, (section 6.2.).

This includes how I developed the categories for the analysis in this chapter,

(section 6.2.2.), what those categories are, (section 6.2.3.), and a discussion of

problems encountered in generating them, (section 6.2.4.). In section 6.2.5. I

discuss relationships between the categories which emerged from the data that

allow them to be grouped at a more abstract level. The remainder of the chapter,

(sections 6.3. to 6.7.), comprises descriptions of the topic categories.

137
6.2. METHOD OF CODING TOPICS OF THE
INTERVIEWEES' TALK

In this section, I describe how I developed a hierarchy of categories of increasing

abstraction to code the topics of the interviewees' talk. As one of the main

purposes of this topic analysis was a scene setting one, in order to contextualise

the analyses of the rest of Part III, I considered it justifiable to do a fairly coarse-

grained analysis. This was a viable approach for such a large data set.

6.2.1. INTRODUCING THE METHOD

The topics of the interviewees' talk are unlike the other phenomena I analyse in

this thesis in not being essentially discursive. All the codings of the interview data

in this thesis are of some type of 'content' of the data, but here my focus is on the

ideational content, the topics the interviewees talked about. In this chapter I do

not pick out of the data all instances of a particular discursive feature such as

interrogatives or direct speech. Instead, I develop categories of topic content, as is

common in qualitative research across the social sciences. The topics that

emerged were various domains of the interviewees' experience which they drew

on in the interviews. Interviewer utterances were not included in this analysis, the

interaction between interviewer and interviewee being the topic of Part II.

6.2.2. TOPICS PRESUMED PRESENT IN THE DATA

In this section, I describe the stages in my development of topic categories. I note

to start with that categorisations of data are guided by theoretical assumptions,


derived from the theoretical frameworks which structure the research project,

(Goetz and LeCompte, 1984:169). Data do not speak for themselves or have

138
inherent properties, and any categorisations of data places an interpretative grid on

them.

My agenda for the interviews was to elicit the interviewees' perceptions about

their initial experiences of university. In order to elicit information on this, I

ensured that certain themes were covered in the interviews, (listed in Appendix 2).

This initial interest in mature students' perceptions of their relationship to the

university, which led to the development of these themes, later became refocused

on discursive strategies they used to construct meanings in the interview as a

particular type of social situation, (see chapter 2, section 2.3.2.1.). However,

these themes realised the theoretical concerns that I considered important at the

time. I summarise them here as List 1:

List 1:

Themes realising theoretical concerns at the time I conducted the

interviews

1 - Life history: reasons for doing a degree

2 - Identity: the possibility of changes in interviewees' sense of self as a

result of doing a degree.


3 - Power relations: interviewees perceptions of their relationship to other

members of the academic community (staff, other students).

4 - Any other perceptions of university; and other concerns of

interviewees.

It follows that the data would contain interviewees' responses to these issues.

Clearly, when it came to developing topic categories at least some of the data

could be categorised under these headings. This formed a set of categories I

presumed would be significant in the data, (Schatzman and Strauss, 1973:111).

139
6.2.3. THE TOPIC CATEGORIES WHICH EMERGED FROM
THE DATA

At a practical level, categorising data means sorting the data into units,

establishing the bases for distinguishing between units and deciding which ones

are associated with each other and can thus be grouped together. This involves

deciding what properties these data units share and how they differ from units

outside the category. Core properties can then be used to develop definitions of

the category, and of sub-groupings within it, (Goetz and LeCompte, op.cit.:170).

In my own case, my procedure was as follows. I scanned each interview for

dominant and repeating themes, which I noted. I then sorted, (collated and

distinguished between), these themes, using as the organising principle the distinct

social domains the interviewees' talk seemed to revolve around. The categories I

have given in List 2 below emerged as a comprehensive set of 5 major topics of

the interviewees' talk:

List 2:

Emergent categories

1 - Employment: talk about their employment, past and future

2 - Education: talk about their own education, in the past, and currently at

the university

3 - Education: references to other peoples' educational experience

4 - home life

5 - Sense of self: talk about themselves

I developed subsidiary categories, on the basis of my notes, to reflect finer

distinctions within these five categories. Together these formed a hierarchy of

categories I observed in the data, (Schatzman and Strauss, op.cit.:111), and

140
considered as significant because they reflected the theoretical concerns I brought
to the interviews as I gave them in List 1. They are given in Figure 6.1. below.

These categories are discussed in detail in sections 6.3. to 6.7. However, as a

general point I note that these are categories of experience: the social domains the

interviewees talked about in relation to their university experience. In Figure 6.1.

the sub-groups within the categories capture more specific aspects of the

interviewees' talk about each of the five main categories. The large range of life

experiences which the categories cover suggest that the interviewees believed their

experience of university had widespread effects on, and implications for, their

lives.

141
COMPARISONS BETWEEN
EMPLOYMENT + UNIVERSITY
Building on past work
EMPLOYMENT INFLUENCE OF PRIOR EMPLOYMENT
ON DOING DEGREE Disatisfaction with work

Career
DEGREE + FUTURE EMPLOYMENT
Future work not reason
for degree
COMPARISONS OF UNIVERSITY +
PAST EDUCATION
F.E. College developed
INFLUENCE OF F.E. COLLEGE interest in university
EDUCATION
- EXPERIENCE ON DEGREE F.E. qualifications necessary

Comparisons with traditional


INITIAL EXPERIENCES OF age students
UNIVERSITY
Academic aspects of university

University students
MEMBERS OF EDUCATIONAL
F.E. College students
DOMAIN
Teaching staff

MEMBERS OF EMPLOYMENT
EDUCATION'
DOMAIN
OTHER
PEOPLES
EXPERIENCE MEMBERS OF INTERVIEWEES'
FAMILIES

GENERAL FEEDBACK ABOUT


DOING A DEGREE

ORGANISATIONAL ISSUES
HOME LIFE Emotional support
Family pressures
FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS
Feelings of guilt

Interviewees children

Wish to learn
PERSONAL FULFILMENT
REASONS FOR DEGREE Self discovery

SENSE OF SELF
FITTING IN AT UNIVERSITY
Develops with experience

Ambivalent feelings
SELF CONFIDENCE
Rising to the challenge

Realising intellectual
capabilities

FIGURE 6.1. THE TOPIC CATEGORIES

142
6.2.4. PROBLEMS WITH THE METHOD

In this section I discuss the two difficulties I encountered in using this approach.

6.2.4.1. The close juxtaposition of topics

Deciding what was the dominant topic in any stretch of text was not always

straightforward, since interviewees often interwove different topics very closely.

This is an issue I have already drawn attention to in chapter 5, (section 5.2.1.). It

was a characteristic of the data that made coding the topics of the interviewees'

talk difficult. For example, Penny closely related a number of aspects of her

experience in the following short extract:

Pen: I've done English before I know I can cope with it I know
I've got a safe alternative major if Culture and Communication
doesn't work out Theatre Studies is the is the what if. it's the
bit of me that I haven't perhaps. um explored but would like to
. um that was very much triggered off by working on the
[news]paper
(Penny, 325-8).

In this extract, Penny drew together several aspects of her life experience in order

to answer a question I put to her about why she had decided to do Theatre Studies

as a minor subject. She not only referred to her current education at the

university, (the courses), but also related this to previous educational experience

of having done English before. She also referred to previous employment with a

local newspaper, where she covered Arts related events, and to an unexplored part

of herself.

143
6.2.4.2. Using the topic categories to enhance other analyses
in Part III

I would like to make three points about using the categories I developed to

enhance the analyses in chapters 7 and 10, (on narrative and discourse

representation respectively). Firstly, the categories for this chapter were

developed, not by allocating stretches of actual text to categories, but by scanning

the data and picking out dominant themes, which I organised into the 5 main

topics and their subsidiaries. In chapters 7 and 10, I focus on sections of the actual

interview texts. So there is a difference in level and type of analysis here: this

chapter is a broad analysis of a non-discursive aspect of the interviews, developed

by scanning the interviews for their ideational content; chapters 7 and 10 are

analyses of particular discursive features, located in particular sections of text.

Secondly, in chapters 7 and 10, the units of analysis differ in size from each other:

narratives are likely to be larger than instances of discourse representation. What I

would like to point out is that, since, as I have said, the interviewees closely

interwove topics, any one stretch of text might be assigned to a different category

in each of these chapters: a narrative of twenty lines, for example, might overall

be about one category but contain an instance of discourse representation

embedded in it which was about another topic.

Thirdly, I would like to anticipate the analyses of chapters 7 and 10 by pointing

out that in those chapters I only use the five main categories to establish the topics

of narratives and discourse representation, and have not included the sub-

categories.

The difficulties I have mentioned here are part of the inevitable consequence of

trying to analytically organise the 'real' discursively realised experiences of the

144
interviewees. It also highlights the fact that not all the analyses in this project are

wholly compatible, because of their differing foci. As I said in chapter 1, (section

1.2.), the analyses are intersecting 'takes' on the interview event. They are not

wholly compatible grids that can be superimposed on each other

6.2.5. HIGHER ORDER ABSTRACTIONS IN THE DATA

There is an interplay between the categories given in Figure 6.1. and two more

abstract dimensions in the data. I discuss these in this section.

6.2.5.1. A time dimension: past, present and future

A pervasive feature of the data was that the topics the interviewees talked about

often had an explicit time dimension. (I also discuss this in chapter 7, section

7.3.1.). For example, the 'employment' category involved distinctions between

past and future employment, and the 'education' category, distinctions between

past and current education. The example from Pam's interview below, illustrates

how the 'home life' category contained references to how some interviewees'

marital relationships worked in the past, and set them alongside concerns about

how they might work now the interviewee was starting a degree:

Pam: For the first time it it's me who's going out into a a world
that has nothing to do with him. whereas before my husband
changed careers . when he was twenty seven and I was right
behind him helping him
(Pam, 257-9).

The italics here foreground the comparison Pam established between the current

career change which would affect both Pam and her husband - her going out into

the world of the university, and a past career change - that of her husband.

145
6.2.5.2. Public and private domains dimension

The time dimension I have just been discussing emerged from the data. However,

I also note that each of the five categories fell into one of two super-ordinate

categories. Each category represented either an experience belonging to the public

or to the private domain. These super-ordinate categories did not emerge from the

data, that is, they did not appear to be salient distinctions made by the

interviewees. They are, instead, theoretical constructs. It would be a mistake to

make too much of a dichotomy between public and private domain experience, for
the reasons I give in Chapter 1, (sections 1.5.1. and 1.5.2.). Using the example of

the conversationalising tendencies in public discourses, I pointed out there that,

discursively at least, the public and private interpenetrate each other.

Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that the categories of 'employment' and

'education' are public domain activities, and 'home life' and 'the personal' are

private domain ones. 'Other peoples' experience of university' spans both the

public and the private domain. This is because references the interviewees made

to the experiences of people met in the public domains of work or education were

frequently references to personal friends, -rather khan to -people 1\11Ming

institutionally established roles.

The remainder of the chapter consists of discussion of the five topic categories. I

use extracts from the data in order to illustrate the content of each of the
categories, and in order not to drift too far into generalised interpretations of what

the interviewees said. In trying to characterise such a large data set in this way,

this is clearly a potential problem. Drawing intensively on the words of the

interviewees serves to reconnect the abstract nature of the categories to the

specificity of the experiences the interviewees talked about. I discuss each of the

146
topic categories given in Figure 6.1. in turn. Their order of presentation can be

seen at a glance in the chapter outline on the first page of this chapter.

Typographical note: short extracts from the interviews remain part of the body of

the text. They are in quotation marks and line number references to the transcripts

are given after them. As I have used quotations particularly intensively in this

chapter and intend them to be read for their ideational content, these quotations do

not contain transcription notation. Larger extracts are inset and retain

transcription notation, in the manner followed in the rest of the thesis.

6.3. TOPIC CATEGORY: EMPLOYMENT

The employment category contains the references interviewees made to

experiences of paid work. The work of raising children and managing a home -

work which was given importance by eight of the eleven women, because it would

be continuing concurrently with doing a degree - is discussed in the home life

category.

Mary, Wendy, Steve and Sam all referred to the full-time jobs they had had

immediately prior to returning to full time education. Sharon, Tania, Penny, Pam,

Sara, Anne and Connie had all done jobs, (put-time, voluntary or short term), but

paid work seemed to play a less prominent role in their decision to come to

university. Carol and Maria did not mention paid work.

The topic of employment was talked about by the interviewees in ways captured

by the following sub-categories, which I discuss below: comparisons between

university and employment, (section 6.3.1.), influences of prior employment on

147
doing a degree, (section 6.3.2.), and the degree in relation to future employment,

(section 6.3.3.).

6.3.1. COMPARISONS BETWEEN EMPLOYMENT AND

UNIVERSITY

Mary, Steve and Sam all favourably compared university to work. For example,

Mary acknowledged some similarities between nursing and the university - they

were both "administrative structures" and male dominated, (166). However, while

she recognised that nursing was "largely a female profession", (160), she

anticipated there would be less discrimination at university against the 51% of

students there who were women, because it was in the university's interest "for the

students to come out with good degrees ... so you can't discriminate against 51%

of them can you?", (177-9). University was perceived as a place where she hoped

to be able to "be much more expressive than you can when you're going to work ...

in every aspect of your behaviour", (141-5). She contrasted this to her experience

of nursing "where it's actually sort of necessary to conform", (146-7).

Steve contrasted his job and university in terms of intellectual stimulation. His

job in coal mining meant "sitting about then using your hands and very little brain

work and you get this feeling that you're stagnating somewhat", (135-6). His hope

was that university would be a more conducive environment in which he would

meet other "people who think about things", (311).

Wendy, however, made some interesting comparative comments on academic and

business qualifications, based on being initially and unaccountably refused a


university place, despite achieving a number of relevant professional

qualifications. This was later rectified, but she commented:

148
Wen: Maybe sometimes when the staff get on to a certain level
that they don't have a realisation of what goes on actually in
the outside world. erm • now ( ) but er.. you know if people
had actually. looked into what I had achieved and how I'd
actually gone about it studied my background . then that
situation wouldn't have actually arisen ... maybe [university
staff] are so caught up with the academic world that they forget
that there is actually industry and . you know. sort of a
struggle in the world outside and people who are trying to
achieve things professional qualifications as opposed to
academic ones and I find that quite sad really
(Wendy, 502-14)

She contrasted this experience, which she accounted for as "just unlucky", (517),

with the prompt offer she was given by her boss to do an MSc in training, though

she turned this down because she wanted to broaden her career options and

because she wanted to "expand her education", (70), by doing a university degree.

6.3.2. INFLUENCES OF PRIOR EMPLOYMENT ON DOING A


DEGREE

A second sub-category of references to employment was the way interviewees'

decisions to come to university evolved in part out of their past employment

experience.

6.3.2.1. Building on past work experience

There are a number of ways in which past employment influenced interviewees'

decisions to come to university. Firstly, both Wendy and Tania specifically

wanted their degree both to build on their past work experience and to develop

their career path. Wendy put it this way:

Wen: The last ten years [of employment] have been very much
people oriented . so it would be silly you know to throw the
whole lot away . you know all that experience that I've backed

149
up because. if I'm going to then go out in three year's time and
start looking for another job then I'm going to have to couple
qualifications with experience
(Wendy, 116-20).

6.3.2.2. Dissatisfaction with work

Secondly, and in sharp contrast, for Pam, Penny, Sharon and Sam dissatisfaction

with the type of work they were doing was one of the reasons they took on a

degree full-time. For example, Pam's boredom with her job at a building society

was the catalyst for her to start F.E. college courses and then a degree:

Pam: I finally got fed up with the the building society I thought I'm
bored with this there's got to be more to it than this and it just sort of
went on from there
(Pam, 66-8).

For Penny, it was a sudden realisation that:

Pen: I can't just go from one job to [another] ... I was really taken up
short by realising I was nearly thirty and I'd never planned anything
(Penny, 372-8).

In addition, for Steve there was an external job-related factor. Though he was

dissatisfied with his job, being made redundant was the catalyst for hh-n to " glve it
a go" at university, (89).

6.3.3. INTERVIEWEES' DEGREE IN RELATION TO FUTURE


EMPLOYMENT

In addition to the influences of prior employment, some interviewees talked about

their future employment prospects.

150
6.3.3.1. Career orientation

In addition to Wendy and Tania, (see section 6.3.2.1.), who wanted their degree to

build on their past employment experience and move them towards a career, Anne

and Sara also expressed strong career reasons for doing a degree. For example,

Sara's main reason for doing a degree was to become a teacher. This would be a

second career for her as she was already a qualified nurse. At the end of her

degree she would "have a useful qualification that will get me into a career I really

want to do, (230-1).

6.3.3.2. Future work not main reason for degree

Other interviewees talked explicitly about how the actual experience of doing the

degree took precedence over following a particular career pattern. For example,

Sam said:

Sam: I think my original intentions were just primarily career


oriented but not any more no I just want to get my degree now
(Sam, 65-9).

And Carol felt it was unlikely, at fifty six, that she would get a job after her

degree.

6.4. TOPIC CATEGORY: EDUCATION

This category contains the references interviewees made to educational

experience. This includes references to schooling, further education, work-related

training and their experience of university thus far. The topic of education was

talked about by the interviewees in ways captured by the followingzub-categories,

which I discuss below: comparisons of past educational experiences to university,

151
(section 6.4.1.), academic influences of their further education experience on

doing a degree, (section 6.4.2.), and their initial experiences as university students,

(section 6.4.3.).

6.4.1. COMPARISONS OF UNIVERSITY AND PAST


EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCES

It was common for interviewees to make comparisons between their educational

experiences. Anne and Wendy both compared their forthcoming experience of

university to previous educational experiences. Anne recalled how university

changed those of her friends who went to university straight from school, which

she did not. She was also disappointed that university seemed not to be "the final

stage at all, this is just another stage along the way", (2:117), from school.

Wendy's only formal education since leaving school was evening classes for a

work-related qualification in personnel management. She did not like the teaching

style, "the lecturer was up at the front and writing up on the board and you just

copied [it] down", (207-8), and thought university would be different: "the crux

seems to be that you have to do a lot of the work and finding out yourself which

I'm quite happy about", (215-6).

All the interviewees, except Mary and Wendy, had done F.E. college or Access

courses, either full- or part-time, immediately prior to starting at university. Sara,

Steve and Sam used this experience to make comparisons. For example, Sam

contrasted the positive experience of F.E. college, which he hoped would be

continued at university, with his experience of failure at school:

Sam: One the things I liked about going down to college it


were a complete contrast. it weren't like at school you were
told that you were . you know . you were useless you were going
to fail whereas there it were a complete contrast . you . you will

152
do well as long as you're prepared to do a little bit of work
which to me were. you know were a complete contrast and
a welcome change as well to what I went through at school
(Sam, 173-8).

6.4.2. INFLUENCES OF FURTHER EDUCATION EXPERIENCE


ON DOING A DEGREE

The experience of doing F.E. college or Access courses was not only talked about

comparatively, but was also described as an important influence on some

interviewees' decision to come to university.

6.4.2.1. F.E. College developed interest in coming to


university

For Maria, Pam, Sharon, Connie, Steve, Sam, and Carol the decision to come to

university was a sort of evolution, developing out of enjoyment and interest in the

subjects they were doing at F.E. college. For example, Carol's decision to do a

degree developed gradually from her experience at F.E. college:

Car: I didn't set out with the intention, oh I'd like to do a degree ...
that wasn't in my mind at all . I've [justl taken it from step to step and
done my best at everything
(Carol, 140-2).

6.4.2.2. F.E. qualifications a necessary prerequisite for


university

Anne and Tania, who both wished to pursue particular careers on the basis of

getting a degree, mentioned F.E. college qualifications as prerequisites to coming

to university. For example, Tania wanted to do social work:

153
Tan: Three years ago I went up to the University and sort of
said oh all keen you know and II want to do social work ... and
they sort of said well you know yeah that sounds great but what
sort of qualifications have you got well I didn't have anything
at all [laugh] so that was a bit naive and then I had to go back
to college and do a . stage B's and so I can go this year
(Tania, 85-90).

6.4.3. INITIAL EXPERIENCES OF UNIVERSITY

The overall topic of each interview was the interviewee's initial perceptions of

university. The point of this sub-category is to capture aspects of what the

interviewees said about the university which are not captured in other categories.

This fell into the following two groups.

6.4.3.1. Comparisons with traditional age students

A number of interviewees talked about distinctions they perceived between

themselves and younger students. Anne and Pam both said they were part of a

minority group as mature students. Mary suggested older students were "a bit of

an abnormality", (307), and Connie that it was "a bit like them and us", (2:222).

Comments by Tania, Connie, Anne and Steve point up some of the concerns

interviewees had about being a mature student. For example, Steve was

concerned about not being able to mix with eighteen year olds; for him "all these

bright kids come straight from school", (188), looked so much more confident
than he was, though he knew this was unlikely actually to be the case.

Other comments focused on the advantages of being a mature student. Pam

thought mature students were more appreciative . of the opportunity to do a degree,

while "young people sort of tend to take it as a matter of course", (161). And

154
Connie felt advantaged to have already studied Psychology at F.E. college, as she

pointed out it was not a subject not always available for traditional age students at

school.

6.4.3.2. Perceptions of academic aspects of university life

Interviewees mentioned a number of different academic aspects of the university,

which I illustrate in this section.

Anne and Wendy felt that a degree was about becoming a "broadly educated

person rather than an expert at something", (Anne2:95-6). Anne made an

additional general point: she was disappointed in Introductory Week to find that

she would "not go into any [subject] quite as deeply as I'd expected to", (2:66).

Sara, Tania, and Connie all made positive comments about the university lecturers

who had interviewed them. Maria did not anticipate any problems in relating to

teaching staff, partly because she knew some of them already from extra-mural

courses. Connie, however, while she felt comfortable with F.E. college tutors did

not think she would do so with university teaching staff:

Con: We've been on a sort of equal level with our [teachers] I


found that difficult when I first went to college to actually.
instead of putting me hand up and please miss or please sir to
actually. be on the same sort of level as your teacher
Into: Do you think you'll be that way at the university with
staff
Con: [laugh] Oh I don't think so
(Conniel, 471-6).

However, some of the experiences of Introductory Week that she described in her

second interview suggested she found them more approachable than she

anticipated, for example:

155
Con: There was even one it was [lecturer's name] and you
know he looks like a mad professor ... but I mean he was totally
different he wasn't he wasn't quite so you know sort of
flamboyant as some of the others but ... we could all go and get
a free cup of coffee and then he had a big tin of biscuits and
handed it round ... it was lovely to be in that sort of atmosphere
where you could have this
(Connie2, 56-68).

Connie, Penny and Steve also pointed out that lectures were a new thing for them,

and it was going to be a case of "we'll tell you when we've done one", (Penny,

451), when it came to how they would cope. Steve acknowledged that while

lectures as a teaching method were new to him, university teaching methods

would follow on from teaching methods he had become familiar with at F.E.

college:

Ste: I've never experienced a lecture and seminars and . I've


no idea what it's like but there's all these myths going around
in your head ... that's what you feel. but you know.
realistically ... it's just going to be ongoing process from the A
levels, reading books . having lectures now . going back.
welling it all over in your mind, putting something down on
paper and progressing
(Steve, 229-44).

Maria, Carol and Tania mentioned that coping with exams was a worry; and

Wendy, Carol and Connie, expressed apprehensions about writing essays.

Nine interviewees gave reasons for choosing particular disciplines. Sara, Wendy

and Tania all had career reasons for their choice of disciplines. For Connie, Carol,

Sharon, Mary, Penny, Steve and Sam an interest in a particular subject was the

main reason for their choice of discipline. For example, the work experience of

both Steve and Sam had led to an interest in politics which they wished to develop

at university.

156
6.5. TOPIC CATEGORY: OTHER PEOPLE'S
EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCE

A pervasive feature of the interviews is the way all the interviewees drew on other

people's relevant experiences to help them understand what university might be

like. In this category, the focus is on other people's experience, as opposed to the

interviewees' own experience. In other words, this category captures those parts

of the data where other peoples' experience of education became the topic of the

interviewees talk. In Chapters 9 and 10, I explore how drawing on other people's

experiences involved the use of discourse representation.

I have divided this topic category into sub-categories on the basis of the social

roles occupied by these other people. This results in the following sub-categories

which I discuss below: members of the educational domain, (section 6.5.1.),

members of the employment domain, (section 6.5.2.), members of interviewees'

families, (section 6.5.3.), and general feedback about doing a degree, (section

6.5.4.).

6.5.1. MEMBERS OF THE EOM_

This sub-category includes university and F.E. college students, and teaching staff

6.5.1.1. University students

Tania, Wendy and Connie referred to the experience of friends who had been to

university, with Connie making the most extensive references. What their friends

157
said was mostly advisory. For example, Connie reported the experience of a

friend of hers:

Con: He's doing a degree but urn . he says to me he says it


changes you ... and he says don't worry about these eighteen
year olds that come straight from school they're all arrogant
they think they know it all but he says give them two or three
months and he says when they realise they don't know a lot he
says they'll come down to earth
(Connie 1, 335-52).

In addition, Tania, Connie and Wendy gave comments from friends about course

choices; Wendy and Connie gave friends' comments about how preconceived

ideas before starting the degree might be erroneous; and Tania and Connie gave

friends' warnings about feeling isolated at the beginning. Tania, for example,

expressed this as follows:

Tan: A friend of mine told me just recently he' he's doing Psychology
and ...he was saying be prepared for the first year because he warned
me that it is very lonely and you don't get to know people. because
you know you're in different groups
(Tania, 259-62).

6.5.1.2. F.E. students

All the interviewees had just completed F.E. courses except Mary and Wendy.

Tania, Sharon, Sara and Connie referred to experiences they shared with other

F.E. college students: either that F.E. college was a stimulating shared experience,

or that the shared experience of F.E. college continued with friends from college at

university. For example, Sharon said:

Sha: The Independent [Studies] [course] sounds really good


because I've got two friends from college that I'm with and
we're all in the same group 'cos a lot of it is project based and

158
working together and we're going to try and design a project
on death and burial mounds
(Sharon2, 30-3).

6.5.1.3. Teaching staff

There were also references to the relevant experience of teaching staff, that is, to

their experience of what university was like and the advice they gave as a result.

Sara and Connie referred to F.E. college teaching staff in this way. For example,

Connie referred to how her F.E. college teachers described university and the

advantages of an F.E. college, as opposed to school, preparation for it:

Con: Our teachers ... said in the first year they reckon that a
degree is very much like what you get at school you sit there
and you take notes . you know it's a traditional style of teaching
but [they] said the second year it's more group discussion and
more you know everybody interacting and things and they said
that's when. us [college] students will come into our own.
because we've got used to having this
(Conniel, 457-63).

Connie, unlike the other interviewees, also reported the advice and help given to

her by university teaching staff during Introductory Week. For example, "the

thing they've been putting across to you more than anything is use us ... we're here

for your benefit", (2:146-51).

6.5.2 MEMBERS OF THE EMPLOYMENT DOMAIN

There were fewer references to people encountered in the domain of work.


However, for Tania, the higher qualifications of her work colleagues was an

impetus to come to university. Some of Wendy's colleagues had themselves been

mature students and "all of them said that as a mature student you get so much

159
more out of [university]", (164-5). In a slightly different way, Sam contrasted his

own experience of coming to university with the experience of friends of his:

[who] could quite easily do what I've done but ... [they are] from
working class backgrounds ... and they're married and settled down
with children, [so] there's no way that they'll ever escape that now, but
they've got the ability to do it ... they just haven't got the opportunities
(Sam, 112-20).

6.5.3. MEMBERS OF INTERVIEWEES' FAMILIES

Six interviewees referred to members of their families who seem to have modelled

further or higher education study for them. Steve and his sister started F.E.

college courses together. Connie's sister had done a degree, and she referred both

to her sister's experience of doing it and to the advice her sister gave her: doing a

degree changes you, and one discovers what one is good at as one goes along.

Penny's father went to university but dropped out and then returned later, which is,

as she pointed out, similar to her own experience of trying university at eighteen,

leaving and then returning later. Anne's elder brother went on to university from

school, though she had to go out to work once she had finished school because of

a death in the family. Maria and Sara both had partners who were doing masters

degrees, and for Maria it was seeing all her family studying that made her decide

to study too:

Mia: I don't know what made me go back to education um yes


I do it was the year my husband started university and one of
the girls was doing A levels one of the girls was doing 0 levels
and my son was doing his eleven plus and they were all doing it
in one year and I thought this isn't fair [laugh]
(Maria, 155-9).

Mary and Sharon both stated that they were the first people in their families to go

to university.

160
6.5.4. GENERAL FEEDBACK ABOUT DOING A DEGREE

This category contains the references interviewees made to unidentified other

people, what they had heard as hearsay about the experience of doing a degree.

For Tania this was as follows:

Tan: I've heard of other people who haven't had support [from their
families] I've thought you know it must be very difficult to do it
without support... I keep hearing a lot of people say a lot of people
stop after the first year or a lot of people find it more difficult than
[they anticipated]
(Tania, 383-5, 402-4).

Anne had heard that 50% of student marriages break up in the second year.

Wendy's and Sharon's references to hearsay concerned more academic aspects of

university. Wendy had heard that Lancaster University's Psychology department

had a good reputation; while Sharon had heard that students don't have to work

too hard in their first year. She also said:

Sha: I've heard that um university lectures see students as a necessary


evil but I don't know how true that is . I'll find that out when I get up
there
(Sharon 1, 244-6).

The feedback interviewees reported from their families is covered in section 6.6.2.

6.6. TOPIC CATEGORY: HOME LIFE

This category contains the references interviewees made to their home life - to

their families and to the running of their homes. For the eleven women

interviewees this seemed a particularly important area of their lives, in relation to

161
what Pam called the "serious adventure", (145), of coming to university. These

interviewees all talked about having home commitments: eight of them were

married, six with children; and three were single parents. All of them were

concerned with having to juggle the demands of two different worlds. The two

sub-categories that emerged from the data showed that these demands were

organisational, and/or family relationship ones.

6.6.1. ORGANISATIONAL ISSUES RESULTING FROM

STARTING A DEGREE

Connie, Wendy, Sara, Anne and Pam expressed concerns about having to organise

two very different worlds. Pam, for example, verbalised a common feeling when

she said:

Pam: Being organised is one of my chief worries ... I'm going


to have to plan my weeks out because whereas the nineteen
year old sort of has. nobody else to worry about. erm but
themselves, because back home there's a parent who hopefully
will send them money if they run short. erm I've got to
organise two worlds there's my world here and there's my
world at home erm . and that that's a worry it's trying to
organise everything so that yes the washing does get done and.
that I must make time for this and. it's slotting it all in so I
have, done one or two things to help me organise that
(Pam, 334-48).

6.6.2. FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS AND DOING A DEGREE

A number of divisions of this sub-category emerged from the data, which I

describe below.

162
6.6.2.1. Emotional support for interviewee from family

Carol, Penny, Sara, Pam, Tania and Maria specifically mentioned that they felt

supported by their partners. However, Pam and Maria felt there was an

ambivalence in their spouse's support. For example, Pam said:

Pam: In theory it's all going to work out and he's behind me a
hundred percent. I haven't got any problems but I think he might
have in adjusting to this wife who's got friends [of her own]
(Pam, 284-6).

With regard to other members of the family, Sharon said her family were "totally

over the moon about it, they've given me so much support", (1:174-5), while Mary

said her parents were "pleased but they think it's a bit weird ... they don't really

understand why I'm doing it or what I'll get out of it", (600-5).

6.6.2.2. Family pressures on the interviewee

Various interviewees mentioned concerns about possible changes in their


relationships to partners as a result of doing a degree. Pam and Penny were

concerned about the strain doing a degree will put on their marriages. For

example, Penny said:

I know that I have set myself quite a big hurdle with that my
husband is a non academic ... he is being very understanding
and I'm putting a lot of strain on him ... we have discussed the
possibility that our relationship might not survive this
(Penny, 232-62).

Tania, Pam and Maria also anticipated a certain amount of marital friction.

163
Anne and Wendy talked about other sorts of family pressures. Carol, for example,

had already seen her children through school, and she did not feel a conflict with

home demands, but Anne, whose children were much younger, did. She said:

If anyone starts saying . why weren't you there at the assembly


this morning Mummy that kind of thing. I've got to feel. so
dedicated [at the university] that I couldn't possibly. be
swayed by anything that anybody else says to me. and I'm
hoping that'll come
(Arme2, 227-30).

6.6.2.3. Interviewees' feelings of guilt or selfishness

A number of the women interviewees expressed that they had felt selfish about

doing a degree. This was stated as being related to changing from a prior focus on

other people to a focus on themselves. Mary said "I think particularly for a

woman it's quite hard to be selfish, you get used to doing things for other people

all of the time", (62-3). Carol and Pam both felt they had now resolved this

dilemma. For example, Carol said:

Thinking about yourself so much and what you want to do you


know to me that seemed selfish at first but it isn't really
because I devoted time to what everybody else has wanted to do
so it isn't really you know but sometimes you . when you've
been a wife and mother you have a guilty conscience sometimes
about things but I don't now if there's something I wanted to
do I think perhaps I shouldn't be doing this for me you know
but urn . I don't feel that way at all now
(Carol, 298-304).

Tania, Wendy and Connie also mentioned feeling selfish.

164
6.6.2.4. Interviewees' children and doing a degree

A number of interviewees mentioned their children in relation to doing a degree.

For Sharon, Sara and Mary doing a degree would enable them to help or pass on

something to their children. For example, Mary said, "I have a little girl and ... I

found myself wanting to be a better role model for her", (64-6). Pam, Carol, Tania

and Maria all commented that their children were now old enough for them not to

feel they need spend all their time looking after them. This was a factor in why

they chose to do a degree at this point in their lives.

6.7. TOPIC CATEGORY: SENSE OF SELF

This category captures interviewees' perceptions about themselves in relation to

the university. Perceptions about themselves were foregrounded in the interviews

in the following ways, which I discuss below. Interviewees often gave personal

fulfilment reasons for doing a degree, (section 6.7.1.). Some also expressed

concerns about fitting in at the university, (section 6.7.2.), and all of them

mentioned the issue of self confidence, (section 6.7.3.).

6.7.1. PERSONAL FULFILMENT REASONS FOR DOING A


DEGREE

Doing a degree out of a general wish to learn or seeing it as a catalyst for some

sort of personal change seemed to be important for most interviewees. Wendy and

Anne focused more on career reasons for doing a degree, (see section 6.3.3.1.), but

all the others specifically mentioned one of the following two types of personal

fulfilment reasons.

165
6.7.1.1. Wish to learn

The desire for knowledge was expressed in a number of ways. For Tania, Pam

and Steve part of the reason for doing a degree was because "I just want to learn

and enjoy learning", (Pam, 231-2). Mary and Carol both said the degree was "just

for me", (Carol, 183). Increasing knowledge, either generally or in particular

areas, was important for Sharon, Penny and Connie. Connie expressed it like this:

. Con: When you can quote things... and you really know what you're
talking about well . you know people can't argue with that
(Conniel, 393-5).

Carol, Mary and Sam talked about the degree broadening their minds.

6.7.1.2. Self discovery and personal change

Several interviewees mentioned the degree as a process of self discovery. For

example, Maria wanted to "see if I can actually achieve what I think I know I can

achieve", (62-3). She also mentioned that her year at F.E. college to gain her pre-

requisite qualifications for university enabled her to develop part of herself, to

regain "a lost person", (443). Connie too, perceived the degree in relation to a

new sense of self:

Con: [It's] almost like you're finding out who you really are
you know and ... you're going to do something that . you know
has been there whizzing around for a long time and now you've
suddenly found a way of channelling it you know and at the
same time it's well like yeah I think it is because of sort of being
kept down and I've suddenly come up. and you know and I'm
I'm I keep laughing and saying I'm a late starter
(Conniel, 584-9).

166
6.7.2. FITTING IN AT THE UNIVERSITY

Steve, Anne, Connie, Sharon and Penny all expressed concerns about fitting in.

Steve, for example, compared his work situation to his hopes of university:

Ste: Right from . where I was down the mine last year. I didn't
feel I fitted in that sort of life style ... down the mine ninety
percent you're sitting there doing nothing . waiting for
something breaking down and then you're jumping up and
running about fixing it. so I'm sitting down the pit reading
history books and the like and you want to turn round and
discuss things ... and all they're interested in is . what's on the
television . are you going out drinking ... not fitting into that.
pit environment. I'm trying to find environment that I will fit
into to . hopefully it'll be the university
(Steve, 283-97).

Anne described the difficulties of fitting in as related both to her home and her
university lives:

Ann: I'm in the middle of a see-saw . because ... I don't sort of


fit in properly. in my old life, fully any more. and yet I think
that when I get to university . I'm going to be. an older student
with children which is automatically going to cut me out of a lot
of. the new life
(Annel, 98-102).

In contrast to Anne, Sharon, Penny and Connie felt very excited during
Introductory Week - in her second interview, Connie put it as "I felt like I

belonged there", (13).

An interesting aspect of fitting in that emerged from the data was the concern

Sharon, Tania, Maria, Pam and Connie expressed in what it was appropriate to

wear as 'students'. Tania described how she told some friends about this dilemma:

167
Tan: I said [to them] oh yeah I'm really excited but I'm really nervous
with it and they said well yeah of course you'd be nervous and I said
no no I'm more nervous about what to wear than anything else [laugh]
... I don't want to be mutton dressed as lamb
(Tania, 427-30).

6.7.3. THE ISSUE OF SELF CONFIDENCE

Self confidence was an issue mentioned by all the interviewees. Many expressed

a mixture of confidence and lack of it. For some, the F.E. college had been crucial

in developing confidence in their academic abilities. 'Am I good enough?',

seemed to be a question that most interviewees asked themselves in one form or

another. In the following sections, I distinguish between the ways in which

interviewees expressed their concerns with self confidence.

6.7.3.1. Confidence develops with experience

Carol, Sara, Anne, Connie and Steve seemed to see confidence developing as their

educational experience increased. For Steve confidence had developed at

successive stages of his education as an adult, but negative comparisons were still

easy to make:

Ste: I'm pretty confident at A level standard now. come to


university now I've got to start the whole process again . I'm
looking around and seeing all these bright kids come straight
from school and I'm saying I couldn't have done that so they
must be really bright
(Steve, 186-90).

6.7.3.2. Ambivalent feelings

Sam, Maria, Mary and Pam expressed a conflict over the question of confidence.

Pam expressed this as, "I've convinced myself that I wouldn't be at university if I

168
wasn't good enough to be here ... [but] I think a lot of mature students especially in

my age group do have this sort of lack of self confidence", (318-22). I return to

this ambivalence in chapter 10, (section 10.6.3.).

6.7.3.3. Rising to the challenge

Connie, Wendy, Maria and Sara all expressed their confidence in terms of rising

to some sort of challenge: in her first interview, Connie described this as "the

mountain's there so you want to climb it", (1:226); and Sara described it as a

struggle to overcome - "fight[ing] against the you're no good syndrome", (281).

Maria expressed it this way:

Mia: If I could go on to national television and talk to all those


housewives who are sat out there ... I would say to them look at
me if you could have seen me two years ago you wouldn't
believe the difference I've got my confidence back ... I'd love to
generate enthusiasm through all the other housewives who are
sat at home thinking this is what it is for the rest of my life and
no it isn't there is life after children [laugh]
(Maria, 426-61).

6.7.3.4. Realising intellectual capabilities

Pam, Maria, Tania and Connie talked about confidence in terms of realising their

intellectual capabilities. For example, Tania said, "the first time I realised for

myself that I'm not stupid, that's nice, that's a nice feeling", (131). And like Tania,

Connie realised at F.E. College that "I'd got it in me", (1, 202).

6.8. CONCLUSION

In this chapter, I have illustrated in some detail the topics the interviewees talked

about in their interviews. I pointed out that these topics ranged widely over a

169
number of domains of the interviewees' experience, which suggests the

interviewees believed the ramifications of doing a degree were considerable.

I note that this summary of the ideational content of the interviewees' talk is

inevitably interpretative. This is so both in the generation of categories, which are

influenced by the theoretical assumptions and interests I brought to the analysis,

and at the level of 'describing' the categories, in sections 6.3. to 6.7. However, I

feel it is useful to have offered some summary of the interviewees' talk because

the data set is so large, and this summary provides a context for the narrowly

focused discursive analyses of narrative and discourse representation which

follow.

It is also important, in a project which focuses so strongly on discursive features

of texts, to remember that these texts come from real people at a time of upheaval

and change in their lives. In this chapter I have sought to recapture some of the

personal and individual ways in which the interviewees worded their worlds by

quoting their own talk extensively.

170
CHAPTER 7

TYPES OF PERSONAL EXPERIENCE NARRATIVE IN


THE INTERVIEWS

7.1. INTRODUCTION
7.1.1. REASONS FOR ANALYSING INTERVIEWEES' NARRATIVES
7.1.2. OUTLINE OF CHAPTER
7.2. DEFINING NARRATIVE FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS CHAPTER
7.2.1. DEFINITION OF NARRATIVE
7.2.2. POLANYI'S TYPOLOGY OF NARRATIVES
7.3. CODING THE NARRATIVES IN THE DATA: CRITERIA
7.3.1. TYPE OF NARRATIVE
7.3.1.1. 'Concurrent generic narratives'
7.3.1.2. 'Stories'
7.3.1.3. 'Plans'
7.3.1.4. 'Hypothetical narratives'
7.3.2. TOPICS OF NARRATIVES
7.3.3. ADDITIONAL CRITERIA
7.3.3.1. Indications of length
7.3.3.2. Other
7.4. RESULTS
7.4.1. OVERVIEW OF THE NARRATIVES CODED BY TYPE AND TOPIC
ACROSS THE DATA SET
7.4.2. CONCURRENT GENERIC NARRATIVES
7.4.3. STORIES
7.4.3.1. Stories about the interviewees' education
7 4 3.2. Stories about other people's educational experience
7.4.3.3. Stories about sense of self
7 4 3.4. Stories about employment
7.4.3.5. Stories about home life
7.4.4. PLANS
7.5. THE CASE OF HYPOTHETICAL NARRATIVES
7.5.1. NARRATIVES ABOUT POSSIBLE FUTURES
7.5.2. HYPOTHETICAL NARRATIVES ABOUT EMPLOYMENT
7.5.3. HYPOTHETICAL NARRATIVES ABOUT EDUCATION
7.5.3.1. Academic work
7 5.3 2. The university institution
7.5.4. HYPOTHETICAL NARRATIVES ABOUT HOME LIFE
7.5.5. HYPOTHETICAL NARRATIVES ABOUT SENSE OF SELF
7.6. CONCLUSION

7.1. INTRODUCTION

As I said in the Introduction to Part III, I am viewing the overarching theme of

Part III as how the interviewees drew on experience in constructing meanings

171
about becoming undergraduates. In this chapter, I explore a common feature of

the data, namely, that the interviewees drew on experience to tell various types of

'story' and other narratives in the process of talking about their initial experiences

of university.

My aim in this chapter is to focus on two features of these narratives: their

ideational content, which comes from one of the five domains of experience I

analysed in chapter 6, (employment, education, other people's educational

experience, home life, and sense of self); and how narratives are tellings about

some past, present or future time.

7.1.1. REASONS FOR ANALYSING INTERVIEWEES'


NARRATIVES

My reasons for analysing interviewees' narratives are as follows. Mishler argues

that narratives are a common way in which people give information about their

lives and express meanings about their experience. This occurs even in

interviews:

"telling narratives is far from unusual in everyday conversation and it is


apparently no more unusual for interviewees to respond to questions with
narratives if they are given some room to speak", (1986:69).

He notes that interviewee responses often involve narratives. He also notes that

narratives are more likely to be reported by researchers using unstructured

interviews, since here "people are invited to speak with their own voice", (ibid.),

and suppressed in survey type interviews because interviewee responses "are

limited to 'relevant' answers to narrowly specified questions", (ibid:68). He argues


that narratives are a valuable way to meet the main aim of interviews, the

elicitation of information from interviewees, even though they are difficult to

172
analyse, (ibid:67). The frequency with which narratives occurred in my own

interviews, as a strategy used by the interviewees to present information, was one

reason for analysing them.

A second reason is that there are links between my analyses of narratives in this

chapter and the next, and the concerns of Part II with interpersonal meanings and

power relations. I suggested in chapter 3, (section 3.3.3.), that the partially

unstructured nature of my own interviews encouraged conversational elements of

discourse. I suggest here that one such conversational element was the use of

narratives by the interviewees because they had "some room to speak", as Mishler

says. I note, however, that there are other ways I could have explored interviewee

narratives which would have related them more closely to the concerns of Part II -

such as effects of the interview context, for example, the effect of interviewer

questions and prompts on the interviewees' narratives, (Mishler, ibid:96).

However, since my interest here is in ideational meaning-making I have not

focused on this. Nor have I focused on the fact that I, as the interviewer, also gave

certain personal experience narratives. These were 'plans' for the next stage of my

research, given in the 'further contact' part of the interviews; and a few 'stories'

about my experience as a mature student. These have been subsumed in my

discussion of self disclosure, in chapter 5, (section 5.4.).

'Self disclosure', the topic of chapter 5, and 'narratives' are overlapping constructs:

all the narratives of personal experience which I analyse were self disclosing,

though not all self disclosure in the interviews had a narrative structure. My third

reason for analysing narratives is to point to different aspects of meaning making

from those I focused on by exploring self disclosure: I used self disclosure to


explore interpersonal meanings and the power relations in the interviews; I use

narratives to explore what other times and domains of experience the interviewees

drew on in talking about starting at university.

173
7.1.2. OUTLINE OF CHAPTER

Narrative analysis covers a broad range of approaches, which differ in method,

because they differ in theoretical concerns, (Mishler, ibid.:67). Narrative analysis

is useful in social scientific research because it focuses on human experience in a

holistic way:

"people are both living their stories in an ongoing experiential text and
telling their stories in words as they reflect upon life and explain
themselves to others", (Connelly and Clandinin, 1990:2).

This reflective explaining of themselves, by reference to other domains of their

experience, was certainly something the interviewees did extensively. However, it

was difficult to decide how to analyse these narratives, because of the range of

approaches available, without turning this analysis into a thesis-length one.

Mishler, for example, (op.cit:77-105), discusses a number of linguistic methods of


narrative analysis, all of which use grammatical criteria. These would be difficult

to use in a data set as large a mine. I have been concerned about the lack of

systematic grammatical analysis in this chapter, which has resulted from


exploring the use of narrative in the whole of this large data set. I have resolved

this by doing a more in-depth and grammatically focused analysis of a few

narratives in chapter 8.

My analysis in this chapter is as follows. I outline the view of narrative I use to

underpin the analysis in this chapter in section 7.2., and describe my coding
procedures in section 7.3. This is a simple classification system based on the two
features of narrative I have already mentioned, time, (past, present or future), and

domain of experience, (employment, education, home, etc.). I go on to discuss

features of the narratives in the data coded by this method, in section 7.4. I look at

174
interviewees' use of 'hypothetical narratives' about the future as an especially

interesting type of narrative, with respect to constructions of meaning about the

university, in section 7.5.

7.2. DEFINING 'NARRATIVE' FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS

CHAPTER

In this chapter, I work with a two-layered definition of narrative, by which I am

able to impose a simple classification of narrative types on the data and thus

comment on narratives as a way the interviewees constructed meanings. I discuss

these definitions in the following two sections.

7.2.1. DEFINITION OF NARRATIVE

The fundamental definition of narratives that I work with is that narratives are a

way of constructing meaning in texts, by organising it around sequences of events

which occur on some time line. A narrative is "a perceived sequence of non-

randomly connected events", (Toolan, 1988:7), where an 'event' is a state or a set

of conditions that has undergone some sort of change or transformation, (ibid:5),

and the organisation or connection of the events is such that consequences of the

sequencing become apparent to the addressee, (ibid:9).

7.2.2. POLANYI'S TYPOLOGY OF NARRATIVES

The second layer of narrative definition I work with is a typology developed by

Polanyi, (1985), following Labov, (1972), which differentiates between types of

oral narratives of everyday life. I draw on Polanyi's work because she foregrounds

differences in time as a criterion for distinguishing between types of narrative.

175
Her aim was to explore the "American world view", (op.cit.:1), via a detailed

linguistic analysis, starting with the establishment of an "adequate paraphrase",

(ibid:19), of the internal structure of five narratives told in conversation. She is

interested in oral stories told in conversation, a social situation of some relevance

to the informal interviews I conducted, though she proceeds using a clause level

Labovian analysis not suitable for the large number of narratives in my data set.

I detail here the different types of narrative she distinguishes, as these form the

basis of my coding criteria for narratives in this chapter, (see section 7.3.). She

defines narratives in the following way, (italics hers): .

"...kinds of discourse organised around the passage of time in some


domain. In narrative discourse of all sorts, a time line is established,
demarcated by discrete moments at which instantaneous occurrences,
(events), take place in the world created through the telling.. .In any
narrative, some of the events form the main time line - a series of
successive instants in the narrated world...", (ibid.:10).

She uses two features to distinguish between types of narrative. Firstly, she uses

the relation of the time of the telling of the narrative, (in the case of my data, the

interview), to the time of the narrative world. Secondly, she uses a distinction

between cases where the "events" in the narrative world are unique and specific

instances, and events which would always occur at a particular moment, (which

she calls "generic" events).

Applying these criteria, she uses the terms stories and reports for past time

narratives because they refer to a narrative world which is in the past relative to
the time of telling. They also both recount a series of specific events which

occurred in that narrative world. She distinguishes between stories, (which are her

focus), and reports by suggesting that the responsibility for justifying a story's

tellability, (that is, establishing what point is being made by it), rests with the

176
narrator. It is the narrator who foregrounds some events and backgrounds others,

in line with the point she or he is making - in other words, it is the narrator who is

responsible for making the relevance of the story clear to the addressee, for

evaluating it and so "constraining the interlocutors to infer the same point from the

goings on in the narrative world which he (sic) himself infers", (ibid:13). In

contrast, justifying the tellability of a report rests with the addressee, since,

typically, it is she or he who has elicited it, (ibid:13).

Th6 other narratives she distinguishes are as follows. Plans are future time

narratives about specific events. Generic narratives can refer to a past, present or

future time world, and do not tell about unique events, but about what would or

will always occur at such and such a moment. Negative narratives describe

specific events that did not, do not or will not occur. In simultaneous narratives

the time of the specific events being narrated runs concurrently with the time of

telling about them, (as in live TV sports commentaries, for example).

7.3. CODING THE NARRATIVES IN THE DATA: CRITERIA

In this section I outline how I coded the narratives in the data set using Polanyi's

typology. My procedure was as follows. I distinguished stretches of text that I

took to be narrative according to the basic definition I gave in section 7.2.1. - that

narratives are recognisable by being sequences of consequential events occurring

along a time line. I coded narratives by type, using Polanyi's time and

specific/generic event distinctions, which I gave in section 7.2.2. I further coded

the narratives on the basis of their content, using the five topic categories I
developed in chapter 6. I discuss these coding criteria in the following sections.

177
7.3.1. TYPE OF NARRATIVE

The size of the data set made developing coding criteria for distinguishing

between types of narrative difficult. I have used the two features of time of telling

and specific/generic events that Polanyi uses to develop a simple classification of

types. I have not used the detailed grammatical criteria she uses to develop an

"adequate paraphrase" of each of the narratives she analyses. Instead, the four

types of narrative I include in this analysis were distinguished from each other on

the basis of what appeared to be the main time line, relative to the interview, that

is, past, concurrent, or future time, as judged by the content of the narrative, verb

tense and other grammatical markers such as time adverbs, (then, now, tomorrow,

etc.).

In this analysis, I code stories, (past time narratives of specific events), and two
types of future narratives of specific events, definite plans, and more speculative

future narratives, which I have called hypothetical narratives. I also code generic

narratives about events in the ongoing present, and I have called these concurrent

generic narratives.

Of the other types of narrative which Polanyi mentions, simultaneous and negative

narratives did not occur in the interviews, nor did past or future generic

narratives. I did not include reports in the analysis, though this was a common
way in which interviewees gave information. There were two reasons for this.
Firstly, reporting was pervasive throughout the interviews, which made it difficult

to delimit. Secondly, reports say less about what the narrator judges as tellable

about past events since they tend to be elicited by the addressee, as I pointed out in
section 7.2.2. However, I note that it was sometimes difficult to tell interviewee

reports from stories since my role as interviewer was to elicit information, as I

178
discussed in chapters 4 and 5. I discuss how I resolved these cases in section

7.3.3.

7.3.1.1. 'Concurrent generic narratives'

These are narratives which run concurrently with the time of telling - in this case,

the interview context. However, unlike simultaneous narratives, they are about

ongoing states of affairs, not instantaneous events described in the moment of

their happening. The following example is part of a concurrent generic narrative

about how Anne believed others viewed her status as a student:

Ann: ...what is my identity now. it's er it's very strange. for example
. um at the bank all of a sudden you're a student and you get student
facilities in one way or another and they seem to see it. as something
that's worthy of a little bit of status at the bank. and yet you'll go
somewhere else and they'll say oh a student. oh well erm that's fairly
low on our status. list and you sort of wonder all of a sudden who you
are. are you . er worthy of more or less status you know . where where
do you stand
(Anne1:43-50).

In this narrative, Anne described her sense of herself, her identity, in terms of how

'the bank' and unspecified other people were currently viewing her student status.

While the reference to the bank must have been based on a specific past event or

series of events, the narrative, insofar as it was about her identity, was about an

ongoing state of affairs.

I note that it was particularly difficult to code generic concurrent narratives,

because they referred to ongoing events, rather than specific events enclosed in
some past or future world of experience. However, I have retained this category,

because it seemed to me to capture, even if somewhat fuzzily, what the

179
interviewees regarded as 'baggage' they would be taking with them through their

degrees. I discuss this point more in section 7.4.2.

7.3.1.2. 'Stories'

These are past-time narratives of specific events. In the following example,

Wendy gave the start of quite a long story, (32 lines), about why she was doing a

degree. She herself glossed this as a story - a great long story. The part of it

given below is an 'abstract', (Labov, 1972), that gave the story's resolution - how

she ended up:

Wen: When I was eighteen erm . well I left school when I seventeen
( ) but all my friends went off to colleges and universities and I had a
place lined up in a college in [name of town] to do Dietetics erm . and
it's a great long story but I ended up getting offered a job in a post
office
(Wendy, 126-9).

This story unfolded as a sequence of related events about how she "made steady

progress upwards", (134), until she "couldn't really get any further", (144), in the

Post Office.

7.3.1.3. 'Plans'

These are definite future-time narratives of specific events. In the following

example, Sharon talked about what she explicitly called a plan, (what we're

planning), for a project she wanted to do in Independent Studies:

Sha: ...we're going to try and design a project on death and burial
mounds...I'm doing How Green was Queen Victoria but I think we're
basically going to be ignoring that topic we're just you know we've
talked to [name] the guy that runs the course and he thinks it's quite
interesting what we're planning because we we want to go right from

180
Neanderthal ...man right through virtually the present day...I think
we'll do quite good on it
(Sharon2, 32-44).

7.3.1.4. 'Hypothetical narratives'

Narratives about specific future events which have a more tentative quality I have

coded as 'hypothetical narratives'. Polanyi calls all future-time narratives 'plans',

but there seemed to be an interesting distinction in the data between definite plans

that interviewees had already clearly thought out, for example, about their further

careers; and imagining the future, expressing possible narratives, for example,

about the university and their place in it. In the following extract, Sam talked

about what he imagined university would be like:

Sam: I think you know as long as you're prepared to do your work. I.


I think you'll get on here ... this is this is what I . what I imagine it to
be like you know. I think it'll be a lot more secure you won't have that
constant worry at back of you ... it's not like a financial institution . if
a factory. if factories aren't making money they get rid of staff. here
this is a place that's not out to make money it's out to educate people
and as long as you're doing . you know your studies . you . you're
going to be able to stay you know
(Sam, 259-6).

7.3.2. TOPICS OF NARRATIVES

The topic categories I use here are those I developed in chapter 6. (I discussed in

chapter 6, section 6.2.4., the difficulties of using the topic analysis to enhance this

analysis of narratives). In chapter 6, I coded the topics of the interviewees talk

into five categories: talk about their employment, their education, other people's

educational experience, their home life and their sense of themselves. These

topics distinguish the domains of experience under which I code the narratives in

the data for this chapter.

181
7.3.3. ADDITIONAL CRITERIA

The coding of narratives using the criteria I have just laid out was not always easy.

It required a certain amount of judgement based on the intuition that 'there is a

narrative here somewhere'. In cases I found difficult to assess I applied the

following criteria as a rule of thumb. These are based on Labovian methods of

narrative analysis, which I discuss in detail in chapter 8, (section 8.2.).

7.3.3.1. Indications of length

The length of narratives varied considerably, and it was not always easy to judge

at what point a narrative ended. The beginnings of narratives were recognisable

on the basis of a shift from the interview context to another time-and-topic 'world'

of experience. The ends of narratives were assessed on the basis of a return to the

interview present or a recapitulation of the main point of the narrative. Where

there were narratives embedded in one another, the original topic was often

brought back into clear focus in some sort of coda or conclusion at this point. It

was not always easy to decide where a narrative terminated. Sometimes it seemed

wisest to take the next utterance by me as the end of a narrative, on the basis of the

likelihood of my on-the-spot recognition of when the floor was being yielded.

This was not of course an infallible rule, as some of my utterances could also be

understood as interruptions for clarification purposes.

7.3.3.2. Other

Some of the longer narratives had smaller narratives embedded in them. I did not

count these separately, but treated them as elaborations or background

orientational information to the main narrative.

182
If I still remained unclear about whether a stretch of text could be coded as a

narrative, after applying all the criteria listed in section 7.3., I did not include it in

the analysis.

7.4. RESULTS

The remainder of this chapter is a commentary on the narratives which I coded by

the methods I have outlined. I focus on how the four types of narrative were used

to realise types of 'content', (the domains of experience realised in the five topic

categories).

7.4.1. OVERVIEW OF THE NARRATIVES CODED BY TYPE

AND TOPIC ACROSS THE DATA SET

Table 7.1. below functions as an heuristic for this commentary on the narratives.

This is somewhat descriptive, since I wish to characterise what the interviewees

talked about in the different types of narrative they used. I then offer a more

critical commentary of one sub-set of the narrative types, 'hypothetical narratives',

in section 7.5.

183
Table 7.1.:
Narratives in the data set, coded by type and topic

TYPE TOPIC
EMPL. EDUC. OTHER HOME SELF TOTAL
CONC. 0 2 5 6 6 19
STORY 8 46 11 8 24 97
PLAN 3 4 1 0 0 8
HYPO. 4 16 1 7 7 35
TOTAL 15 68 18 21 37 159

Key:
Narrative type: Topic/domain of experience:
Conc. - Concurrent generic narratives Empl. - Employment
Story Educ. - Education
Plan Other - Other people's educational
Hypo. - Hypothetical narratives experience
Home - Home life
Self - Sense of self

The table shows, not surprisingly, given that my overall aim in the interviews was

to find out about the interviewees' initial perceptions of university, that education

was the commonest topic of narratives. It was the topic of 68 narratives. The type
of narrative most commonly used was story - there were 97 stories. Stories were

most often told about the interviewees' education, (46 stories, which covered F.E.

college, school, and their experience to date of the university). This was followed

by stories about the interviewees' sense of themselves and identity, (24 stories).

Interestingly, there were very few plans. Those that were given tended to be about

future employment, (3 plans in the employment topic category), or plans about

their degree, (4 plans in the education topic category). No one expressed definite

plans about their home life or sense of self. The future was presented more

frequently in hypothetical narratives, of which there were 35. These expressed

what the interviewees hoped would be the case. There were considerably more of

184
these in the education category than in any other category, and these were about

what university might turn out to be like.

In the following sections I discuss features of the narratives in more detail, by

looking in turn at each type of narrative and examining them in relation to their

content, (the topic categories). The examples from the data are extracts from the

narratives as they are generally too long to be given in full.

7.4.2. CONCURRENT GENERIC NARRATIVES

As I pointed out in section 7.3.1.1., one of the things that is interesting about the

concurrent generic narratives is that they expressed aspects of other domains of

experience that the interviewees perceived they would carry with them in an

ongoing way through their degree. Concurrent generic narratives were most often

about the home life and sense of self categories, which I will discuss first.

Maria, Pam, Penny, Sharon and Tania all gave concurrent narratives about their

home lives. These expressed different aspects of that 'world' of experience which

the interviewees perceived as being ongoing. Penny, Tania and Maria perceived

there might be ongoing difficulties with their spouses. For example, Maria felt her

husband was "fighting me all the way", (Maria, 212). Sharon and Tania both gave

examples of how they felt supported by their families, while Pam talked about the

ongoing need to organise her two worlds of experience, her life at the university

and her home life," so that yes the washing does get done", (Pam, 346).

Anne, Carol, Connie, Maria and Sharon all gave concurrent narratives about the

sense of self that they were carrying with them as they started their degree, (as in

the example from Anne's first interview given in section 7.3.1.2.). Sharon, for

185
example, talked about the club she went to, where she could meet her friends,

which:

Sha: ...helped my confidence a lot because ...being a single parent and


being (at home on your own) erm there are times when I feel like
going out and perhaps nobody else that I know wants to go out I don't
have a problem with that I can just walk round there [to the club] and
instantly I know everybody virtually
(Sharonl, 286-90).

This seemed to be an important source of social contact and support for her in a

world outside the university.

Connie told most narratives, (four out of the five instances), about other people's

educational experiences which were running concurrently with the interviewees'

own experience. She gave concurrent narratives about friends of hers who were

currently doing a degree, and who had told her what sort of experience they were

having, for example:

Con: Rolf said to me last week he says he says he's like a kid in a
sweet shop he says he wants to try out everything before he decides
[what subjects to specialise in]
(Connie 1, 702-3).

These occurred in her first interview, conducted just before she had started her

own degree and seemed to form an important source of information for her about

what she could expect at university.

The two concurrent narratives about education, by Pam and Sharon, were both

about how, so far in their experience of the university, they were walking about
the campus feeling a little aimless. The concurrent narrative employment cell was

empty as the interviewees who had been employed had given up their jobs now

that they were starting at university as full-time undergraduates.

186
7.4.3. STORIES

One reason why the stories in the data were interesting is that they reflected what

the interviewees regarded as tellable, interesting and significant in the interview

context, regarding their past experience. Stories were the commonest type of

narrative used by the interviewees, and for this reason, I divide my discussion of

them into sections 7.4.3.1. to 7.4.3.5. below, according to topic. About half of the

stories were about the interviewees' education, and a quarter about their sense of

self. These seemed to be the topics about which the interviewees considered they

had most tellable things to say. All the interviewees told stories, but some told

more than others. Connie and Tania were the most prolific story-tellers, both of

them focusing on the education and sense of self domains of experience. (In

chapter 81 look in depth at a few stories Connie told about both these domains).

7.4.3.1. Stories about the interviewees' education

The commonest topic of stories was education, (46 stories). All the interviewees

told stories about their educational experiences. The world of previous

educational experiences was likely to be considered significant background

information by the interviewees, given that the purpose of the interview was to

elicit their initial impressions of university, that is, their current educational

experience. Such stories were often given to fill in information about their

educational history and included stones about the interviewees' school, F.E.

college experience and their experience at university to date.

Sam and Tania told stories about their schooling. This was not a positive

educational experience for either of them, though Tania described how she had "a

thoroughly good time", but this was "because I was messing around all the time I

187
didn't do any work", (125-6). Carol, Connie, Maria, Sam and Steve all told stories

about their experiences of F.E. College. These were about the courses they had

done or the positive social experience it was for them, both of which they

described as influencing their expectations of what university would be like.

There were also stories about getting prerequisite qualifications to come to

university.

In addition there were stories about the university itself. These focused on two

aspects of the interviewees' experience of the university to date. Firstly, there was

the process of applying. For example, the following extract is part of a story

Connie told about the lecturer who interviewed her at the university, who she

really liked, because she felt he was on her wavelength:

Con: I really liked him 'cos . you know he asked me why I wanted to
do Women's Studies you know and I was telling him one of my great
aunts was a suffragette and he said oh keep up the good work I
thought oh I like you you know you're on my wavelength
(Conniel, 479-82).

This extract also contains a the story-within-a-story she had told the lecturer about

her great aunt. Secondly, there were stories about the experience of Introductory
Week. The following is an extract from a story Sharon told about trying to make

acquaintances at a social event in a bar during Introductory Week:

Sha: [the bar] was jam packed full and I was sort of thrown I thought
I can't go in there on my own...[I] stood fumbling by the bar thinking
what am I going to do now 'cos I don't know anybody but there was a
group of girls at a table and I just went up and said do you mind ill
sit with you
(Sharon2, 78-84).

188
7.4.3.2. Stories about other people's educational experience

Anne, Connie, Mary and Sam between them told 11 stories about other people's

educational experience. For example, Connie told stories about the experiences of

friends of hers at both F.E. college and university. Mary and Anne also both told

stories about other people's experience of university. For example, Anne told the

following story about her brother, which is brief enough to give in its entirety:

Ann: His wife was saying to him what do you want to do those
subjects for . what are you when you've finished that and he just said
old [laugh]
(Annel, 471-2).

Such stories were often illustrative, drawing on other people's experience to make

a point about the interviewee's own experience. This example from Anne's

interview was an illustration of a point she made about wanting, and other people

expecting her, to know what she "was going to be at the end of it", (474). She

wanted something "a little more concrete", (463), than just a general education at

the end of which she would simply be older.

7.4.3.3. Stories about sense of self

There were 24 stories about sense of self, told by 10 of the interviewees. These

stories were about developments in the interviewees' sense of self - often in their

confidence. For example, Sara told a story about how her unhappy schooling

meant she had to "struggle with myself for years", (288), to believe in her abilities,

and Connie told about how encouraging she found it at F.E. college:

Con: Nobody's ever told me I'm capable of doing it...it was only when
I did the Psychology B unit the first year [at F.E. College] that I

189
realised I'd got it in me. and I can't tell you what a confidence
booster that was
(Connie 1,199-203).

Stories about the interviewees' sense of self also described influential insights

they had had. For example, Penny told a story about the influence on her choice

of courses of a favourite uncle, and Mary described the influence of being

discriminated against as a woman. The following extract is the end of the story,

where she explained the action she decided to take:

Mar: I felt it was time to stop accepting [being discriminated against]


. but it's. it's not possible to form any strategies unless you have
enough information, and I don't think I have enough information
[laugh] so I thought I would come and do some Women's Studies and
sort of- prepare myself [to stop accepting being discriminated against]
(Mary 92-5).

7.4.3.4. Stories about employment

The eight stories about past employment were told by Pam, Penny, Sam, Tania

and Wendy. Almost all these stories came fairly early in the interview and

contextualised the interviewees' present position as new students by revealing

some of their employment history. The stories told how it came about that the

interviewees were now undertaking a degree - and they were 'tellable' in the
interviews for that reason. For example, Tania gave quite a long story about her

employment history, (lines 52 to 83), which started off with "what happened

was...", (52). Through this story she explained how coming to university "actually

all started", (56), by evaluating aspects of her work experience, and how those

experiences developed her wish to come to university. Some of these are given
below. The different work experiences and some of Tania's evaluations of them

are numbered in the order in which they appeared in the story:

190
[I] ...I worked self employed as an artist. but. I don't know I just
went off it...
[2] ...and then I started volunteer work...and I really loved it. and I
got such good references...
[3] ..the other people I was working with you know they were all sort
of. teachers or social workers anyway. and I thought well goodness
what am I nothing sort of thing...
[4] ...[my] youngest [child] just went to school last year so I thought
I'm going to do something for myself now...
(Tania, 54-6, 63-4, 76-80).

7.4.3.5. Stories about home life

Anne, Carol, Connie, Maria, Pam and Tania told stories about their home life.

These covered interviewees' relations with partners and children. For example,

Anne, Carol and Tania told stories about how their children influenced their

decision to do a degree. Tania said her children were "dead chuffed", (199), when

she passed her qualifying F.E. College exams, and went running up the road to tell

everybody. For Carol, coming to university "all just fell into place when I had the

time to do it", (225-6), once her children had grown up.

7.4.4. PLANS

Plans were interesting because they indicated what the interviewees felt they could

be fairly definite about at the start of their degree, regarding their short and long

term futures. They were the type of narrative used least by the interviewees, a

perhaps unsurprising concomitant to starting such a large new venture as a degree.

As I have already said, interviewees did not give plans about their home life or
sense of themselves. These had the status of more tentative hypothetical

narratives, and I discuss them in more detail in section 7.5. below.

Plans were expressed by Anne, Connie, Sara, Sharon, Tania and Wendy. Some of

these were short term plans about starting at the university. The example in

191
section 7.3.1.3., by Sharon is an example of this. Connie gave a graphic account

of plans it was suggested she make by a friend who had already experienced

university:

Con: She says I'd have your eyes tested as well this summer 'cos she
says you know you've got a job to see you know the um overhead
projectors and that you know she says . you know that sort of thing is
a very . intimidating really you know it's so vast [at the university]
whereas we've been used to a nice homely little group [of students at
F.E. college]
(Conniel, 520-4).

This was from her first interview, before she had experienced university lectures

herself and suggests how different she expected university to be from F.E. college,

and how important the experience and advice of friends was in making plans of

action.

The longer term plans were aims concerning future employment, or the degree in

relation to it. For example, Wendy planned a broad-based degree because her

husband's field of work was so specialised he could only take a limited range of

jobs:

Wen: I thought Psychology was the most appropriate of degrees to get


really because it's broad based, one which will give me the chance to
maybe branch out on my own ... so that erm . I'm not sort of
channelled into, one particular field...I'm trying to keep as flexible as
possible so that er.. if [my husband] ups and moves . wherever then I
can follow him about a bit easier. and slot into jobs or er.. go
freelance
(Wendy, 85-97).

These plans, like the hypothetical narratives I discuss in the section below, were

revealing about the interviewees perceptions of the university, when they had not

yet had the chance to verify or reject their perceptions on the basis of experience.

So, the two extracts given above are suggestive of what Connie and Wendy were

192
taking to be the case, and therefore planning around: for example, that lectures

would be crowded and overhead projections hard to see, and that Psychology was

a broad based subject.

7.5. THE CASE OF HYPOTHETICAL NARRATIVES

My interest in the hypothetical narratives told by the interviewees is that these

were narratives of possibility, (they lacked the definiteness of plans). They were

also a type of narrative, widely used by the interviewees, which I had not

anticipated finding. They realised perceptions and beliefs the interviewees' had

about their futures at a point where these were not yet modified by much

experience. At the time of the interviews the interviewees had had very little

experience of the university, (no more than the process of applying, and the

experience of Introductory Week). In these hypothetical narratives, the

interviewees imagined a future for themselves. They are also interesting with
regard to interviewees' presuppositions, that is, what they took for granted, or

assumed might be the case, about the topics of employment, education, home life

and sense of self

All the interviewees, except Sara, told hypothetical narratives about at least one of

the domains of experience captured by the topic categories. Steve and Anne used

this strategy the most, (6 and 5 instances respectively), and in the most domains of

experience, (3 each).

7.5.1. NARRATIVES ABOUT POSSIBLE FUTURES

In this section I make the general point that these hypothetical narratives were

regularly associated with grammatical markers of modality. The modal auxiliary

193
would was used to refer to hypothetical events, but this was not the only modality
marker. Noticeably, there were often realisations of low probability modality, that

is, expressions of possibility and speculation rather than certainty about the events

they talked about. The modal auxiliary might was used in this regard. There
were also a range of lexical verbs which similarly expressed low probability:

hope, imagine, think, suppose, wonder. In addition, there were also various modal

adverbs such as hopefully, probably, and modal nouns such as possibility.

The interviewees' use of low probability modality suggests how difficult it was for

them to be definite about how their lives were going to be affected by starting a
degree - though, as I said in chapter 6, (section 6.2.3.), the broad range of domains

of experience they mentioned indicates that they anticipated the effects of doing a

degree would be widespread.

In sections 7.5.2. to 7.5.5 below, I use selected examples from the topic categories

of employment, education, home life and sense of self, to comment on the

presuppositions contained in the interviewees' hypothetical narratives. (The single

hypothetical narrative in the other people's educational experience category is not

looked at in detail. It is where Anne imagined what it might be like for eighteen

year olds to start at university, (Aruiel, 288)).

7.5.2. HYPOTHETICAL NARRATIVES ABOUT EMPLOYMENT

Four interviewees hypothesised about future employment. None of them

expressed high hopes about careers - Sharon, for example saying she "imagines

[Religious Studies] not being perfect for many jobs", (120) . Steve graphically

expressed his perception that what he would like to do was an unrealisable ideal:

194
Ste: In a Utopian world in which God ( ) came down and said what
do you want to be . I would like to have been a researcher... for TV or
radio...that's where I hope to be going... [but] I don't think I will . I
think it would have to be a case of God coming down . and [saying]
where do you want to go... (I'm just going to rely on Careers there)
which isn't. (I'll) . no doubt. end up with just being pushed.
somewhere. like it ended up with us at sixteen being pushed
somewhere . where I don't particularly want to go...
(Steve, 500-13).

In this extract, what Steve hoped for, (lexical verb expressing low probability

modality), was contrasted to what he had no doubt about, (an adverbial expressing

certainty, that is, high probability). This use of modal certainty is less categorical

than a plain declarative, (Downing and Locke, 1992:382). However, he supported

his view that he would indeed end up being pushed where he did not want to go,

by comparing it with his experience at sixteen of being pushed. A presupposition


here seems to be that Steve saw it as quite probable that finding a job after his

degree would depend on unnamed forces larger than himself, (perhaps including

the Careers Service at the university), which it would take the intervention of yet

another force larger than himself, God, to prevent. Grammatically, and perhaps
quite realistically in life, he constructed himself as the one 'affected' by an

unnamed 'agent', when it came to future employment: he had been in the past and

expected again in the future to be pushed.

7.5.3. HYPOTHETICAL NARRATIVES ABOUT EDUCATION

It is not surprising, given the agenda of the interviews, that the topic category of

education was the one most used for hypothetical narratives. All of them were

about the university.

195
7.5.3.1. Academic work

Carol, Wendy and Penny all told narratives about their perceptions of the

academic work they would do at the university. In the extracts from Penny's and

Wendy's interviews below, these perceptions were hopes about expanding

intellectually, (make advances, develop and broaden), and in quite particular

ways, (dealing with concepts, really understanding academic texts). For them,
and not just in these extracts, perceptions about university as a place for

intellectual development loomed large:

Pen: what I hope to get out of it in a very general sense is the


analytical skills to deal with concepts in a slightly, more advanced
way
(Penny, 183).

Wen: What I'd like to see develop and broaden [is] erm you know
that I can . perhaps take a paper or. a chapter and actually sit down
and really sort of understand it
(Wendy, 275-7).

7.5.3.2. The university institution

The other hypothetical narratives in the education category were about perceptions

of the university as an institution. These varied in the presuppositions they

contained. Steve described what he called two myths, (234), because he lacked

experience about what university was actually like. In describing them as myths,

he made explicit his belief that university would not be, or not be wholly, like

these perceptions. One of these was a perception of the university based on the

television programme 'The Young Ones', where students "just drink and clown
about not going to lectures", (227). This is very different from the perceptions of

Wendy and Penny just mentioned, though his other myth was more like them:
being at university was about being taken "to a well of wisdom".

196
Anne described expectations she had about university life, which at the time of the

interview, that is, at the end of Introductory Week, she was no longer sure would

be met:

Ann: I really thought that . once I'd started up here . I'd be getting
into sort of my teeth into a subject in depth...! think I still I'm feeling
that. the university want you to be a broadly educated person. rather
than an expert at something at the end of it...they want you to be. a
certain sort of person rather than. coming here. for the education
(Anne2, 60-1, 94-100).

What Anne had been taking for granted was that she would be able to get her teeth

into a subject in depth, become an expert, that university was for the education, as
Penny and Wendy also suggested by their focus on intellectual development.

Instead, her initial experience during Introductory Week caused her to modify

these assumptions about the university to they want you to be a certain sort of

person. These implications for her identity, not just her education, were
something she went on to talk about later.

In the example I used in section 7.3.1.4., Sam expressed a presupposition about

the university when he contrasted it to his work experience, where there was

"always that threat of redundancy", (249):

Sam: What I imagine it to be like you know . I think it'll be more


secure...this is a place that's not out to make money [like a factory] it's
out to educate people and as long as you're doing . you know your
studies . you . you're going to be able to stay
(Sam, 260-6).

An assumption about the university in this example is that it is a place where work

does secure one's place, unlike his employment situation where hard work was no
guarantee of security. Another is that university is out to educate people, a

197
different view of university from the one expressed by Anne above, that they want

you to be a certain sort of person rather than coming here for the education.

7.5.4. HYPOTHETICAL NARRATIVES ABOUT HOME LIFE

As I pointed out in section 7.4.1., interviewees did not give plans about their

home life or sense of self, but they did tell hypothetical narratives about these

topics. A number of the interviewees expressed that they were "trying to juggle

twa different worlds", (Penny, 226). Hypothetical narratives about home life

tended to reflect this with the focus being the interviewees' hopes and concerns

about their children or partners. Mary hypothesised about becoming a "better role

model", (66), for her daughter by coming to university:

Mar: I'm hoping that if I sort of broaden my horizons they'll. it'll


broaden hers too . she'll have more scope when she's older
(Mary, 73-4).

This carries the assumption that there were indeed broadening possibilities about

coming to university, (as I suggested Penny and Wendy also expressed, in the

pervious section), and that these could have widespread and positive effects not

just for her, but also for her daughter. Penny, Connie and Pam all made

projections about how their partners might respond to them doing a degree. For

example, Pam said:

Pam: I might turn round and say well tonight tomorrow night there's
something on and I won't be home till nine o'clock. and I am just
wondering how this is going to go down
(Pam: 287-9).

This suggests that Pam believed her going to university might have potentially

disruptive effects on her relationship with her husband. Something similar is also

198
suggested by Anne and Tania, who both talked about having to deal with

emotional tugs from their children.

7.5.5. HYPOTHETICAL NARRATIVES ABOUT SENSE OF


SELF

Anne, Steve and Maria told hypothetical narratives about developing self

confidence at the university. The interviewees implied in these narratives that

developing self confidence was a possible result of going to university -

something hoped for but not certain. For Anne, there was an assumption that

confidence was a part of the package she hoped to receive at university, something
she recognised as necessary for the kind of job she was using her degree as a

means to reach:

Ann: I'm hoping that [confidence] will [come] . perhaps it won't


perhaps at the end of it I'll just have educational qualifications and no
more confidence... and if it turned out like that then obviously you've
got to change your idea about what sort of jobs you want to do... but I
imagine a lot of it. comes as part of the package
(Anne 1 , 506-13).

7.6. CONCLUSION

In this chapter I have used a simple classification system to analyse interviewees'


narratives of personal experience. This has enabled me to describe how they

linked their current experience at the university with other times and other

domains of their lives.

Narratives were a discursive practice which the interviewees frequently used to

construct meanings about their experience of university. This 'take' on the

199
narratives provides a context for the more detailed and in-depth analysis of a small

number of 'story' narratives in the next chapter.

200
CHAPTER 8

CONNIE'S STORIES - DRAWING ON AN EVERYDAY


WORLD OF EXPERIENCE

8.1. INTRODUCTION
8.1.1. THE TEXT FOR ANALYSIS
8.1.2. OUTLINE OF THE CHAPTER
8.2. THE TEXTUAL' FUNCTION: DISCUSSION OF LABOV'S METHOD OF NARRATIVE
ANALYSIS
8.2.1. LABOV'S STRUCTURE OF NARRATIVES
8.2.1.1. 'Narrative clauses'
8.2.1.2. 'Free clauses'
8.2.2. APPLYING THE LABOVIAN METHOD
8.2.3. THE TEN STORIES
8.2.4. TEXTUAL FEATURES OF THE STORIES
8.3. THE 'INTERPERSONAL' FUNCTION: MEANINGS ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER-
INTERVIEWEE RELATIONSHIP
8.3.1. THE OTHER ELEMENTS: EVALUATION, ABSTRACT, ORIENTATION,
CODA
8.3.2. SEMANTIC LINKS BETWEEN STORIES
8.3.3. THE ORIENTATION OF NARRATIVES TO TWO CONTEXTS
8.4. THE 'IDEATIONAL FUNCTION: REPRESENTING A FAMILIAR WORLD
8.4.2. PERIPHERALISING THE ACADEMIC
8.4.3. TALKING ABOUT TALK
8.4.4. PROCESS TYPES
8.4.4.1. Mental and verbal processes: feeling and saying
8.4.4.2. Material processes: human participants do everyday things
8.4.5. SIGNIFICANCE OF REPRESENTING THE FAMILIAR
8.5. CONCLUSION

8.6. CONNIE'S TEXT

8.1 INTRODUCTION

In this chapter I complement the overview of narratives in chapter 7 with a more

detailed exploration of part of a single interview, focusing on the narratives in it.

The interview I have chosen is the first part of Connie's second interview. I refer

to this text, which is the analytical focus of this chapter, as 'Connie's text', and I

give my reasons for this choice of text in section 8.1.1. below. In this chapter I
show that Cormie's text is densely packed with narratives and I argue that these

201
narratives consistently represent the world of the university in a particular way:

they focus almost exclusively on its familiar, informal, everyday life aspects.

8.1.1. THE TEXT FOR ANALYSIS

My reasons for choosing to analyse Connie's text are as follows. This second

interview with Connie was conducted on the last day of Introductory Week. It

thus captured Connie's discursively constructed meanings about her first week at

the university. In addition, while conducting the two interviews with Connie, I

came up against three 'problems' which were not features of any of the other

interviews. I later identified them as follows. The first was that Connie's talk

often seemed a bewildering tangle of anecdotal material. The second was that I

found it hard to 'get the floor' and ask her about what interested me, (the themes

contained in List 1, chapter 6, section 6.2.2.). The third problem was that while

she certainly talked about what my agenda was for the interviews, that is, her

initial experiences of university, she seemed to say surprisingly little about the

university itself

It was my general perception of Connie's interviews as in some way 'problematic'

that made me attempt a detailed analysis of part of one of her interviews, in order

to develop an interpretation of what was going on in them. I felt that to explore

what seemed problematic was likely to yield interesting insights, (see chapter 2,

section 2.4.2.1.). These three problems are addressed in sections 8.2. to 8.4. of

this chapter respectively.

I would like to point out that the arguments I put forward in this chapter refer only

to the part of Connie's second interview which I analyse. However, it is the case

that story telling was endemic throughout both her interviews, so that much of

what I say here has some general applicability to the rest of her two interviews.

202
(The coding of Connie's interviews for the quantitative analysis in chapter 7, see

section 7.4.3., indicated that she told more 'stories' in each of her interviews than

any of the other interviewees).

In this chapter, unlike the other analyses in this thesis, I comment on meaning

making in only one of the interviews. My reason for this is that it is a way of

doing the kind of detailed linguistic analysis that it is impossible to do for the

whole of this large data set, and that it leads to different kinds of insights about

narrative than those I discussed in chapter 7.

8.1.2. OUTLINE OF THE CHAPTER

In sections 8.2. to 8.4. I pay attention, in turn, to each of the three types of

meaning which Halliday, (1985), distinguishes and argues that any text realises in

its grammar: 'textual', 'interpersonal' and 'ideational' meanings, (see chapter 1,

section 1.4.1.). Though I do not do a comprehensive clause level analysis here, I

am borrowing from Mishler, (1986:77), in using these terms as a loose framework

for this chapter. He uses these three types of meaning as a framework for

discussing the differing emphases of several approaches, including Labov's, to the


narrative analysis of interviews. My own use of these three types of meaning is

as follows.

In section 8.2., I discuss 'textual' meanings because I explore how the narratives in

the data are organised, using Labov's (1972) method of narrative analysis.

Labov's emphasis can be understood as a 'textual' one because, as Mishler,

(op.cit.), points out, though Labov devotes a lot of attention to how narrators

evaluate or express the point of their narratives, his primary concern is with how

narratives map reality by reproducing the temporal relations occurring between the

203
actual events being narrated. That is, his focus is on the connections between

parts of narrative texts.

Having delimited the narratives in Connie's text, using Labov's method, I go on to

discuss 'interpersonal' meanings in section 8.3. - that is, meanings which realise

the role relationships between speaker and hearer. (This connects these narratives

to the interpersonal focus of Part II). In section 8.4. I discuss how the narratives

realised 'ideational' meanings, that is, representations of the world. I argue here

that. Connie selectively represented only familiar aspects of her experience of the

university.

Connie's text, on which this analysis is based, is given at the end of the chapter,

rather than in the appendix, for easy reference, (section 8.6.).

8.2. THE 'TEXTUAL' FUNCTION: DISCUSSION OF


LABOV'S METHOD OF NARRATIVE ANALYSIS

There are a range of approaches to the narrative analysis of interviews, as Mishler


suggests, (ibid:75-105), but in this section I use Labov's approach. My reasons for

doing so are as follows. Firstly, it is an accessible method. (ibid:81) - both in the

sense of being well known, and in being relatively straightforward to apply.

Secondly, Labov calls the conversational narratives he analyses narratives of

personal experience. All the narratives that I analysed in my data were also about

the interviewees' personal experience, so this also makes Labov's method an

appropriate one for my purposes. (Polanyi, 1985:20, in the typology I used in

chapter 7, calls Labov's narratives 'stories', which I shall also do).

204
Thirdly, I note that I use Labov's approach for a different purpose than he does.

The focus of his approach is the internal structure of stories. My own aim in using

his approach is for the limited purpose of distinguishing between the stories in

Connie's text. This is how I answer the first of the 'problems' with the text that I

mentioned: the bewildering mass of anecdotal material could, on careful analysis,

be understood as a text densely packed with stories. This Labovian analysis forms

the basis for exploring the stories' 'interpersonal' and 'ideational' meanings in
sections 8.3. and 8.4.

In section 8.2.1. below, I describe the structural elements of stories which Labov

distinguishes, and in section 8.2.2., I explain how I applied his approach to


Connie's text.

8.2.1. LABOV'S STRUCTURE OF NARRATIVES

Labov, (op.cit.:363), argues that stories can contain up to six structural elements:

abstract or initial summary; orientational information about time, place and


participants; some complicating action; evaluative material that conveys the point

of the narrative; the result of, or resolution to, the complicating action; and a coda

which signals the story's conclusion. Typically, this is the sequence in which

these elements appear but orientation and evaluation clauses may occur at various

points, (Mishler op.cit.:80). Of these elements, the complicating action element

and its resolution where present, which consist of 'narrative clauses', are the

essential ones. I explain how Labov defines 'narrative clauses' in the following

section. This is the element I focus on in my limited Labovian analysis, since by

recognising sequences of narrative clauses it is possible to distinguish between the

different stories in Connie's text.

205
8.2.1.1. 'Narrative clauses'

A story is, minimally, a sequence of at least two independent clauses, the order of

which in the text matches the temporal ordering of the events being narrated,

(Labov, op.cit.:360). These are 'narrative clauses', between which there is always

a "temporal juncture", (ibid.). Such clauses have no freedom of movement in the

text, (Mishler, op.cit.:79). They carry the complicating action element of the story

in the order in which it actually occurred. In the following extract from Connie's

text, the underlined clauses are independent clauses and form a mini-narrative, (in

the way that Labov describes, op.cit.:361). This sequence cannot be changed and

the same story still be told.

Oh I was talking to this woman and there was this terrible queue to
get out of the Great Hall it went round and round and round there
was three queues of it in fact I was clever I cleared off and went and
got a sandwich and then came back to get out and you know everyone
was envying me these sandwiches but I thought well you could have
done it anyway you know because it was about two o'clock when I got
out
(lines 39-45).

8.2.1.2. 'Free clauses'

Labov makes a basic distinction between 'narrative' and 'free' clauses. 'Free'

clauses are not essential to stories but are frequently present. They can be located

in various parts of the text without disrupting the narrative sequence, (ibid.). For

example, the clause I was clever in the extract above is a free clause and could
have been placed at the end of the narrative sequence of underlined clauses as a

retrospective comment on them, without changing the order of events or the basic

sense of the text.

206
'Free' clauses have a number of functions. In terms of the six structural elements

of stories which Labov defines, they may be used to evaluate the action carried in

'narrative' clauses. This is the case in the example I was clever from the extract

above: Connie here evaluated her own behaviour, which is what the complicating

action and its resolution was about. Free clauses also give orienting information

and can comprise abstracts or codas to stories.

8.2.2. APPLYING THE LABOVIAN METHOD

In order to fulfil the limited aim of distinguishing between the stories in Connie's

text, I applied Labov's method as follows. I picked out narrative clauses, that is,

those carrying complicating action and its resolution. I defined narrative clauses,

following Labov, as independent clauses separated by a temporal juncture in an

inflexible order. I added to this Polanyi's definition, since she follows Labov's

approach, by further specifying narrative clauses as ones which told about "active,

affirmative, punctual, non iterative, completive" events, which were in the simple

past or historical present tense, (Polanyi, op.cit.:19). This resulted in a chunking

of the text into 6 main stories, which existed almost back-to-back, with 4 more

stories embedded in them, (see the underlined clauses in Connie's text, section
8.6.). This was my main purpose for using Labov's method, but in sections 8.2.4.

and 8.3.1. below, I discuss some interesting features of the stories which also

became apparent through using his method.

8.2.3. THE TEN STORIES

I start by pointing out that I only coded the 6 stories in Connie's text for the
quantitative analysis in chapter 7. (I did not code the embedded stories, as I

explained in chapter 7, section 7.3.3.2.). Of the 6 main stories, stories 2 and 3 fell

into the 'sense of self category, and the others into the 'education' category.

207
I summarise the propositional content of the 10 stories here. This will give a

general sense of what they are about, while the specific complicating action

carried by the narrative clauses can be read off from Connie's text, (section 8.6.,

the underlined clauses). I have added inferred contextualising information in


brackets, below:

Story 1:

Connie was terrified, but she went to the University on the bus with her friend(s),

(on the first day of Introductory Week), and within about fifteen minutes she felt
so happy.

Story la:

The husband of one of these friends had come to see her off at the bus stop.
Story 2:

Dave was fed up with Connie: she said she felt so excited, (during Introductory

Week), and that it was like Christmas, but he said that Boxing Day was still to
come, (when she would come back down to earth?).

Story 3:

Connie and Dave went out. She told him she had been laughing and joking to

strangers during Introductory Week, as she used to do before she got married and

had her daughter. She felt as if that (humorous) part of her had reappeared during
Introductory Week.

Story 3a:

Dave had not wanted to go out, but Connie thought "sod this!"
Story 3b:

There was a big queue in the Great Hall, so Connie cleverly went and got a

sandwich. She came back to the queue and did not get through it until two

o'clock. People envied her the sandwich.

208
Story 4:
One of the lecturers had been saying things such as the Culture and

Communication course was about sex and spitting, which had made everyone

laugh.

Story 4a:
Connie said she loved the lecturer. Friends (?) said "Oh nor, but she said she did

not mean it that way.

Story 5:
One of Connie's photographs had her eyes shut on it. (During registration) a

lecturer asked her if that was how she would look in lectures. Connie said no, she

would be lying on the floor in lectures.

Story 6:
Connie and others had to go for a talk with a lecturer. He gave free cups of coffee,

and also biscuits, and Connie asked if she could keep the biscuit tin. She felt it

was lovely to be in that sort of (informal?) atmosphere.

8.2.4. TEXTUAL FEATURES OF THE STORIES

In this section, I discuss three features of the stories in Connie's text, which are

interesting from the point of view of the textual function of language. They are

also interesting with respect to the first 'problem' I gave in section 8.1.1. - that

Connie's text seemed a bewildering mass of anecdotal material - as these points all

concern the process of analysing stories in research interviews.

Firstly, I note that it took considerable analytical work to establish the

interpretation of Connie's text that I give in section 8.6. - that is, that it contained
the 6 stories summarised above and 4 more small ones embedded in them. (The

stories Labov analyses do not contain embedded stories, but as Mishler,

(op.cit.:73), points out, deciding whether there is a single story or a story with

209
related sub-plots, or a cluster of separate stories is a matter of the analyst's

interpretation). I suggest this difficulty in interpreting the text was a result of how

closely packed these stories were. Labov's approach seemed to me a useful one

for unpicking their complexity and seeing an organisation in what at first appeared

to be a 'mass of anecdotal material'.

Secondly, I note that a particular characteristic of Connie's text was her repetition

of narrative clauses at points where she wished to add more detail. She did this

twice, in Story 1, (lines 13-14, repeated and elaborated in lines 15-17), and Story

6, (lines 88-89, elaborated in lines 89-91). This characteristic is an interesting

textual indicator of her on-the-spot cognitive reprocessing. It reveals this

originally spoken text in the process of its production: the signs of planning that

are not present in written texts are still present here. The fact that these

reworkings remain in Connie's text added to the difficulty I had in understanding

its organisation when I came to analyse it.

Thirdly, I note that most of Cormie's stories revolved around talk: the narrative

progression realised in the narrative clauses was that someone said something to

someone else at a specific moment in time. I refer to this again in section 8.4.3.

Here I point out that narrative clauses which were also reporting clauses did not on

their own convey the content enclosed in the act of speaking - which was what

these stories were about. The narrative reporting clauses only captured the fact

that these were stories about talk. I note in this regard that Polanyi treats reported

discourse on the main story line as narrative propositions, and the relevant
reporting clauses as narrative clauses, (op.cit.:38).

210
8.3. THE 'INTERPERSONAL' FUNCTION: MEANINGS

ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER-INTERVIEWEE RELATIONSHIP

In this section I discuss the second 'problem' I outlined in section 8.1.1., namely,

the difficulty I had in breaking into the flow of Connie's talk, of getting and

holding the floor. I begin by continuing my discussion of the Labovian method of

narrative analysis. My reason for this is that though his six structural elements are

related to the textual function of language, I argue that they also throw light on

interpersonal meanings in Connie's text. They help explain how Connie remained

the dominant speaker in the text. This is the topic of section 8.3.1., and concludes

my discussion of Labov's method of narrative analysis. This leads to a discussion

of the links between stories, and then to a discussion of the orientation of

narratives to two contexts. These are the interpersonal-meaning topics of sections


8.3.2. and 8.3.3.

8.3.1. THE OTHER ELEMENTS: EVALUATION, ABSTRACT,


ORIENTATION, CODA

Labov pays considerable attention to the other structural elements he defines in

addition to the complicating action and resolution elements. In particular, he pays

attention to evaluation. 'Internal' evaluation consists of syntactic devices within

the clause, (op.cit.:371), while evaluation that is carried in free clauses he calls

'external'. These free clauses may remain embedded within the narrative in

various ways. Alternatively, the narrator may direct a point to the audience, for
example, "and it was funny", (story 3, line 33), which is interesting with regard to

interpersonal meanings. However, I generally do not find Labov's focus on

evaluation particularly useful for understanding interpersonal aspects of Connie's

stories. As Mishler points out, Labov pays little attention to the effect on stories

of the interview context in which they are told. He backgrounds the effect of the

211
interviewer on the production of interviewee stories by "painting her or him out of

the picture", (Mishler, op.cit.:83). Labov's identification of abstract, orientation

and coda elements is of more use in understanding interpersonal meanings in

Connie's text. I define and discuss these elements below.

It is interesting to note that none of the stories had abstracts, that is, initial

summaries of the whole story, except the first clause of story 2, "oh Dave's fed up

with me", (line 21). This could be understood as a summary of the story, as
informing the listener about how story 2 should be understood: that what Dave

and Connie said to each other should elaborate the meaning 'Dave was fed up with

Connie'. However, it also gave orientational and evaluative information: it

introduced Dave as a participant in story 2, (orientation), because it was the first

clause in the story; it also evaluated his behaviour. This example supports what I

found more generally to be true in Connie's text, that free clauses sometimes

realised more than one of the structural elements.

But with regard to interpersonal meanings, there are two points I would like to

make in relation to abstracts. Firstly, the lack of initial abstracts made the

presence of orientational information more important, as a means of establishing

the context of the stories for the listener. Orientational information identifies

"time, place, persons, and their activity, or the situation", (Labov, op.cit.:364).

For example, orientational information which presented the participants in the

stories, other than Connie herself, seemed to cluster at the beginnings of story 1,

(one or two people who shared her feelings), story 2, (Dave), and stories 4, 5 and

6, (a lecturer). It is also the case that orientational material occurred later in

stories 1, 3 and 6. For example, during story 1, Connie added more information

about the situation of the story - the bus journey - to locate exactly when it was on
this journey that she realised that 'it was all happening': it was at the point in the

journey "when we was coming up the hill into the University", (line 14-5).

212
Secondly, abstracts, along with codas, set boundaries around a story. They
introduce and terminate it, and as such act as opportunities for a change of

speaker, (see section 8.3.2.). A coda is an indication that a story is now

concluded, that there is nothing more to say in answer to the question 'then what

happened?', (Labov, ibid:366). It can show the effects of the story events on the

narrator, (ibid:365), as for example at the end of story 4, "we were killing

ourselves laughing", (line 71). As well as doing this, the concluding lines to story

2, "well I haven't got to Boxing Day yet", (lines 25-6), also brought both Connie

and me back to the interview present, and this made the speaker change in the next

line possible. As this last example illustrates, codas form a bridge back to the

present, to the time of speaking.

However, in Connie's text there were frequently semantic links between the stories

which offset the closure signalled by codas. I suggest these, and the lack of
abstracts, created a continuity between the stories which made it difficult for me to

get the floor more often, a point I discuss in the following section.

8.3.2. SEMANTIC LINKS BETWEEN STORIES

In Connie's text each story is semantically linked to the next. Between story 1 and

story 2 there was the cluster of references to emotions, "happy", "boring" and "fed

up", (lines 18-21). At the beginning of Story 3, Connie continued to talk about

dialogues between her and Dave, ("...I was telling him", line 33), and a dialogue
had been the focus of story 2. The link between story 3 and story 4 was an

explicit comparison of two categories of people, students and lecturers, (lines 55-

7) . This marked a shift in the topic of the subsequent stories from Connie's peers

to a focus on lecturers. Stories 4 and 5 both concerned Connie's observations

about the behaviour of lecturers. The unfinished clause "one or two of the

213
lecturers were really", (line 72), was a clause which formed a semantic bridge

linking the two stories. Story 5 was linked to story 6 by a shift of focus from one

lecturer to another, "oh yeah there was even one", (line 81).

The embedded stories were also semantically related to the immediately preceding

section of the main story in which they were embedded. It was as if Connie's

memory had been jogged into telling a brief tangential story at these points. So,

for example, embedded story la, about Connie's friend's husband coming to see

her off on the bus, is an expansion of the following point in the sequence of

events in story 1 which immediately precedes it: "[we] went up together on

Monday", (line 9). The jogged memory interpretation is supported by her use of

pauses, which preceded, and her use of exclamatory "oh", which initiated, two of

the four embedded stories, (stories la and 3b). This jogging of memory was also a

way in which the main stories were linked to each other: pauses preceded the start

of main stories 5 and 6, and use of "oh" initiated main stories 2,4 and 6.

The impression of an unbroken chain of interrelated events was not only achieved

by the links between stories, but also by the use of conjunctions, which organised

clause relations within the individual stories. 'And' is much the commonest
conjunction and helped to create an impression of a constantly extending and

unfolding sequence of related events. Paratactic clause relations were introduced

40 times with the conjunction 'and'. The adversative 'but' was used 11 times,

typically to register a contrast between Connie and another participant's behaviour,

for example the turn changes between Connie and Dave in story 2, (lines 22 and
24). 'Because' was the most frequently used hypotactic conjunction, (7 times), and

again helped to create the impression of unfolding events, by marking causal links

between them.

214
These means of linking story to story, and linking clause to clause within them,

created an impression of great density in Connie's text, and made it difficult for

me to interrupt her talk. Polanyi, (op.cit.:32), points out that in conversation the

end of a clause can be interpreted as the possible end of a turn and an opportunity

for a change of speaker. When a story is told this norm is suspended, because

stories are "necessarily multi-clause turns", following Labov's definition of a

story, (see section 8.2.1.1.). In Connie's stories, the semantic links between stories

meant that each story was not clearly distinguished as a discrete unit with a

beginning and an ending. This meant there was not a clear entry point for a

change of speaker so that the "recipients [could] respond to the story in some way

which indicate[d] acceptance of the fact that it was told", (ibid.). Instead, the

narrative units were linked semantically, and this made breaking into the chain of
stories difficult.

8.3.3. THE ORIENTATION OF NARRATIVES TO TWO


CONTEXTS

Finally and briefly, I would like to point out that narratives are oriented to two

contexts - to the events they recount, and to the context in which the narratives are

told, (Bauman, 1986:2). In the case of Connie's stories, both contexts - the events

of Introductory Week at the University, and an interview with a researcher from

the University, were unfamiliar ones. In section 8.4. I discuss how Connie

seemed to favour an orientation to the narrative context of Introductory Week.

Here, I wish to focus on the ways she oriented her talk to the interview context by
discussing some non-narrative sections of it. There are only a few of these, which

again helps to account for why it was difficult for me to get and hold the floor.

There are non-narrative sections of the text which are not explicitly oriented to the
interview context. These are the bridging clauses between story 1 and 2, (line 19),

215
between story 3 and 4, (line 55), and between story 4 and 5, (line 79). I referred to

these in my discussion of links between stories, (section 8.3.2.), and they are not

included in my discussion here.

However, there are three features of Connie's text which are particularly oriented

to the interview context, because they refer, not to the narrative worlds she

evoked, but to me as her audience in the interview situation. One is Connie's

frequent use of comment clauses - variants on you know are used 23 times in this

short extract from the interview. These clauses are shifts out of the narrative

world and refer to the narrator and audience as participants in a shared social

context. I suggest their interpersonal functions were to act as a check on my

comprehension of what she was saying, and as a small demand for my continued

attention. Another feature were the two occasions where Connie briefly

suspended her narrative, in order to direct her talk explicitly to me as her audience.

These are line 63, "I don't know whether I'd better tell you", and line 83, "I don't

know if you know him", (that is, the lecturer who is the topic of story 6).

Finally, there were three occasions in Connie's text where there was a shift of

speaker from Connie to me. These occasions were brief turns by me as the

interviewer, in each of which I tried to direct the flow of talk. In line 27 I tried to

clarify the meaning of Boxing Day. In line 30 I re-formulated the feelings Connie

had been describing. In line 66 I tried to direct the talk onto clarifying what

courses Connie had decided to do. I note that in each case, Connie quickly

returned to the Introductory Week context of her stories, by telling a new story or

continuing with one she was already telling. As I have said, this apparent

preference for the narrative context of Introductory Week, which I discuss in

section 8.4. below, made it difficult for me to get the floor and ask her about what
interested me concerning her experience.

216
8.4. THE 'IDEATIONAL' FUNCTION: REPRESENTING A
FAMILIAR WORLD

In this section I focus on the ideational content of the stories in Connie's text, that

is, what Connie represented of the world in them. I analyse aspects of the

vocabulary and selected transitivity structures. In relation to the third 'problem' I

mentioned in section 8.1.1., I argue that Connie drew on a familiar everyday life

model of the world in her stories and made sense of the unfamiliar experience of

Introductory Week by foregrounding its familiar, everyday aspects, and

peripheralising its academic and institutional aspects.

Stories construct reality in particular ways because the narrator selects aspects of

the continuous flow of experience and organises them into a sequence of discrete

and related events. An initial state of affairs is disturbed by some complicating

action, but then resolved into a state of equilibrium again. Hodge and Kress,

(1988:230), note that this process of constructing a story is governed, at least in

part, by the values and beliefs about the world held by the narrator. A story tends

to involve a restatement and re-production of the values of the narrator.

What I argue in section 8.4. is that the stories in Connie's text projected a triumph

of personal, private domain values with which she was well acquainted, and

ignored the constraints on the individual imposed by the University as an

institution. This can be seen, for example, in how the stories tended to end with a

state of affairs that was a restatement of what was familiar to Connie. So, for
example, Story 1 ended with Connie feeling that she belonged; Story 3 ended on a

very personal note, with the recovery of a fun-loving part of her; and Story 6

concluded with "it was lovely to be in that sort of atmosphere where you could

have this", (lines 95-6), the atmosphere referred to seeming to imply one of

friendly informality. Stories 4 and 5 also ended on a jokey and informal note.

217
In sections 8.4.1. to 8.4.4. below, I explore in more detail how the stories in

Connie's text drew on a familiar everyday world, in contrast to the representation

of the same events in official university documents.

8.4.2. PERIPHERALISING THE ACADEMIC

The stories in Connie's text represented a great deal about aspects of her

experience of Introductory Week that belonged to 'ordinary' life, such as a bus

journey, coping with a queue, laughing at jokes - rather than representing events

which were unique to Introductory Week. A particular feature of her account is

that where she did mention events unique to Introductory Week, she

peripheralised their academic and institutional aspects, in favour of more everyday

ones. For example, story 6 contained very little about the specified event as a

compulsory academic one. It was represented as an informal one: "we had to go

and have a talk on Wednesday afternoon", (lines 84-5). A comparison of Connie's

representation of this event, and how it is represented in the University's


'Information Booklet for New Students' highlights the contrast. For Connie, it was

an informal event, (coffee and biscuits), with the interpersonal foregrounded,

(what she and the lecturer said to each other). Even her brief acknowledgement of

its academic element was transformed into colloquial form, "a talk". This is in
contrast to the information booklet, which describes the event impersonally and in

terms of its academic function as "contact with major study departments", (p 13).

Story 5 is another example. Here, Connie represented the event of Registration as

an informal, jokey, interpersonal encounter, in strong contrast to the formal and


authoritative angle to the same event given in the Information Booklet, with its

series of imperatives:

218
"Go to the first desk and give your name...complete...the registration
form...go to the table of the department responsible for your proposed
major degree scheme", (p 15).

Introductory Week is a series of initiatory activities in which individuals formally

become student members of the university institution. Connie's stories were all

about Introductory Week, but they had very few references to the week's

academically related purposes. The University's Information Booklet lists these as

"interviews with personal tutors", "talks about major study areas" and "registration

for Part I courses", (p 9-11), all of which are compulsory events. Her only

references to them were oblique: being talked into doing a particular course, (in

story 4), being in the Great Hall, (stories 3b and 5), and the Wednesday talk, (story

6). The last two refer to what would be called Registration and Major Study Area

talks respectively in official documents, though this is not explicit in the text.

8.4.3. TALKING ABOUT TALK

As I mentioned in section 8.2.4., a characteristic of Connie's stories is that a lot of

the events she recounted were represented in terms of the talk that occurred in

them. For example, when she described her decision to do Culture and

Communication, she elaborated by saying "I got talked into it", (line 65). She also
used the mental process verb 'to think' as a verbal process in a reporting clause,

(lines 36 and 44), which accentuated the pervasiveness of talk - even thoughts

were constructed as talk. The "me I used to be" was also a person who was

characterised as someone who used to talk in a certain way, "I'd just come out with

something and everybody'd start laughing", (lines 52-3). She also selected

institutionally required events in her stories that had talk as an intrinsic


component. For example, in story 5 she referred to Registration. This is

established as a verbally interactive event in the Information Booklet, ("One of the

departmental officers will discuss with you your proposed major course and your

219
choice of Part I subjects", p15). She also referred to the talks about major study

areas, the verbal interactive nature of which she reiterated in her own account as,

"we had to go and have a talk", (line 84).

8.4.4. PROCESS TYPES

Process types are part of a text's transitivity structure, and express the text's

ideational meanings, that is, the view of the world being represented in the text,

(Halliday, 1985:101). I argue that the process types which Connie used in her

stories helped to realise an ordinary life view of the world, where the feeling,

talking and doing of individuals is valued.

8.4.4.1. Mental and verbal processes: feeling and saying

Most of the mental processes in Connie's account were of the 'affection' sub-type,

with the verb 'to feel' being the most commonly used, (six times). In fact,

emotions were mentioned a lot. She explicitly mentioned a range of emotions:

"terrified" , "boring", "fed up", "envy", "excited", "laughing", "joking", "being

funny", "happy" - with most reference to pleasant emotions, for example, the

repetition three times of "laughing", (lines 46, 53 and 71).

In her use of verbal processes there was massive repetition of the verb 'to say', (it

appeared 27 times), especially in reporting clauses. Six of her stories, (2, 3, 4, 4a,

5, 6), actually revolved around dialogues represented in direct discourse.

220
8.4.4.2. Material processes: human participants do everyday
things

Mental and verbal processes typically have human 'senser' and 'sayer' participants,

(ibid:108), as they do in this text. But in this text it was also the case that almost

all the material processes had human actors. 40 out of the 44 material processes

had human actors, and in 27 cases the human actor(s) were first person singular or

plural pronouns which referred to, or included, Connie. The text's orientation to

people, and to Connie in particular, was partly established by all these human

sensers, sayers and actors. It was also established by her use of the active voice
almost entirely. The world of Introductory Week that she represented was full of

certain types of human activity: the focus was on individuals, not the institution,

who were feeling, saying and doing things, acting on the world, but acting on it as

individuals.

Material processes in the active voice with human actors also only represented

certain kinds of experience. They tended to represent physically active, practical

'doings', a lot of them about travel or movement, for example: "going", "went up",

"got off', in Story 1; "cleared off', "got out", in Story 3b; "go", "get", "take",

"halve", in Story 6. Connie represented Introductory Week as a world of everyday

life practicality, which was not specific to its academic and institutional purposes.

It is also worth noting that the stories in Connie's text represented only certain

categories of people. The participants in her stories varied quite systematically,

with stories 1 to 3 involving peers of one sort or another - friends, her boyfriend

Dave, and other students; and stories 4 to 6 each focusing on the activity of a
lecturer. She used quite a wide range of categories for the human participants in

this text: "people","friend","Dave","woman","people I've never met before",

"someone I know","everybody","bloke","student","lecturer". It is interesting to

221
note that only "student" and "lecturer" are categories that are specific to
institutional roles people filled in Introductory Week at the university. In

addition, only the lecturer category was amplified, and this was done by appealing

to stereotypes: the simile, "like a mad professor", (line 82), acted as a baseline for

a comparison of different lecturers: other lecturers were more "flamboyant", (line

86) than this one, and one or two, perhaps unlike this one, were a "bit fuddy

duddy", (line 93-4).

8.4.5. SIGNIFICANCE OF REPRESENTING THE FAMILIAR

I suggest that the near absence of references to institutional/academically related

events and the foregrounding of familiar aspects of Introductory Week was how

Connie appropriated the unfamiliarity of it to a more familiar everyday life model.

What did not fit the model was either selected out of her stories altogether,

peripheralised, or represented as stereotypes or in terms of its familiar aspects.

One result of constructing Introductory Week as a situation where familiar, private

domain values held, was that Connie did not need to change her values in order to

perceive herself as a student. It also meant she was not able to negotiate with, or

challenge, the institutional values of the University because she did not perceive

them. By the time of a follow up interview I had with Connie at the end of Term

1 she was expressing considerable disillusion with the University, which may

have been the effect of the gradual imposition on her of these institutional values:

"I felt like I was being taken over as though I was trying to be
changed into an academic somehow and I don't want to be . I might be
going up there and I might be doing it but I don't want to become a
bookworm or a boffin or anything I still want to be me and I felt as
though I was being taken over"
(Connie, follow up interview).

222
The quote is suggestive of both how she came to feel positioned by institutional

values, taken over by them and the threat this seemed to her sense of self. It was
the initial affirmation of this which had made her so happy in Introductory Week:

for example, "I felt like I belonged there", (line 18), "I feel I've been given a big

present", (line 24). So, Connie's representation of the University as a place where

private domain values of the personal and interpersonal were acceptable was both

enabling, because it made her feel glad to be there, and constraining, because it

masked the institutional values that she later felt tried to position her as a kind of

person she didn't want to be: an academic, a bookworm, a boffin.

It is difficult to assess to what extent Connie was actually reconstructing

Introductory Week, by representing it in terms of familiar everyday life, and to

what extent she was responding to the University's appropriation of everyday life

activities and discourses, (see chapter 1, section 1.5.1.). I suggest the boundary

between the public domain of the University and the private domain of (Connie's)

everyday life is not clear cut. Introductory Week, as a time and place where these

two domains interface, positions students in complex ways. Students may be

aware of only some of these ways, as Connie appeared to be.

8.5. CONCLUSION

In this chapter I have explored the 10 stories in Connie's text in some detail, and in

so doing have provided a contrasting 'take' on the narratives in the data set to the

one I gave in chapter 7.

In the next chapter, I begin my exploration of discourse representation, another

strategy frequently used by the interviewees, and one in which Connie in

particular had recourse to, as the stories in her text have shown.

223
8.6. CONNIE'S TEXT

Connie's text is given in full below, with the transcript notation. I present the text

in a way which draws attention to the fact that it contains ten stories. I do this by

insetting the main and embedded stories, and underlining the narrative clauses

within them. Stories 1 to 6 are headed as such in italics, and inset. Stories

embedded in these stories are also headed, (a and b), and are inset further. All

stories in the text are in bold type. Text which I have taken to be non-narrative, is

not inset and is in plain type.

'You know' comment clauses occurring within stories are not separated out from

them, because the visual representation of the text would become too complex if

they were. However, I note that they are not really clauses relating to the narrative

world, but to the interview context, so they are given in plain type.

1 Story I :
2 CON: It was lovely to know people up there already but um . there was
3 one or two all had the same feeling 'cos you know I was absolutely
4 terrified and . oh even a week last Tuesday I was all for packing it in I
5 wasn't going you know and d'you know I went up with my friend on
6 the bus because they've started this new bus it's smashing it's only half
7 an hour up there and it's limited stop it doesn't even go in the bus
8 station which is smashing but urn . oh there was three of us went up
9 together on Monday afternoon and er
10 Embedded story la:
11 . oh yeah 'cos one of them her husband came and stood with
her at the bus stop you know to see her off you know
13 we were all absolutely you know. got off the bus went up the steps
14 and my legs turned to oh yeah you know when we was coming up the
15 hill into the university I said God it's actually happening and we got
16 off the bus and we come up the steps you know from the underpass
17 and my legs went to jelly and d'you know within about fifteen minutes
18 I felt like I belonged there and I felt so happy
19 I mean it was totally boring yesterday but

224
20 Story 2:
21 oh Dave's fed up with me he says I'm he says you're talking so fast
22 and that but I said it's been like this all week and . you know and I
23 said to him last night I said. it's like Christmas [laugh] I said I feel
like I've been given a big present and I'm so excited but he says yeah
25 but there's Boxing Day the day after [laugh] well I haven't got to
26 Boxing Day yet
27 INT: Perhaps Boxing Day will be next Monday when you start
28 CON: Yeah I says or perhaps a couple of weeks you know later when you come
9 9 back down to earth but
30 INT: You feel you feel kind of excited and on a high=
31 CON: =Oh terrible terrible yeah you know
32 Story 3:
33 and it was funny because. I was telling him when we went out
34 Embedded stoty 3a:
35 I made him go out last night he didn't want to but he'd been
36 out the night before so I thought sod this
37 so I said
38 Embedded story 3b:
39 . oh I was talking to this woman and there was this terrible
40 queue to get out of the Great Hall it went round and round and
41 round there was three queues of it in fact I was clever I cleared
of and went and got a sandwich and then came back to get
43 out and you know everyone was envying me these sandwiches
44 but I thought well you could have done it anyway you know
45 because it was about two o'clock when I got out
46 and urn. I was saying to Dave last night I says I've been laughing and
47 joking to people this week that I've never met before or you know or
48 there's perhaps been someone I know from college and then someone
49 that you don't know and . J said er I feel like the me I used to be
50 about fourteen years ago before I ever got married and had my
51 daughter because I used to. people always said. I didn't realise I was
52 being funny you know I'd just come out with something and
53 everybody'd start laughing and that and. I knew that person was still
54 inside me and I feel like it's . come out this week
55 because it hasn't just been. you know the students it's some of the lecturers
56 Story 4:
57 oh there was one lecturer
58 Embedded story 4a:
59 I says oh I love him and they all says oh no and I says I don't
60 mean that way
61 I mean I just feel you know you could feel there was a little twinkle in
62 his eyes and there's things he's been saying
63 I don't know whether I better tell you [laugh] you know and .
64 oh there's little things like that I've decided to do Culture and
65 Communication I got talked into it but I think it's a really good idea
66 INT: Oh have you I was going to ask you about that because I knew you weren't
67 quite sure

225
68 CON: Yeah
69 but he said it's all somebody said one bloke says to him what's it all
70 about and he says oh it's about sex and spitting [laugh] we were
71 killing ourselves laughing
72 you know one or two of the lecturers were really
73 Story 5..
74 . like when we was in the Great Hall yesterday one of my photographs
75 it had my eyes shut on it and this lecturer he says he's the one who's
76 going to be teaching me this Culture and Communication he says oh
77 this is the way you'll look in the lectures is it and I says oh no I'll be
78 lying on the floor in lectures [laugh]
79 you know what I mean and. I mean
80 Story 6:
81 . oh yeah there was even one it was [lecturer's name] and he looks like
82 a mad professor you know he's got big bifocals
83 I don't know if you know him
84 bifocals on and that we had to go and have a talk on Wednesday
85 afternoon but I mean he was totally different he wasn't he wasn't quite
86 so you know sort of flamboyant as some of the others but he says do
87 you want a free cup of coffee and he had a man at the machine so we
88 could all go and get a free cup of coffee and then he had a big tin of
89 biscuits and handed it round . oh and when oh yeah he had the tin of
90 biscuits and he said oh I'll take the lid off and halve them and you
91 know take them round to the rest of us and I says oh can I keep the
92 tin then you know and you felt like . you know you could talk like that
93 you know well they've said there are one or two that are a bit fuddy
94 duddy but it was lovely to be in that sort of atmosphere where you
95 could have this

226
CHAPTER 9

DISCOURSE REPRESENTATION - INTRODUCTION

9.1. INTRODUCTION
9.2. DEFINING DISCOURSE REPRESENTATION
9.2.1. A CONTINUUM OF MODES OF DISCOURSE REPRESENTATION
9.2.1.1. The Narrative Report of Discourse Acts, (NRDA)
9.2.1.2. indirect Discourse, (ID)
9.2.1.3. Free Indirect Discourse, (FID)
9.2.1.4. Direct Discourse, (DD)
9.2.1.5. Free Direct Discourse, (FDD)
9.2.2. DIFFICULTIES WITH DISTINGUISHING BETWEEN MODES
9.2.2.1. The representation of thought
9.2.2.2. Borderline cases between the modes
9.2.2.3. The free modes: FDD and FID
9.2.3. PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS IN RECOGNISING INSTANCES OF
DISCOURSE REPRESENTATION
9.3. DISCOURSE REPRESENTATION AS AN ASPECT OF INTERTEXTUALITY
9.3.1. THE DIALOGIC RELATION OF REPRESENTING AND REPRESENTED
DISCOURSE
9.3.2. ASSIMILATION AND FAITHFULNESS TO THE ANTERIOR DISCOURSE
9.3.2.1. Representing the university's written literature
9.3.2.2. Representing the interviewee's own voice or the interviewer's voice
9.3 3. 'CONSTRUCTED DISCOURSE'
9.3.4. INTERDISCURSIVITY - DRAWING ON DISCOURSE TYPES
9.4. CONCLUSION

9.1. INTRODUCTION

In chapters 9 and 10 I discuss another prominent feature of the interviews - the

interviewees' representation of discourse, that is, their talk about talk, (Coulmas,

1986:2). This continues the focus of Part III of the thesis, since in these two

chapters I explore what voices from other domains of their experience the

interviewees drew on and represented during the course of their interviews. These

chapters also relate to chapters 7 and 8 to some extent, as the narratives I

discussed in those two chapters often involved the representation of discourse.

Connie's stories, for example, which I used in chapter 8, contained many

fragments of conversations, often rendered in direct speech.

227
In chapters 9 and 10 I argue that in trying to talk about an experience the

interviewees had not yet had - that of being an undergraduate - they drew on what

other people had to say about it, (and also on internal voices of their own). They

drew both on the familiar voices of friends, family and the work place, and on the

unfamiliar voices they heard emanating from the institution they were about to

enter in the effort to integrate the new experience of starting a degree. The

presence of this multitude of other voices gave their talk a markedly dialogic

quality. It also created webs of intersecting perspectives or points of view on their

initial experience of the university.

Chapters 9 and 10 cover the analysis of a single phenomenon, as chapters 7 and 8

did. In chapters 7 and 8, each chapter was a different 'take' on the phenomenon of

narratives. In chapters 9 and 10, I use a slightly different approach. In chapter 9, I

introduce the concept of discourse representation, (section 9.2.), and present a

theoretical discussion of it as an aspect of intertextuality, (section 9.3.), using

examples from the data set. This provides a context for chapter 10, where I do

four analyses, each focusing on a different aspect of discourse representation. I

pay particular attention here to how the representation of discourse realised a

range of points of view on the interviewees' experience.

In both these chapters I use the term 'discourse representation' rather than 'reported

speech', following Fairclough, (1988:125). As he points out, the former term is

more inclusive than the latter, since writing as well as speech can be represented,

(and is so in the data). It also highlights that the reporting of discourse involves

choices about how to do so: whether to represent only the message, (the

ideational content), or circumstantial features of the discourse as well, such as

speaker accent, social roles and so on. I shall refer to the discourse that is reported

as the 'represented discourse', (or the 'anterior discourse'); and I shall refer to the

228
interviewees' discourse in the interviews, in which represented discourse is

embedded, as the 'representing discourse'. Throughout both chapters, quotations

from the interviews have represented discourse in italic type.

9.2. DEFINING DISCOURSE REPRESENTATION

In section 9.2.1. I discuss the definitions of discourse representation which I use in

chapters 9 and 10, illustrating each with examples from the data set. The five

modes of discourse representation which I discuss here are the primary criteria I

use in coding instances of discourse representation in the data set for the analyses

in chapter 10. I note that when it came to coding the data, it was sometimes

difficult to tell which mode of discourse representation was being used. I discuss

this in section 9.2.2. I conclude by making explicit the remaining practical

considerations necessary for coding the data set, (section 9.2.3.).

9.2.1. A CONTINUUM OF MODES OF DISCOURSE

REPRESENTATION

I define discourse representation in my data according to the five modes used by


Leech and Short, (1981:321), though their focus is written and literary language.

They distinguish between the narrative report of speech acts, (NRSA), indirect

speech, (IS), free indirect speech, (FIS), direct speech, (DS), free direct speech,

(FDS), and their counterparts for internal speech, that is, thought. Formally, the
modes for speech and thought can be identified by the same criteria, (ibid:319).

Consequently, I shall refer to speech unless there are particular points to make

about thought, as speech is the more prevalent type of discourse representation in

the data, (see Table 10.2. in chapter 10, section 10.4). For the reasons I have

229
already pointed out, I prefer the term 'discourse to 'speech', so the abbreviated

forms I use hereafter are NRDA, ID, FID, DD and FDD.

Leech and Short set out the modes of discourse representation on a continuum,

(see Figure 9.1. below).

Figure 9.1.: Continuum of discourse representation, Leech and Short,

(1981:324), showing cline of reporter interference

Cline of 'interference' in report


Narrator apparently/ Narrator apparently \Narrator apparently
in total in partial not in control
control
of report
I control of report \ of report
at all

/
/
\
\ S

Varieties of speech presentation \


i
\

NRA NRSA / IS PIS DS \ FDS

NRA-= NRIT2tiVC report of action, PIS -= ETC indirect speech

Figure 9.1. shows that reporter interference in, or apparent control of, the

represented discourse moves from most to least through the modes of NRDA, ID,

FID, DD and FDD. The narrative report of action is not a mode of discourse

representation. It is included in the cline because in NRDA, "the speech act is

reported in a way that puts it on a par with other kinds of action", (ibid:324).

The notion of a cline of interference helps to explain the difficulties in

distinguishing between some instances, which I return to in section 9.2.2. Before

that, in sections 9.2.1.1. to 9.2.1.5., I define each of the modes of discourse


representation given in Figure 9.1. I start with the mode in which reporter

interference is greatest, NRDA, and end with the mode where the reporter appears

230
to be least in control of the represented discourse, FDD. I outline how the modes

may be recognised grammatically, and give examples of their occurrence in the

data set.

9.2.1.1. The Narrative Report of Discourse Acts, (NRDA)

In NRDA the reporter is only committed to reporting that a speech act has

occurred, not what or how it was said. The event is seen from her perspective,

(ibid.). In NRDA the represented discourse has the highest degree of assimilation

to the representing discourse of all the modes. McHale's partitioning of the

continuum of discourse representation, suggests two possibilities for NRDA,

(1978:258), though I will subsume them both within the NRDA mode. He

distinguishes the simple noting that a speech event has occurred without

specifying the content. In the following example, all that Steve reported was that

there was a discussion:

Ste: Me and the tutor were more or less having a discussion and that
that gave us a lot of confidence
(Steve, 180-1)

McHale also notes that the topics of conversation may also be present. In the

following example, Tania not only reported that her children had been talking, but

also what they had been talking about:

Tan: Now the children are talking about when they leave school and go
to university
(Tania, 147).

This highlights how the modes contain a range of possible manifestations, a point

I return to in section 9.2.2.

231
9.2.1,2. Indirect Discourse, (ID)

In ID, unlike in NRDA, the voice of the anterior speaker is present in the

represented discourse. ID contains a report of what the anterior speaker said.

However, the reporter does not claim to give the actual words of the anterior

speaker, only to faithfully convey what was stated. This means that, as in NRDA,

the reporter's point of view is brought to the fore, (Coulmas, op.cit.:2). The

reporter can make changes, by paraphrasing or summarising the anterior wording,

and it may still be presumed that the essential meaning of the anterior speaker has

been retained. As Coulmas points out, this leads to ambiguities in meaning. It


becomes difficult to determine what belongs to the represented discourse and the

anterior speaker's point of view, and what belongs to the representing discourse of

the reporter and her point of view. In Leech and Short's terms, in ID there is still

considerable interference by the reporter's discourse in that of the anterior

speaker's.

It is worth pointing out that while it is probably the case that most of the discourse

represented in my data set did refer to real antecedent speech events, these are not

available, (except in a few cases, see section 9.3.2.). This increased the difficulty

of discerning the extent to which the point of view of the reporter interfered with

the voice of the anterior speaker.

Leech and Short, (op.cit.:319), define ID as the result of a number of formal

changes that are wrought upon DD. The most salient of these with respect to my

data are:

1. The insertion of a that-clause, which subordinates the reported discourse to the

reporting discourse.

2. The shift of personal pronouns from first and second to third person.

232
3. Shift of deictics from 'close' to 'distant'.
4. Back shift of verb tense.

Here is an example from Wendy showing that-clause, back shift of tense and third

person pronoun:

Wen: A lot of them [work colleagues] came out and said that they'd
been mature students
(Wendy, 161-2).

It is also clear that Wendy was putting what her colleagues said into her own

words from the fact that she amalgamated what she had heard from a number of

separate people.

9.2.1.3. Free Indirect Discourse, (FID)

FID is an intermediate category between DD and ID. Grammatically, it has a mix

of the features of DD and ID:

1. It lacks a reporting clause, which 'frees' the reported discourse somewhat from

the reporter's interference or control.

2. It resembles DD in not being subordinated to a reporting clause via a that

conjunction, and in deictics.

3. It resembles ID in the shift to third person and the back-shift of tense.

(Leech and Short, ibid:325-7).

Leech and Short argue that FID is less than a complete reproduction of the anterior
speech, but more than an indirect form of it. The voice of the reporter is apparent,

but so also are characteristics of the anterior speaker's voice. This means that FID

is a mode that can be manifested in a wide range of ways, and is recognisable

233
through the presence of a range of features, what they call 'family resemblances',

rather than a single defining feature, (ibid:330). Recognising FID means looking

for indicators that distinguish the voice of the anterior speaker from that of the

reporter, for example, colloquialisms and other markers of i spokenness'; or

grammatical features, such as modal auxiliaries, where these suggest an

orientation different from that of the reporter.

There seemed to be very few instances of FID in the data set, though I note that

this might partly have been a problem of recognising their presence. One instance

of FID was the following, where Sara reported the attitude to mature students of

the university lecturers who interviewed her:

Sar: Their attitude was one that yes they accepted mature students they
weren't oddballs they and they were happy to have them because they
were motivated
(Sara, 60-2).

I suggest that this example is FID because it has the back shift of verb and

associated shifts in pronouns and deictics that indicates that the words are

reported. The represented discourse is also heralded by a that conjunction in the


manner of ID. Yet it also retains features of DD, such as the use of the words yes

and oddballs, which seem likely to have been part of the anterior speech event.

9.2.1.4. Direct Discourse, (DD)

DD purports to give verbatim the words the anterior speaker has spoken. The

reporter backgrounds her own voice by adopting the voice and point of view of the
anterior speaker, and saying what she or he said. She "lends" her voice to the
anterior speaker, (Coulmas, op.cit.:2). For example, in the following extract, Pam

234
took on the voice and point of view of her husband towards her when she

represented what he said in DD:

Pam: My husband said you didn't give up work to become a


childminder
(Pam, 87).

As in this example, DD is typically recognisable by the reported discourse not

being subordinated to the reporting clause with a that conjunction. It also has

pronouns and verb tense which relate to the participants and time of the anterior

speech event rather than the reporting context. This is also illustrated in the

following example. Here, Wendy represented the discourse of a lecturer. This

was part of a story about how she almost did not get her university place. In it, the

first and second person pronouns relate to the two participants in the represented

context, (the lecturer and Wendy), as does the tense. Here the tense refers to time

future to that of the reported situation - though it was a time in the past in relation

to the representing discourse, the interview:

Wen: I managed to get in touch with Doctor [name] who said oh well
I'll look at your application
(Wendy, 470-2).

9.2.1.5. Free Direct Discourse, (FDD)

FDD is at the opposite end of Leech and Short's cline of reporter interference from

NRDA. Here the reporter has no apparent control over the reported discourse,

since this mode of discourse representation, like FID, has no reporting clause.

Unlike FID the represented discourse is presented as purely the voice of the
anterior speaker, as in the following example:

Pen: When I was working at the newspaper they made such a big

235
deal out of it oh you know she's an ex university student
(Penny, 75-6).

9.2.2. DIFFICULTIES WITH DISTINGUISHING BETWEEN


MODES

When it came to using these five modes to code the discourse representation in the

data for the analyses in chapter 10, a number of difficulties became apparent. I do

not claim to have resolved these perfectly, but in this section I discuss them in

order to highlight the problems of discriminating in practice between modes of

discourse representation, especially in spoken discourse.

I suggest that in spoken discourse the problems of distinguishing between the use

of different modes may be particularly acute. The reasons for this have to do with

the fact that spoken discourse has greater "grammatical intricacy", (Halliday,

1989:76), than written discourse - which is what Leech and Short focus on. In

written language, punctuation and the removal of evidence of reworking the text,

makes the recognition of modes of discourse representation more straightforward.

Spoken language bears the marks of its planning and these are carried forward in

transcription. The interviewees' spoken discourse was relatively unpremeditated

and often showed signs of on-the-spot re-processing in unfinished or reworked

grammatical constructions, which were sometimes confusing when it came to

analysis. Recognising represented discourse in their talk sometimes also had to be

supported by attention to phonetic features of language, such as intonation.

In addition, the existence of the modes on a continuum increased the difficulty in

recognising which mode of discourse representation any instance in the data

belonged to. Within each mode there were a range of possible manifestations, as

the notion of a cline suggests. In the following sub-sections, I discuss the

236
decisions I had to make with regard to less typical instances of discourse

representation than those I used to illustrate the different modes in sections

9.2.1.1. to 9.2.1.5.

9.2.2.1. The representation of thought

I encountered a problem in where to create a cut off point on the continuum with

respect to the representation of internal speech. The interviews were invitations for

the interviewees to talk about their perceptions of university and their own

thoughts and feelings were alluded to a lot, most frequently in association with the

mental processes, decide, realise, feel, hope. The main focus for my analyses of
discourse representation in chapter 10 is the representation of other people's

voices. I therefore decided not to include the representation of interviewees' own

feelings and mental states. The only occasions on which they were included was

where a verb of feeling or mental state was used to report speech, and was

substituting for a verb of thinking or saying, as felt is used in the following

example:

Sar: I'd got to come to that point of realisation myself where I feltyes
Jean do it Jean do it
(Sara, 153).

In this example, Sara seemed to be invoking an internal voice which was saying

Yes I can do it. Habitual states of mind or feeling, no matter who they were
attributed to, and which were usually in the non-progressive present tense, were

not included as instances of discourse representation either.

It was also important to distinguish the representation of thought from metaphors

of modality. The verb 'think' was used to represent thought, usually in the past

tense, as in the following example of DD:

237
Pam: I thought don't be stupid. here I am [laugh]
(Pam, 213).

It was also used to express probability type modality in the present tense, for

example, (see underlining):

Pen: I've got to...deal with two very different roles and and that I
think is going to be the hardest thing
(Penny, 230-1).

As Halliday, (1985:333), points out, the propositions underlying these two

examples are different, as made clear by the tag questions that could be added to

each. In the example from Pam's interview, the tag would be didn't I? because

the underlying proposition is about what I thought. In the second example, the tag

would be isn't it?, because the proposition is of the this is so type - an expression
of probability. The probability here is being expressed as 'subjective explicit',

(ibid.). This is because the subjective involvement of the speaker is made explicit

and separated from the representation of the experience, in the clause I think. I

note that it was sometimes difficult to tell whether the use of the verb to think

referred to representations of discourse or expressions of modality in the data.

9.2.2.2. Borderline cases between the modes

In this section, I list the decisions I took with regard to borderline instances of

discourse representation. Firstly, there were certain instances of NRDA that I

decided not to include. These were all references to discourse events such as

interviews, offers of university or college places and reports of writing, which

tended to be the course choices they wrote down, (except where the anterior text

was quoted, in which case the mode was ID or DD).

238
Secondly, I note that the distinction between NRDA and ID was sometimes

difficult to make. This was really the difficulty of distinguishing between NRDA

as the representation of the topics of conversation, (see section 9.2.1.1.), from ID

which just summarised the anterior speech event. For example, I have categorised

the following as NRDA. It says what the discourse act was about:

Mia: he makes rude remarks about my weight


(Maria, 359)

But I have categorised the instance a line further on as ID because it seemed likely

that the words represented are the words the anterior speaker used:

Mia: he will call me thick and he will call me and he calls me fat
anyway
(Maria, 360).

In general, it seemed that there were a range of manifestations possible within

each of the modes outlined, and that individual evaluation of instances involved
subjective evaluation.

9.2.2.3. The free modes: FDD and FID

Another problem in distinguishing between modes was recognising the free modes

of FID and FDD. It was obviously easier to recognise discourse representation in

the data where there was a reporting clause. FDD was the easier of the two free

modes to perceive. This was due to its (apparent) freedom from the control of the

representing context and the sudden switch of content - the contrastive otherness it

showed in comparison to the surrounding representing context. FID was more


difficult to perceive because of its characteristic mixing of represented and

representing discourse.

2:39
9.2.3. PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS IN RECOGNISING
INSTANCES OF DISCOURSE REPRESENTATION

I had to bear in mind some practical considerations when it came to counting

instances of discourse representation in the data set. These were as follows:

1. Where the same voice was being referred to by repetitions of reporting clauses,

I counted this as a single instance, as in the following example:

Con: she says we're one up on kids who are coming straight from
school 'cos she said a lot of kids haven't done [Psychology] at A level,
(Conniel, 453-4).

This point was mainly a feature of Connie's interviews.

2. Sometimes conversations were reported in the data. Here two voices, one of

them usually the interviewee, were involved. Clearly, in these cases, each

utterance reported by each participant was considered as a separate instance of

discourse representation. In the following example there are four separate

instances of discourse representation, demarcated by slashes:

Pam: I said I hope the three years doesn't change me too much I and he
he took it the wrong way he said what do you mean change you 1 1 said
because I won't be the same person at the end of three years as I was at
the beginning I what do you mean
(Pam 251-4).

3. The example above also contains an instance of embedded discourse


representation - the repeat representation in her husband's discourse of Pam's

phrase "change you", (what do you mean change you). I have not counted
embedded discourse representation as separate instances.

240
4. Instances of discourse representation were counted separately if there was a

change of mode, even if the instances were contiguous and by the same voice. For
example,

Mia: (1)I've already been warned not to do that in lectures (2)only do it


in seminars,
(Maria, 9-10).

Here, (1) is ID, but (2) is FDD.

9.3. DISCOURSE REPRESENTATION AS AN ASPECT OF


INTERTEXTUALITY

In this section, I discuss discourse representation in relation to intertextuality, a

concept which I introduced in chapter 1, (section 1.4.2.). Intertextuality is "the

property texts have of being full of snatches of other texts", (Fairclough, 1992:84).

As I pointed out in chapter 1, discourse representation is a type of what Fairclough

calls 'manifest intertextuality', that is, where specific other texts, rather than types
of discourse, are drawn into the text.

My reason for discussing discourse representation within the context of (manifest)


intertextuality is in order to foreground the larger discursive context in which it

occurs - having only focused on its grammatical realisations in this chapter thus

far. It was necessary to discuss the grammatical features of the various modes of

discourse representation, as these were the primary criteria for recognising and

coding instances of it in the data, but I turn now to the relationship between

representing discourse and the represented discourse of other speakers. In


particular I discuss how the recontextualisation of the represented discourse

always involves it in being assimilated, to some degree, to the representing


discourse.

241
9.3.1. THE DIALOGIC RELATION OF REPRESENTING AND
REPRESENTED DISCOURSE

I start by referring to Bakhtin's dialogic view of language. Bakhtin focuses on

utterances - the "real" units of speech communication, rather than the

"conventional" and formal units of the language system, (Bakhtin, 1986:71).

Utterances are bounded by a change of speaker. Every utterance can be

understood as located between the utterances of a prior and a following speaker,

with which it is in dialogue. Utterances are therefore responses to, and

anticipations of, other utterances upon which they draw.

McHale, (op.cit.:281), points out that Bakhtin extends the notion of dialogue

between utterances to all levels of the structure of texts, from the overall structure

of novels to the orientation of single words to other words in "micro dialogue". At

the level of discourse representation, the dialogic relations that exist between

utterances are internalised within single utterances. The change of speaker which

defines the boundaries of an utterance is internalised - with the reporter

deliberately signalling that certain words within her utterance come from another

speaker.

Voloshinov, (1973:116), discusses this in terms of what he calls the "active

relation" between represented and representing discourses. He discusses "quasi-

direct discourse", (FID), in detail, as a mode in which the double-voicedness of

utterances is particularly present: here there are two voices which merge yet also

remain distinct from each other to some extent. One of the ways this active

relation is realised is through the type and degree of 'boundary maintenance'

around the represented discourse, (Fairclough, 1992:119). The boundaries around


this internalised dialogue are weaker than those existing between utterances, so

242
that the meanings of the reporter infiltrate the other speaker's speech, re-

accentuating it to fit her own, (the reporter's), speech situation. The modes of

discourse representation realise grammatical distinctions between degrees of

assimilation of the speech of others into the reporter's speech.

9.3.2. ASSIMILATION AND FAITHFULNESS TO THE


ANTERIOR DISCOURSE

In this section I explore another aspect of the relationship between representing

and represented discourse. The recontextualisation of represented discourse, and

its assimilation to the representing discourse to some degree, leads to the issue of

faithfulness. Slembrouck, (1992a, 1992b), notes that in standard accounts of

discourse representation it is stated that the two main modes of ID and DD must

both faithfully report the anterior discourse, with the exact form of words used

being an additional criterion for DD, (e.g. Leech and Short, 1981:320). However,

Slembrouck argues that analysing the role of the representing discourse should

take precedence over the issue of faithfulness as, even in DD where the
represented discourse has some autonomy, its meaning is always changed when it
is recontextualised. It is now subservient to the representing discourse.

This is because the reporter is in control both of what parts of an anterior speaker's

message she incorporates, and whether or not to include aspects of the social

situation surrounding the anterior discourse. She also selects the mode of
discourse representation in which she will represent the anterior discourse. This

may highlight her control, as in ID, or give the appearance she is not in control, as

in DD. Discourse representation always involves these kinds of reporter choices

and interpretations, which are based on the function of the represented discourse

in the representing context. So, even in DD, the mode purportedly closest to the
anterior discourse, the issue of faithfulness is problematic, because the point of

243
view and purposes of the reporter will be present alongside that of the anterior

speaker.

The issue of faithfulness is an interesting one in my own data. Most instances of

discourse representation in the interviews cannot be compared with the anterior

discourse because I do not have access to the anterior speech events. However,

there were three situations in the data set in which the anterior discourse was

potentially available. These were where the interviewee quoted or paraphrased the

university's written literature, where she referred to what she herself had said

earlier in the interview, or where she referred to what I, as interviewer, had said

earlier in the interview.

9.3.2.1. Representing the university's written literature

Penny, Wendy and Anne all referred to the university's written literature. I

discuss Anne's quote in chapter 10, section 10.6.4.1.). Wendy's quotation was

untraceable, but Penny attributed her quotation:

Pen: There's a wonderful comment in the Theatre Studies booklet it


says if you designed a life skills course for eighteen plus it might look
like Theatre Studies...
(Penny, 412-3).

This is an almost verbatim quotation. The original is a parenthetic statement in a


section of the booklet detailing what Theatre Studies students do after graduation,

as follows:

"(If you had to design a course in life skills for the 18+ it might look like
Theatre Studies).",
(Theatre Studies booklet, p11).

244
The extract from her interview given above is a faithful rendition in DD. What is

not clear from her interview, until the Theatre Studies booklet is referred to, is that

what Penny went on to say continued her dialogue with what the booklet said.

What she went on to say was:

Pen: ...it's all the bits about projection and and being able to um
interact with people and and be aware of what's happening in the
situation...but that whole awareness of being in a a group and being
able to being able to get other people to sort of interact to be a
facilitator is the buzz word I suppose isn't it
(Penny, 414-5, 419-21).

This seemed to relate to a section in the booklet immediately prior to the section

she quoted verbatim, which stated:

"Theatre Studies in fact provides an ideal combination of training


opportunities - in communication and inter-personal skills, in management
techniques and problem solving, and in art appreciation and cultural
values. Students learn to work as part of a group, recognise when they
must take responsibility and initiative, and assimilate leadership
qualities.", (p10-11).

I suggest that Penny here was taking meanings in the booklet about

communication skills and continuing her dialogue with the booklet by re-

accentuating those meanings to fit her own speech situation, (the inte‘Nie%), and
assimilating them to her own voice.

9.3.2.2. Representing the interviewee's own voice or the


interviewer's voice

There were a number of cases where interviewees referred to what they

themselves had said, or where they referred to what I, as interviewer, had already

said. It has to be noted that where an interviewee said "as I (or you) said earlier",

245
the exact prior text referred to was not always retrievable. This was sometimes

because it was a reference to something said before the interview commenced, and

sometimes because what exactly was being referred to earlier was not made

explicit.

Seven interviewees referred to what they themselves had said to me earlier. The

following example from Sharon is particularly clear. This is a direct verbatim

quote of what she had said earlier in the interview, (line 45):

Sha: As I say my best friend's going [to university too]


(Sharonl: 111).

In other cases the instance of discourse representation seemed to be a paraphrase

of a number of previous utterances. For example,

Sha: As I said before I think I was made for it


(Sharonl: 259)

seemed to be a summary of several of Sharon's previous utterances in the

interview, such as the following, though it was not a verbatim quote of any single

previous utterance:

Sha: I must be that sort of person


(line 42)

Sha: I realised that you know this is me


(line 56).

Five interviewees also represented what I said to them in the interviews. (This is

shown in Table 10.4. in chapter 10, section 10.6.). As with references to their own
earlier utterances, the anterior utterance was not always traceable. Wendy referred

to what I had said twice. An example follows:

246
As you said earlier you actually have this direction
(Wendy, 167).

Though this is in DD, it seemed to be a paraphrase of an earlier question of mine,

and also of some of her own responses to it in which she introduced the concept of

the 'right direction':

Int: I imagine. erm you know you may. change some of your
aspirations or hopes during the course of the degree... or do you feel
like, you know you pretty much know where you're going to go [in
your degree]
Wen:...I'm quite willing to change. er.. as long as it's I mean it's you
know guiding me in the right direction
(Wendy, 1000-9).

Wendy's attribution of the represented discourse to me, while the anterior speech

appeared to come from utterances by us both, leads to the topic of the next section.

9.3.3. 'CONSTRUCTED DISCOURSE'

I have discussed, in terms of the assimilation to the representing discourse,

instances of discourse representation where I had access to the anterior texts. As I

have pointed out, this comparison was not possible for most instances. There

were however some instances where it was either impossible or unlikely that the

represented discourse faithfully represented an anterior text. It is to these that I

turn in this section.

Like Slembrouck, Tarmen, (1989:101), argues that it is misleading to focus on

faithfulness to the anterior discourse. She focuses on DD in conversation, and

argues that it should be understood as "constructed dialogue", (ibid:99), due to the

transformation involved in the reporting of someone else's words: the speaker, in

247
appropriating the words of others, transforms them, actively creates a new speech

act. She argues that when a speaker constructs events in dialogue it is a strategy

for enlivening her discourse - making it play-like with characters who speak lines

- rather than an attempt to faithfully reproduce the words of others.

I find Tannen's notion of constructed dialogue a useful one for explaining the

presence of some instances of discourse representation in the data set, especially

where it is unlikely or impossible that the way they are represented matches an

antecedent speech situation. I give examples below of all types of instances of


DD in the data which were clearly not verbatim reports of anterior speech acts. I

use the categories defined by Tarmen, (ibid:110-9). DD is the mode which shows

up most clearly the constructed nature of some of the discourse representation in

the data because it purports to be verbatim report, and in the following categories

it is unlikely or impossible to be so.

1. Choral voices:

In the following example, what Sharon appeared to have heard from many people

is gathered together and represented as a single utterance:

So many people say no the first year it's not towards your degree you
don't have to do that much work
(Sharon2, 107-8).

I suggest the extract from Wendy's interview in the previous section is also an

example of 'choral voices'.

2. Representing what was not said:

There were some cases where DD was used to represent what had explicitly not

been said, for example:

248
You have nobody coming in to the other side saying don't be silly
you're fine
(Maria, 365).

In the next example, Steve was explicit that this voice has the status of being a

myth; it was a voice he had constructed rather than heard:

You have all these myths going round in your head...you say you've
done well in your course we're now going to take you to the well of
wisdom
(Steve, 234-6).

3. Other people's thoughts:

It is impossible for anyone to have direct access to another person's thoughts,

though Mary represented the thoughts of her sister as if she had, below:

It's really made [my sister] think oh I can do other things


(Mary, 598).

4. Repeated utterances given as one instance:

Here is an example where Maria represented something she described as

continual, through a single instantiation of it:

You can constantly say can you do it and the answer is generally yes
yes
(Maria, 453-4).

5. Reporter error:

In addition to the cases given above, following Tarmen, another example of

unlikely DD is that the reporter herself may make an error in reporting. In the

following example, the pronoun change from we to you was likely to be an error
on the part of Connie, the reporter, rather than a feature of the lecturer's words

which she was representing:

249
He says we're not here you're not here for our benefit we're here for
your benefit
(Connie2, 150-1).

The notion of constructed dialogue is useful in explaining the function of some

instances of discourse representation in the data set as a way of dramatising the

reconstruction of events, rather than faithfully re-presenting them exactly as they

occurred. In chapter 10 I go on to focus on another important function I believe

discourse representation had in the data, that of generating and juxtaposing

perspectives on the interviewees' initial experiences of the university.

9.3.4. INTERDISCURSIVITY - DRAWING ON DISCOURSE


TYPES

As I pointed out in chapter 1, (section 1.4.2.), Fairclough makes a distinction

between 'manifest intertextuality', where particular other texts are drawn into a

text, and 'interdiscursivity', where types of discourse are drawn into a text.

Discourse representation is an aspect of manifest intertextuality, because it

involves the reporting of the words of particular people.

While this is my main focus in chapters 9 and 10, it is worth mentioning briefly

that there were occasions in the data when interviewees drew on the abstract

voices of other discourse types with which they were familiar, as well as using the

particularised voices of other people. The three clearest instances of this, which I

note below, were where vocabulary associated with discourses from other

specialised fields was drawn into the interviewees' talk.

Mary seemed to slide into a discourse familiar to her from her job as a nurse,
when she talked about a need to demystify medicine by making its language more

250
accessible. Ironically, in order to do so, she seemed to use several terms from a

discourse of traditional medicine, for example, reversing the anaesthesia,

recovery time, patient.

Mar: If a patient is sort of well informed before they have an


anaesthetic they actually have a much easier time reversing
the anaesthesia and the patient has a much quicker recovery time
(Mary 263-6).

Carol appeared to draw into her text vocabulary and concepts she had heard in

counselling classes, in response to my question. For example, reflecting back and

having your own space:

Int: what did they say in the counselling classes about that
Carol: ..it's like you know the reflecting back to you of what someone
says and that sort of thing I enjoyed that very much . it's okay it's
what's good for you to have your own space
(Carol 307-10).

In the final extract, Steve himself commented that he might be drawing on the

discourse of his F.E. college Psychology course. He seemed to talk about the
concept of the 'tabula rasa', and did so, I suggest, in the language in which it might

have been explained to him. This is one of very few instances where a

interviewee specifically signalled that he or she was using another type of

discourse. Mary and Carol, do not do this.

[Learning] life you know a blank piece of paper and you're wrote on
to a certain extent by environment...I don't know if that's erm my
Psychology coming ( )
(Steve, 356-60).

These examples are the clearest instances in the data where there seemed to be a

sudden shift in the way subject-matter or areas of knowledge were constructed,

which is how a shift in discourse type may be recognised, (Fairclough, 1992:128).

251
Each contained ways of understanding the world that came from a particular

institutional perspective. For example, the constructions of people in the three

examples were quite different. 'Patient' is a particular way of constructing people

according to role, that comes from the order of discourse of medicine. 'Having

your own space' is part of the construction of people in terms of their

individuality, found in counselling and popular psychology. It is different from

the notion of the individual as a 'tabula rasa'. This a construction of people which

comes from a more academic psychology tradition, and is still recognisable in

Steve's well known 'translation' of it, itself still part of the academic psychology

discourse - the way the term might be explained to those new to it.

9.4. CONCLUSION

In this chapter I have introduced discourse representation at two levels - both the

grammatical criteria by which it may be recognised in texts, and how it can be

understood as an aspect of intertextuality. In chapter 10, I focus on the interview

texts in more detail, and discuss how the interviewees drew on the discourse of

others as they constructed meanings about their own experience of becoming

students.

252
CHAPTER 10

DISCOURSE REPRESENTATION - REALISING POINTS


OF VIEW ON THE INTERVIEWEES' EXPERIENCE

10.1. INTRODUCTION
10.2. SUMMARY OF ALL INSTANCES OF DISCOURSE REPRESENTATION IN THE DATA
SET
10.3. INSTANCES OF DISCOURSE REPRESENTATION WHICH SPECIFICALLY REALISED
POINTS OF VIEW ON THE INTERVIEWEES' EXPERIENCE
10.3.1. FUNCTIONS OF DISCOURSE REPRESENTATION IN THE DATA
10.3.2. THE INSTANCES REALISING POINTS OF VIEW
10.3.3. THE REMAINING INSTANCES OF DISCOURSE REPRESENTATION IN
THE DATA
10.4. MODES OF DISCOURSE REPRESENTATION
10.4.1. FREQUENCY OF USE OF THE DIFFERENT MODES OF DISCOURSE
REPRESENTATION
10.4.1.1. Representation of thought
10.4.1.2. Representation of speech
10.4.2. THE RELATIONSHIP OF REPRESENTING AND REPRESENTED
DISCOURSE IN THE DIFFERENT MODES
10.4.2.1. Oppositional dialogues in Direct Discourse, (DD)
10.4.2.2. Reporting clauses
10.4 2.3. Interviewee evaluations of their represented discourse
10 4 2.4. Free Direct Discourse, (FDD)
10.5. TOPICS ADDRESSED USING DISCOURSE REPRESENTATION
10.6. WHOSE DISCOURSE WAS REPRESENTED: THE VOICES INTERVIEWEES
DREW ON
10.6 I. THE RANGE OF VOICES DRAWN ON BY THE INTERVIEWEES
10.6.2. PUBLIC AND PRIVATE DOMAIN VOICES
10.6.3. INTERVIEWEES' OWN VOICES
10.6.3 1. Ambivalence realised as internal dialogues
10.6.3.2. Representing single points of view
10 6 3.3. The interviewee as participant in reported conversation
10.6.4. VOICES WITH OFFICIAL EXPERTISE: THE UNIVERSITY
10.6.4.1. A range of specific university voices
10.6.4.2. Hypothetical voice of university authority
10.6.43. Other voices of official expertise: school and college
10.6.5. VOICES WITH INFORMAL EXPERTISE
10.6.6. UNNAMED VOICES
10.6.6.1. People 'in general'
10.6.6.2. Hearsay
10 6.6.3. Obfuscation of agency
10.7. CONCLUSION

253
10.1. INTRODUCTION

In chapter 9 I introduced the concept of discourse representation and discussed it

as an aspect of intertextuality. My aim in this chapter is a more focused

exploration of represented discourse in the data which builds on the general

theoretical discussions of chapter 9. What I argue in this chapter is that the

interviewees developed a range of perspectives or points of view on their initial

experience of university through their representation of discourse.

After summarising the frequency of discourse representation in each interview,

(section 10.2.), I focus thereafter only on those instances of discourse

representation which I take to specifically realise points of view on the

interviewees experience. I define how I selected these instances in section 10.3. I

discuss the points of view that these instances realised by focusing in turn on their

mode of discourse representation, (section 10.4.), the topics represented in them,

(section 10.5.), and the voices being drawn on in them, (section 10.6.).

10.2. SUMMARY OF ALL INSTANCES OF DISCOURSE


REPRESENTATION IN THE DATA SET

In this section, I begin my analysis of discourse representation with a preliminary

survey of its frequency in the interviews. In Table 10.1. below, I give a summary

of all instances of discourse representation in the data set. The table gives an
indication of the relative frequency of interviewees' use of discourse
representation. It also provides a simple quantitative survey to contextualise the

more focused analyses that follow in the rest of the chapter, (sections 10.4. to
10.6.). The table also anticipates these later analyses by distinguishing those

254
instances of discourse representation which had the function of expressing points

of view on the interviewees' experience.

I used the following criteria to code all the instances of discourse representation in

the data set. As I mentioned in chapter 9, (section 9.2.), the primary criterion for

distinguishing between instances of discourse representation was their mode,

(NRDA, ID, FID, DD or FDD). I also used the additional criteria mentioned in

sections 9.2.2. and 9.2.3. Instances were also coded according to whose voice was

being represented and the topic of the represented discourse. These three features

of the instances of represented discourse - mode, topic and voice - form the bases

for the analyses in sections 10.4., 10.5. and 10.6. respectively.

Table 10.1. below shows how often each interviewee used discourse

representation in their interview(s), and what percentage of that total was

specifically used to represent points of view. I have given the length of each
interview as a rough and ready measure for making comparative statements about

the frequency of use of discourse representation between the interviewees.

255
Table 10.1.:
Table showing both total number of instances of discourse representation and

number/percentage of instances used to represent points of view, related to

length of each interview.

Number % of Length
of instances viewpt. of interview
instances
Total Viewpt
An 1 43 26 60 41 min
An2 22 12 55 33 min
Car 29 4 14 22 min
Col 145 44 30 65 min
Co2 112 26 23 31 min
Mia 72 57 79 54 min
Mry 47 24 51 45 min
Pam 57 36 63 42 min
Pen 61 25 41 45 min
Sam 22 8 36 27 min
Sar 41 17 42 26 min
Shl 27 11 41 36 min
Sh2 20 11 55 21 min
Ste 39 24 62 43 min
Tan 63 31 49 38 min
Wen 37 20 54 46 min
Total 837 376 45

Key:
Viewpt. = instances of discourse representation used to represent points of view
on the interviewees' experience

The table makes clear that discourse representation was used a considerable

amount in the interviews, (a total of 837 times), and by all the interviewees.

Secondly, the table shows that the interviewees varied in how much they used

discourse representation. Connie, in her first interview, used discourse


representation far more than the other interviewees, (145 instances), though this

interview was also the longest, (65 mins). However, in her second interview,

256
although it was only about the same length as Anne's second interview, she still

made much greater use of discourse representation, (112 instances), than any other

interviewee. Maria's interview also had a high incidence of discourse

representation, (72 instances), though this interview was also a relatively long one,

(54 mins). Pam, Penny and Tania were the other interviewees who used discourse

representation over 50 times. Anne and Sharon in their second interviews, and

Sam in his interview, used discourse representation the least, (20-22 instances).

Thirdly, the table shows that discourse representation was specifically used to

represent points of view 376 times. The extent to which interviewees used
discourse representation in this way varied, but for 8 of them it functioned in this

way in over 50% of instances.

The focus of the remainder of the chapter is on these selected instances of

discourse representation, which I analyse according to their mode, topic and voice.

10.3. INSTANCES OF DISCOURSE REPRESENTATION


WHICH SPECIFICALLY REALISED POINTS OF VIEW ON
THE INTERVIEWEES' EXPERIENCE

Instances of represented discourse which realised points of view of the

interviewees' experience were interesting because they bore both traces of the

interviewees' beliefs, (since the interviewees controlled what anterior speech they

represented in their talk), and also traces of the anterior speakers' beliefs. It is

within this framework that I explore discourse representation in the remainder of

this chapter.

257
10.3.1. FUNCTIONS OF DISCOURSE REPRESENTATION IN
THE DATA

Many instances of discourse representation in the data explicitly realised points of

view on the interviewees' experience of the university, or its ramifications for

other areas of their lives. I note that this is generally true for all discourse

representation - that is, in all discourse representation reporters draw the


perspectives on events of other people into their talk. The modes differentiate

between varying degrees to which these other perspectives are realised as the

reporter's own, or as belonging to the other voices on whom she draws. So, in ID

for example, the perspective of the other speaker is assimilated into the reporter's

discourse more than in DD, through the grammatical transformations that the

reporter makes to the discourse being represented.

While this is the case in general, I argue that the representation of other

perspectives, and the juxtaposition of perspectives on the interviewees' experience

that this resulted in, is a particularly explicit feature of some of the discourse
representation in this data. It reflects the interviewees' position at the start of a

new experience - an experience in which they called on the voices of others to aid

their understanding and integration.

10.3.2. THE INSTANCES REALISING POINTS OF VIEW

These instances of discourse representation which explicitly realised points of

view on the interviewees' experience fell into the following two groups. Firstly,

the interviewees often represented what other people said about their, (the

interviewees'), experience. Secondly, they used internal voices of their own to

juxtapose points of view on their experience.

258
I note that coding these instances of discourse representation required the

subjective evaluation of each instance individually and an assessment of its

function in the surrounding text. However, if an instance clearly represented a

point of view on the interviewees' experience, it was included in the selection,

regardless of what other functions it may also have had.

10.3.3. THE REMAINING INSTANCES OF DISCOURSE

REPRESENTATION IN THE DATA

I selected for analyses in sections 10.4. to 10.6., those instances of discourse

representation which explicitly established points of view on the interviewees'

experience in one or other of the ways I have just mentioned. The number of these

instances in each interview were given in Table 10.1. above, (section 10.2.). This

meant disregarding - for the purpose of further analysis - the remaining instances
of discourse representation in the data. These instances fell into the following
groups:

1. Many instances of NRDA and NRTA, as these tended not to give views of the

world, only to express that speech events had occurred.

2. Representations of the interviewees' own thought and speech, where these only

had the function of dramatising accounts of events. Though this was an

interesting aspect of the discourse representation in the data and could have been

used to expand the discussions of narrative in chapters 7 and 8, it was not the
focus of this chapter.

3. Some representations of other people's talk, but only those which did not

clearly give a point of view on the interviewees' experience. Most instances

259
where other people's speech was represented were included in the analyses that

follow.

4. I note that it was particularly difficult in Connie's interviews to judge whether

instances of discourse representation were being used only to enliven accounts of

experience, or, in addition, to represent points of view on her experience.

In sections 10.4. to 10.6 below, I begin each analysis with a table giving frequency

information about the feature under discussion. I then focus on one or two aspects

of the feature in more detail. I would like to point out that I treat these three

features of discourse representation separately for the most part. However, in

section 10.6., where I focus on the voices represented, I comment on the

relationship between voice, mode and topic, (see sections 10.6.4. to 10.6.6.).

10.4. MODES OF DISCOURSE REPRESENTATION

In this section, I discuss how the interviewees used the different modes of

discourse representation to represent the points of view of others on their, (the

interviewees'), experience. I start in section 10.4.1. with an overview of the

frequency with which the interviewees used the different modes. In section

10.4.2. I refer back to what I said in chapter 9 in order to discuss the extent of the

assimilation of the represented discourse to the representing discourse. (These are

the terms I shall use to denote, respectively, the discourse of others which the

interviewees drew on and the discourse of the interviewees in the interviews).

260
10.4.1. FREQUENCY OF USE OF THE DIFFERENT MODES
OF DISCOURSE REPRESENTATION

Table 10.2. below shows the use each interviewee made of the five modes and

their thought counterparts to represent points of view about their experience..

Table 10.2.:

Table showing number of instances of interviewees' use of the different

modes to represent points of view on their experience

MODE OF DISCOURSE REPRESENTATION


NRDA NRTA ID IT FID FIT DD DT FDD FDT Total
An I 3 5 2 1 11 3 1 26
An2 4 5 1 2 12
Car 2 1 1 4
Col 3 12 2 25 2 44
Co2 4 18 3 1 26
Mia 5 8 3 19 6 16 57
Mry ? 1 1 2 8 1 9 24
Pam 1 1 7 5 9 7 6 36
Pen 3 3 8 5 6 25
Sam 1 3 1 1 2 8
Sar 4 1 1 6 1 4 17
Shal 3 5 1 2 11
Sha2 1 3 2 5 11
Ste 9 4 6 5 , , 24
Tan 3 1 8 1 8 9 1 31
Wen 3 8 1 8 ' 20
_Total 38 3 76 21 3 0 136 44 55 0 376

Key:
NRDA/TA Narrative report of discourse acts/thought
ID/IT Indirect discourse/thought
FID/FIT Free indirect discourse/thought
DD/DT Direct discourse/thought
FDD/FDT Free direct discourse/thought

261
The table shows that Maria was the interviewee who used representations of

discourse and thought the most in order to construct points of view on her

experience, (57 times). DD was the most frequently used mode, (136 instances),

with Maria and Connie using it most often. DD and ID were used by all the

interviewees, unlike the other modes. Anne, Mary and Pam were the interviewees

to use the greatest number of different modes, (7 modes each). Carol used the

fewest modes, (only 3), but only 4 of her instances of discourse representation met

the selection criteria. FID was the mode used least, (only by Anne, Sam and

Sara), and FIT and FDT were not used at all.

I divide my discussion in the remainder of section 10.4.1. into two, and describe

separately the incidence of the 'thought' and 'speech' modes which Table 10.2.

shows. This is because the thought modes tended to realise points of view the

interviewees attributed to themselves and these are worth considering separately.

In the rest of this chapter the speech and thought modes are treated together, as

they were for the most part in chapter 9.

10.4.1.1. Representation of thought

The thought represented in the interviews was mostly the interviewees' own, with

DT the mode used most frequently, (44 times), and by the most interviewees, (10

interviewees). IT was used half this frequently, (21 times), and by 8 interviewees.

I note that it was sometimes difficult to distinguish between where the verb think

was used to represent discourse and where it was used to express modality, (see

chapter 9, section 9.2.2.1.). This was particularly so for interviewees' IT, because

in the indirect mode represented discourse is partially assimilated to, or merged

with, the representing discourse anyway.

262
However, interviewees did also use the representation of their own thought in very

clear ways, usually DT, to construct points of view on their own experience. The

following example illustrates this. Here, Penny juxtaposed two contrasting views

in DT, which voiced her ambivalent thoughts about doing Theatre Studies, a

discipline she had already described as "a very unknown quantity":

Pen: I thought I could opt out [of Theatre Studies] and then I thought
no I've come here. I've got two course I know I'm okay on
(Penny, 358-9).

NRTA was only used by 3 interviewees, for example:

Mar: I hadn't really thought about coming to university


(Mary, 484).

This is an example of NRTA which summarises the topic of thought, rather than

just states that an internal speech event occurred, (a situation which I suggested

was a borderline case between NRDA/TA and ID/IT, in chapter 9, section

9.2.2.2.).

There were no instances of FIT or FDT, though I note with regard to these free

forms that there might be a problem of perceptibility: without a reporting clause it

was difficult to distinguish interviewees' representations of their own thoughts.

10.4.1.2. Representation of speech

As with the thought modes, Table 10.2. shows that the mode most used to

represent spoken utterances was the direct one, DD. All interviewees used both

DD and ID, but DD was used almost twice as often, (136 times as compared to 76
times). FDD was also used 55 times, and by all but 3 interviewees. I will discuss

263
these 3 modes in section 10.4.2., in more detail, and so limit myself, in this

section, to a brief description of the other modes of speech representation.

I note that FID was only used 3 times, (see the instance from Sara's interview in

chapter 9, section 9.2.1.3.), but that there were 38 instances of NRDA representing

points of view on the interviewees' experience. This is rather high number for a

mode which only represents that a speech event has occurred can be explained in

the following ways.

Sometimes these instances existed with other modes, and in combination with

them expressed a point of view on an interviewee's experience. For other

instances of NRDA, it became clear that they were expressing a point of view on

the interviewee's experience by reference to the context. The following example

illustrates this. In it, Maria attributed a speech event to her new friends at F.E.
college - when they rang they rang to speak to me. It is only by reference to the

context that it becomes clear that this represents a point of view these friends were
expressing about Maria:

Mia: ...why I enjoyed last year [at F.E. College] so much was I wasn't
somebody's mother and I wasn't somebody's wife...I was me I was me
in my own right I was back to being Maria and when they rang they
rang to speak to me
(Maria, 84-7).

NRDA is the mode most assimilated to the representing discourse. The example

above is interesting because it shows rather clearly that it was Maria's discourse,

(the representing discourse), which established how the represented discourse


should be interpreted. In itself, the NRDA merely stated that a speech event had

occurred and gave the participants in it, but it was used by Maria in her discourse

to support her perception of herself as a person in her own right, rather than just

264
somebody's mother or wife. This illustrates the dominance of the representing

discourse, which I discussed in chapter 9, (section 9.3.2.).

NRDA was also used to express particular attitudes to the interviewees held by

other people. In the following example, Sara used NRDA to represent a view of

her husband towards her - that he had been supportive of her, (1 and 3 in the

example below are NRDA). She supported this with his words in DD, (see 2
below). I take encouraged here to be a speech event, because of the DD, which

seemed to be the explicit words by which Sara was encouraged:

San (1) He'd encouraged me and he'd he'd said (2) I'd I'd like you to go
back to work or do whatever you'd like to do but do something with your
own life now ... (3) and he encouraged me to do that
(Sara, 193-6).

10.4.2. THE RELATIONSHIP OF REPRESENTING AND


REPRESENTED DISCOURSE IN THE DIFFERENT MODES

In this section, I focus on DD, ID and FDD, (including their thought equivalents),

and some aspects of their relation to the representing discourse in which they are

embedded. This develops the discussion of chapter 9, (section 9.3).

10.4.2.1. Oppositional dialogues in Direct Discourse, (DD)

Table 10.2. showed that DD was the most frequently used mode by which

interviewees embedded the discourse of others in their talk. The degree of

reporter control appears to be less in DD than in, say, ID because the represented

discourse remains 'unchanged' in tense, deictics and pronouns. It gives a stronger

impression of being a transparent record of what happened by purporting to be a

verbatim record of what the anterior speaker actually said.

265
The apparent autonomy of the represented discourse in DD was sometimes used to

good effect by interviewees presenting points of view about their experience. In

particular it was possible to create clear oppositions between points of view using

DD. One interesting way in which this was done was to represent points of view

as dialogues, either internal ones, or reports of conversation between the

interviewee and another person, or between two other parties. I give an example

of internal dialogues when I discuss representations of the interviewees own

voices in section 10.6.3. Here is an example of how interviewees used DD to

represent oppositions between points of view attributed to herself and another

person. Pam reported a misunderstanding between herself and her husband over

the issue of whether coming to university would change her. This reported

dialogue consisted of three turns in DD:

Pam: I said I hope the three years doesn't change me too much and he
he took it the wrong way he said what do you mean change you I said
because I won't be the same person at he end of three years as I was at
the beginning of it
(Pam, 251-4).

Here, an opposition is realised by contrasting the represented discourse of two

different people. It is also suggestive of the dominance of the representing

discourse, since Pam evaluated her husband's utterance as taking what she had
said the wrong way.

This example included an instance of embedded represented discourse - Pam's


husband was represented as repeating her words, (change you), back to her. The

inclusion of embedded discourse was not very common, though it was a particular

feature of Connie's discourse representation, as I illustrate below. In this example

Connie represented what a friend, now doing a History degree, had said about
starting at university. The discourse representation is in italics. Embedded in it is

266
a speech event between Connie's friend and his wife, in which the wife appears to

do the talking. This embedded discourse is underlined in the extract below. It is

in both ID and DD, with the ID revealing this as a dialogue, (his wife... gave him a
good talking to):

He says to me he says the first two weeks he says were the most
miserable weeks of my life...and he says his wife turned round and gave
him a good talking to and she says look she says everybody you meet just
go up to them and start talking to them whether you know them or not so
he says I did and he says he says I've got six really good friends now but
he said that first couple of weeks he said was terrible
(Conniel: 532-7).

I suggest that Connie drew this particular dialogue into her own discourse in order

to express a perspective on what starting at university might be like for her: it

might be 'miserable', but there might be steps she could take if this was the case,

such as talking to people whether she knew them or not. This is realised in the

opposition between the points of view of the two participants whose discourse

Connie represented.

10.4.2.2. Reporting clauses

When DD is used to represent points of view, the reporting clauses keep the

voices distinct from each other and maintain boundaries between the represented
and representing discourses - this was particularly necessary where dialogues were

reported by the interviewees, as in the examples above.

The use of reporting clauses is also a feature of ID. ID and DD, as I have said,

were the most commonly used modes. One reason for this frequency might have

267
been that specifying the source of the message was sometimes as important as the

message itself in representing viewpoints - and this can be done through a

reporting clause. For example, when Sara talked about her anxieties about her

competence at F.E. college, representing that it was her tutors who spoke

reassuringly was likely to have more salience than if a friend had done so:

Sar: The tutors had got to say stop worrying...you're getting your
coursework in on time you're getting good marks you're fine
(Sara, 88-90).

Additionally, the discourse incorporated into the interviewees' talk were typically

not dialogues, like those I discussed in the previous section, but isolated and one-

off instances, and thus needed the source of the voice to be signalled, as both these

modes do.

10.4.2.3. Interviewee evaluations of their represented


discourse

Reporting clauses are also interesting because they were an opportunity for

interviewees to evaluate the discourse they were representing. However, it

seemed a feature of all the interviews that the interviewees used very little

evaluation in reporting clauses. The discourse representation was almost entirely

focused on ideational meaning, with little or nothing added by way of indicating

the tone of the original speaker, or the circumstances of the original speech events

in the reporting clause. The following example of ID is an exception, where the

reporting verb is warned, though the force of warned is mitigated and shown to be

used ironically by Maria's laughter, which follows her utterance a little later:

Mia: I've already been warned not to [ask a lot of questions] in lectures
(Maria, 309-10).

268
'Said' and 'thought' were, overwhelmingly, the most commonly used reporting

verbs. This use of neutral reporting verbs, (with respect to the illocutionary force

of the discourse representation), backgrounded the inevitably interpretative

position of the reporter and focused on the content of what is being reported. For

example, in Connie's text, which I analysed in chapter 8, (see section 8.6.), Connie

consistently used to say as reporting verb. In addition, she used no formulation,


that is, she did not explain or characterise or summarise what people said, and so

offered no interpretative critique on all the speech she reported: people did not

argue or suggest, speak kindly or jokingly and so on, they just said things. In

short, in Connie's text there was a marked absence of external evaluation of what

people said, even though the text contained a lot of representations of discourse.

Generally, where there was evaluation of the represented discourse in the

interviews it tended to be distinct from the represented discourse. For example,

Connie evaluated what a lecturer said to her about handing in essays on time by

agreeing with it - and representing this agreement separately as her own discourse,

(DT):

Con: ...he says I'm not doing you any favours by giving you extra time
... to do your essays ... and I thought well he's right really
(Connie2: 170-2).

This focus on the message of represented discourse is perhaps not surprising: the
interviewees were gathering views on what becoming a mature undergraduate

student was going to be like before they had had much experience of being one,

and were thus not in a strong position to counter or confirm the views of others.

269
10.4.2.4. Free Direct Discourse, (FDD)

In terms of the relationship between the represented and representing discourses,

FDD is the freest of all from the control of the representing discourse. The lack of

a reporting clause enables rapid switches in perspective to be represented - an

effective way of showing contrastive viewpoints. Maria and Mary, who use FDD

the most, both make use of this feature of it.

Since FDD is the mode in which the represented discourse has maximum

autonomy, this was a useful mode for representing other people's views about

them from which Mary and Maria wished to distance themselves. Maria, for

example, created an opposition between what she represented as her husband's

critical views of her and her own views of herself, by representing her husband's
voice in FDD:

Mia: he ties everything in it's all ... you're dumb and you're stupid...
(Maria, 361-2).

The following example is particularly interesting because in it Mary gave a

hypothetical voice to the university, in order to express her ambivalent feelings

about being at university and whether she should be allowed a place or not. The

first and third instances of this voice are in FDD:

Mar: I don't know if it's common for. for. normal age students but
for mature students but. [the university]'re going to find out. and
what are you doing here. sort of. that somehow you've got to creep
round for a week in case somebody says . you shouldn't be here...that
somehow they've made a mistake
Int: [( )
Mar: [( ) we didn't offer you a place did we [laughs 1 that somehow
they've made a mistake and they're going to find out that you
shouldn't really be here
(Mary, 319-330).

270
An effect of using FDD is to highlight the otherness of this voice she gave to the

university, and its otherness lends support to the oppositional message Mary used

it to represent. I discuss this example again in section 10.6.4.2.

10.5. TOPICS ADDRESSED USING DISCOURSE


REPRESENTATION

In this section I focus on the topics of the represented discourse. My discussion

here will be brief, as I feel it is more interesting to explore whose voices the

interviewees used to represent these topics, (as I go on to discuss in section 10.6.).

I would like to make two preliminary points about the analysis of topic. Firstly, I

note that in chapter 6 I generated topic categories to code the entire data set. Here

I am only applying those topics to instances of discourse representation, (I

discussed this in chapter 6, section 6.2.4.2.). Secondly, I note that in categorising

each instance of discourse representation by topic, I sometimes needed to draw on

the reporting context. There were three reasons for this. One reason was that

referents were not always present in an instance of discourse representation. For

example in "he said you could always go back you know", (Penny, 38), it is only

by reference to the context that it can be deduced that going back referred to going
back to university. Another reason was that the content of the discourse

representation sometimes could have been coded in more than one category. In

this situation, I drew on the reporting context to ascertain what the dominant topic

of the surrounding text was. Thirdly, it was often necessary to refer to the

representing discourse in instances of NRDA, since this mode simply reports that
a speech event has occurred, and does not always state the topics of the speech.

271
Table 10.3. below shows the frequency with which the five topics of employment,

education - both the interviewees' own and the educational experiences of other

people, their home life and sense of self were drawn on in those representations of

discourse which constructed viewpoints on the interviewees' experience.

Table 10.3.:

Table showing topics addressed in instances of discourse representation

TOPIC CATEGORIES
Employment Education Educ. other Home life Self Total
An! 9 5 6 1 5 26
An2 7 4 1 12
Car 2 2 4
Col 8 22 1 13 44
Co2 12 12 1 1 26
Mia 4 2 16 35 57
Mry 3 5 4 12 24
Pam 2 8 17 9 36
Pen 5 10 3 4 3 25
Sam 7 1 8
Sar 1 1 4 11 17
Shi 4 1 2 4 11
Sh2 6 5 11
Ste 4 7 13 ?LI-
Tan 2 13 3 10 3 :31
Wen 3 7 6 4 20
_
Total 26 100 68 61 121 376 _

Key:
Educ. other = Other people's educational experience
Self = Sense of self

The table shows that certain topics were addressed by the interviewees more than

others using discourse representation. There was most representation of discourse

about two topics: the interviewees' own education, (a lot of these instances being

about the university); and their sense of self- which the interviewees frequently

stated was affected by starting at university. In this latter category fell, for

272
example, instances of represented internal dialogue about self confidence, which I

go on to discuss in section 10.6.3.1. These two topics - their own education and

sense of self- were of direct relevance to the interview agenda, and it is therefore

not surprising that the represented discourse of all the interviewees included some

instances about these topics.

Employment was the category addressed least. This supports my impression

generally of the interviews, (see chapter 6, section 6.3.), that the influence of

either past or future employment on doing a degree was only important for some

interviewees - in particular, Anne, Sam, Steve and Wendy, all of whom used

discourse representation in talking about it as the table shows.

For some interviewees there were certain topics that they returned to a number of

times, or talked about in depth, during their interviews. In the following cases,

this preoccupation was reflected in more use of discourse representation in those

topic areas. Maria and Pam used discourse representation more than other

interviewees in talking about their home lives. They particularly represented the

views of their husbands, or themselves in dialogue with their husbands. In Maria's

case this was closely associated with her view of herself, which she also expressed

through discourse representation. (She referred to the sense of self category more

than any other interviewee, as the table shows).

Connie represented the discourse of other people talking about their own

education the most, particularly in her first interview. Her first interview took

place before Introductory Week, so it seems likely that she drew on their

experiences to give her a sense of what it might be like for her at university. The

example from her first interview in section 10.4.2.1. suggested that, at the time of

that interview, she had apprehensions about being lonely to start with. In her
second interview, at the end of Introductory Week, she talked about how this did

273
not, in fact, prove to be the case: "I've been laughing and joking to people this
week that I've never met before", (Connie2, 33). The example below, from her

first interview, captures a different aspect of starting her degree. She anticipated

deciding what discipline to specialise in through the experience of a friend, using

ID:

Con: Rolf said to me last week he says he says he like a kid in a sweet
shop he says he wants to try out everything before he decides
(Connie I, 702-3).

10.6. WHOSE DISCOURSE WAS REPRESENTED: THE


VOICES INTERVIEWEES DREW ON

In this section I focus on whose voices the interviewees drew on to express points

of view on their experience, referring also to the topics of the represented

discourse. I structure this section around the argument that, in general, the voices

interviewees drew on could be broadly understood as 'expert' voices of one kind or

another. This argument is based on the fact that the interviews were conducted at

the very beginning of the interviewees' experience of university, and that

consequently the expertise of other people was a useful resource for the dual tasks

of trying to get to grips with this experience for themselves, and in order to talk

about it to me.

10.6.1. THE RANGE OF VOICES DRAWN ON BY THE


INTERVIEWEES

Table 10.4. below shows the range of voices that the interviewees represented in

their talk.

274
Table 10.4.:
Table showing range of voices the interviewees represented and number of

times they drew on them

VOICE
Educational domain work Int Own Home domain Un Total
Official Student Sp/C P/S Fr
Uni FE Sch Fr 0th
An1 3 2 5 10 2 1 3 26
An2 5 1 1 3 1 1 12
Car 2 2 4
Col 4 2 17 13 3 3 2 44
Co2 - 14 4 7 1 26
Mia 9 1 1 1 28 16 4 4 57
MrY 6 1 11 3 2 1 24
Pam 1 3 15 9 8 36
Pen 2 2 1 1 17 2 25
Sam 2 ? 2 1 1 8
Sar 1 1 6 5 4 17
Chi
1 1 3 3 3 11
Sh2 4 6 1 11
Ste 3 1 4 2 11 3 24
Tan 3 ? 2 16 5 1 2 31
Wen 4 4 1 2 6 3 20
Total 53 10 , 27 11 15 I
7 f
154 f
37 )5 7
I
32 376 r

Key to voice categories:


Uni University Int Interviewer
FE Further Education college Sp/C Spouse/children
Sch School PS Parents/siblings
Fr Friends/acquaintances Un Unnamed voices
0th Other students

The table shows that the voices the interviewees drew on came from the

educational domain, (which had the largest number of types of voice), the work

and home life domains. In addition, there was the voice, (or voices), of the

interviewees themselves, my voice, as the interviewer, and unnamed, anonymous

voices. Some of the voices the interviewees' drew on were represented as specific

other people, such as 'Rolf in the extract from Connie's interview in section 10.5.

275
Others were more generalised voices of the culture, for example, 'people in

general' or 'the university'. In terms of my argument, I suggest that the

interviewees considered that the voices they drew on gave valued views on their

experience - valued for their relevance to the interviewees' university experience

and to the interview agenda. I suggest this as a reason why the interviewees

represented the discourse of these rather than other voices.

In the rest of section 10.6. I discuss this range of different voices. Before doing

so, however, I would like to point out that Table 10.4. above indicates the number

of times each category was used, not the number of differe nt voices. This is in

order to be consistent with Tables 10. 2. and 10.3.: between them, these three

tables account for the mode, topic and voice of each of the instances of discourse

representation that realised a point of view on the interviewees' experience. What

this means for Table 10.4. above is that some categories have high numbers

because several turns in the same conversation with the same participants were

reported by the interviewee. For example, in Connie's second interview, (which

has the highest number in the official university voice category - 14), there were 3

instances of reported conversations in which one university voice, in these cases

always a lecturer, had more than one turn reported.

Having pointed this out I now focus my discussion, in the rest of section 10.6.

below, on the different categories of voice. As I have said, my discussions will be

structured around the notion that many of these voices represented some kind of

expert point of view on the interviewees' experience - either the expertise of

official knowledge, or the informal expertise of people who knew the interviewee

personally and/or had had similar educational experiences.

276
10.6.2. PUBLIC AND PRIVATE DOMAIN VOICES

The table shows that some voices were identified as coming from the public

domain of education, and that the interviewees made a number of discriminations

between these voices. I have captured these distinctions in the categories of

'official' and 'student' voices, and their sub-categories. The official and student
voices each gave different types of expertise, as I discuss in sections 10.6.4. and

10.6.5. below. The topic - what they said - was always about education.

These were voices identified as coming from, and talking about, the public domain

of education. The interviewees also discriminated between several types of voice

which they identified as coming from the private domain of the home. I have

captured these distinctions in the groupings of 'parents/siblings', 'friends', (friends

not identified as part of the educational domain), and 'spouse/children'. For all

the interviewees with partners, this last group formed the immediate social
environment in which they lived, and were the people whose lives were going to

be most affected by the interviewee coming to university. The topics talked about
by these voices tended to be about the university, the sense of self of the

interviewee, or the home life which they shared with the interviewee. The

discourse of these people was likely to realise an informal expertise about the

interviewee, because of their interpersonal relations with them.

Work voices were represented by 6 of the interviewees, but only Wendy and

Penny made references to people in superior positions to them. The other

instances were representations of the voices of peers. My voice, as the

interviewer, was quoted by 5 interviewees. In each case it referred back to

something I had said earlier in the interview. I have discussed this in chapter 9,

section 9.3.2.2.

277
10.6.3. INTERVIEWEES' OWN VOICES

Interestingly, in addition to using other people's voices to represent points of view,

the interviewees also used internal voices of their own - they were, of course,

experts on themselves. The 'own voice' column in Table 10.4. shows that there

were a high number of instances of discourse representation where the


interviewees' used their own voices. This occurred in three ways, as I show in

sections 10.6.3.1. to 10.6.3.3. below.

10.6.3.1. Ambivalence realised as internal dialogues

Firstly, interviewees sometimes realised their own ambivalent feelings by

representing more than one voice of their own, as in the following example of DD:

Pen: It's so easy to say um no it's too difficult and then to say oh I wish
I'd done that
(Penny 380-1).

It was not only Penny, but also Sharon, Maria, Mary and Pam who used two

contrasting 'own' voices - both of which expressed their expertise and knowledge

of themselves. Two more examples follow. In the first, Sharon expressed her

ambivalent feelings about getting to know new people at the university in two

internal voices:

Sha: I thought right I'll go into the bar and just sort of hang around
and meet people...and I walked up there [and]...I thought I can't go in
there on my own ...and I calmed myself down and! was thinking you
can do it you know it's okay
(Sharon2, 76-80).

278
It is interesting to note that in her third turn, Sharon's more venturesome and

confident voice addressed her shyer self as a second party, (you can do it), thus

increasing the contrast between the views realised by her two internal voices.

In the second example, Maria represented two points of view about self

confidence - an issue about which many of the interviewees expressed

ambivalence - as an internal dialogue between two self voices. This is part of a

long stretch of text in which she described certain demoralising effects on her of
remaining at home to look after her children:

Mia: You sit at home all day and doubt yourself you sit at home and
think why can't I do that and no I could never do that and then there's
this other side of you that says come on get off your bottom and do
something you are capable of doing it
(Maria, 395-8).

The context suggests that this was an internal dialogue, though her use of the
second person, (you sit at home...), both distanced from her what seemed to be a

conflict she herself had experienced, and universalised it, made it into an

experience other women also had. This was borne out by her saying jokingly a
little later on that she would have liked to "go on national television and talk to all

those housewives who are sat out there" and tell them "there is life after children",

(540, 580). It is interesting that her 'doubting' voice was represented as thought,

and the 'you can do it' voice was represented in speech. It is possible that these

were almost interchangeable verbs, since it is likely they both referred to Maria's
internal speech. On the other hand, the use of a verb of speech, as opposed to a

verb of thought, also suggests more objectivity was being accorded to the 'you can

do it' voice, to the voice of the new and confident Maria who was going to prove

her capabilities in the external world of the university; in contrast to the 'doubting'

voice, which was accorded the more internal and introverted status of thought. As

in the example from Sharon's interview, the contrast between the two voices was

279
also increased by the 'doubting' voice taking the first person and the 'confident'

voice the second person.

Occasionally ambivalence was realised in question form: the interviewee asked

her/himself a question which constituted a juxtaposition of points of view, as Sam

did in the last line of the following example, using FDD:

Sam: I'd like to get...my first essay done. find out how I've done on
that then . then I'll know
Int: It'll give you some sort of=
Sam: Well that's it yeah
Int: Cue about where you are yeah
Sam: Have I no chance or have I you know
(Sam 211-5).

10.6.3.2. Representing single points of view

Secondly, interviewees used their own voice to express points of view they held

about their own experience. For example, Anne used discourse representation to

express a point of view she did not hold about why she wanted to do a degree:

Ann: I don't think I could have...gone through [with university] if I


didn't think I knew what I was going to come out with at the end I
couldn't have said oh I'm just going to get an education you know I've
got to have something a little more concrete than that
(Anne 1, 460-3).

10.6.3.3. The interviewee as participant in reported

conversation

Thirdly, the interviewee's voice was sometimes represented in turns in a

conversation with another voice - as a response to the other speaker, and this
established a contrast in viewpoint between the two voices. Connie, in particular,

280
seemed to use discourse representation to represent conversations, i.e. to include

at least one change of speaker, as in the example below:

Con: [the lecturer] says oh this is the way you'll look in the lectures is it
and I says oh no I'll be lying on the floor in lectures
(Connie2, 54-5).

10.6.4. VOICES WITH OFFICIAL EXPERTISE: THE

UNIVERSITY

In the rest of the chapter, I discuss in a little more detail, some of the voices the

interviewees drew on as 'expert' voices. I focus on voices the interviewees

identified as official educational domain voices, (this section), the informal expert

voices of family and friends, (section 10.6.5.), and the category of voices I have

not so far discussed - those I defined in Table 10.4. as 'unnamed' or anonymous

voices, (section 10.6.6.).

All the interviewees, except Carol and Sam, represented the discourse of at least

one official voice of the university. These were both voices attributed to specific

agents of the university, who the interviewees had actually encountered, and

voices which they attributed globally to 'the university'. The representation of

discourse in the latter case was hypothetical. I discuss these in the following two

sections.

10.6.4.1. A range of specific university voices

A range of official university voices were mentioned in the interviews. The topic

talked about by all these voices was the university. Some of these voices were

administrative giving practical information to do with the interviewee's university

place; other voices were officials of clubs or societies approached by interviewees

281
at the Societies Bazaar, with the discourse represented being about club

memberships.

More interestingly, there were voices representing views about students and

academic life. These were always the voices of academic staff. For example, Sara

quoted the lecturers who interviewed her as saying that mature students were "not

oddballs" and they were "motivated" to learn, (Sara, 77, cited in chapter 9, section

9.2.1.3.), and Pam quoted the convenors of a pre-university course for mature

students at the university as saying that "mature students had the feeling they

shouldn't be at university", (Pam, 211). Connie's second interview is particularly

rich in such information presented as represented discourse. An example follows

from a talk she had with a lecturer during Introductory Week:

Con: They said . if you've got a problem just come and knock on our
door that's what we're here for....he was saying to us if you don't. get.
your essay in on time you're going to have other essays so you're going
to end up with a backlog anyway so he says you're not doing yourself
any favours and he says I'm not doing you any favours by giving you
extra time [to do your essaysl...he was saying a lot of it is just organising
yourself
(Connie2, 149-84).

In each case in which a specific official university voice was cited, the voice was

attributed to someone expert in the area they talked about - club officials about

club membership, lecturers about student academic life, as the example from

Connie's interview shows, and so on.

Another way in which a voice of the university was represented was in the quoting

of university literature. I have already discussed the occasion on which Penny did
this, (see chapter 9, section 9.3.2.1.). Anne also stated that she quoted the

university's literature, the Rules of the University booklet, but in fact she

282
represented a hypothetical university voice. I discuss this example below, as it

leads into the topic of the next section.

Ann: I think, reading through the rules as well . when the rules of the
university came through [the post] . and it says things like. erm when
it gets on to the . when the police will be drawn in when one. and
there'll be. in cases of serious misconduct the police may be called, now
anywhere [apart from the university] there'd be no doubt that the
police would be called in ...cases of serious misconduct. but there are
obviously some things that are dealt with a little bit . you know . we
don't want to have anyone from the university getting a bad name
(Annel: 257-64).

The second instance of represented discourse, (we don't want to have anyone from

the university getting a bad name), is FDD, because of the first person plural

pronoun. I also consider "when one. and there'll be. in cases of serious

misconduct the police may be called' as discourse representation, (also FDD).

This is because of the change in intonation on the tape recording, and the two

broken constructions, when one. and there'll be, which suggest Anne was trying

to recall what in fact the Rules booklet had said, which she then goes on to give.

This 'quote' in FDD is in fact a paraphrase of:

"Assaults on officers and employees are regarded as particularly serious


breaches of these rules which if not referred to the police will attract
appropriately severe penalties."
(Rules of the University, Part 1, 3.2)

Anne used this hypothetical voice which she 'quoted' to contrast what seemed to

her to be differences between disciplinary norms of the university and society at

large.

283
10.6.4.2. Hypothetical voice of university authority

In the manner I described in chapter 7, (section 7.5.), on 'hypothetical narratives',

and in chapter 9, section 9.3.3. on 'constructed discourse', I note here that

interviewees sometimes constructed the words of the university as a hypothetical

voice. Since this was a voice generated by the interviewees, it carried aspects of

their assumptions about the institution. I have mentioned the case of Anne, above,

and here merely point to a few more examples of how a voice of university

authority was represented.

The voice being used by Wendy in the example below was clearly not an actual

voice, firstly because it represented words that were not spoken, and secondly

because it incorporated vague referents, (this this and this), which it is unlikely

would be part of a verbatim report:

Wen: Nothing came back saying well if you actually went to this this
and this then you know we'll look at you next year
(Wendy, 468-9).

This extract was part of Wendy's account of how she was nearly refused a

university place. The voice of the university here represents an assumption she

had about the university which was not supported by events - she had anticipated

that if she was refused a place, the university would advise her about how she

could apply more successfully next year, but "nothing came back".

Mary gave several instances of an oppositional hypothetical voice, which I


mentioned in section 10.4.2.4. The context made it clear that she attributed this

voice to the university, though she only represented it as the pronoun 'they'. I

repeat some of the example below:

284
Mar: ...they're going to find out. and what are you doing here . sort of
... we didn't offer you a place did we [laughs] that somehow they've
made a mistake
(Mary, 316-30).

The oppositional message given by this hypothetical voice was supported formally

by the discourse being represented in FDD, (the mode least assimilated to the

representing discourse). However, this impression is subverted by Mary's

laughter, and by the fact that she later said that this was only what part of her

believed. Nevertheless, this example and those from Anne and Wendy's

interviews do express assumptions these interviewees had about the power of veto

the university had, and how they felt positioned vis-à-vis the university by their

identity as students.

10.6.4.3. Other voices of official expertise: school and

college

Other official voices were quoted which came from interviewees' prior experience

of education, both at school and F.E. college.

Sam and Sara were the only interviewees who represented the voice of 'school.'

They both represented this voice as giving them, (as grammatically passive

subjects of agentless activity), negative messages about their school abilities:

Sam: You were told that you were you know you were useless you were
going to fail
(Sam, 174).

Sar: I was told when I was ten that I was. thick that I'd never get very
far in life to just be quite [satisfied] with what I'd got
(Sara, 267-8).

285
As Sara later said, this expert opinion led to "the inferiority complex and the lack

of confidence that's something I've had to fight against for years", (Sara, 350).

Seven interviewees referred to their recent experience of further education by

using discourse representation. The expert voices being represented here tended

to be more positive - generally of their tutors giving encouragement or advice. In

the following example, Connie represented what her F.E. college tutor Bill had

said about the specialised language of Psychology:

Con: Well I know our teacher Bill he said when we did that B unit [in
Psychology] he says if you just begin to understand the language this
year you'll have done well
(Conniel: 429-31).

10.6.5. VOICES WITH INFORMAL EXPERTISE

The range of voices from the educational domain also included voices of other

students. Nine interviewees used such voices, six of them representing the voices

of people they knew who were or had been students, and whose experiences were

therefore relevant. Connie called upon the voices of seven different such friends

in her first interview, two of which I have already mentioned, (see sections

10.4.2.1. and 10.5.).

The voices of family and also friends who were not represented as being, or

having been, at university, were often drawn on to express opposition to or

support for the interviewees in starting their degrees. Five of the eight

interviewees with partners drew on the voice of their spouse, and four of the

interviewees with children drew on the voices of their children. The voices of

parents in the case of Mary, Sharon and Maria, and siblings in the case of Anne

and Connie were also drawn on. For some, the family seemed to be a particularly

286
important locus for the intersection of view points about the interviewees'

changing roles as they took on a degree. The use of discourse representation

especially highlighted conflicting viewpoints between family members. Maria, in

particular, used this strategy to express negative views about her she perceived

were held at times by several members of her family:

1. Husband about her intellect, (ID):

He will call me thick and he will call me and he calls me fat anyway
. (360).

2. Children about her changing behaviour once she started full time study, (DD):

I suspect the children would look at me and say mother behave yourself
[laugh]
(101).

3. Lack of support from her mother, (DD):

Your mother says you look awful you're letting yourself go


(512).

Using discourse representation not only highlighted these views as belonging to

other people, they also had the effect of making them seem more real. Using DD

especially helps to consolidate a claim by the reporter, that these words are what

others have really said. So, as a strategy, it can be used both to make a truth

claim, because of the widely accepted notion that DD is a verbatim report, and to

distance the reporter from the words she represents. Maria used this strategy very

effectively to convey aspects of her family's relationship to her and her studies, but

they are representations of her perceptions of those relationships, not an

unmediated description of the relationships themselves.

287
10.6.6. UNNAMED VOICES

The examples of hypothetical voices being attributed to the university in section

10.6.4.2. are one case in the interviews where the specific source of the voice was

unclear. There are several other cases where this occurred, which I discuss below.

10.6.6.1. People 'in general'

Most voices in the interviews were attributable to a specific speaker or institution,

either because they were named or because the speaker could be deduced from the

context. Those that were not I placed in the 'unnamed' category. This category

contained instances where a voice was attributed to people in general. For

example Anne represented what other people said about doing a degree:

Ann: The first question you tend to get out of [people] is what are you
doing that for . what are you going to be at the end of it
(Anne 1, 473-4).

This is an instance of what I have called 'choral voices' in chapter 9, section 9.3.3.

10.6.6.2. Hearsay

The use of the FDD mode of discourse representation, with its lack of reporting

clause, may not give the speaker at all, as in the example below:

Pam: I've heard these stories ooh crikey I know a load of divorces after
three you know after people have gone to university
(Pam, 266-7).

It was not the case that in all instances where FDD was used the source of the

voice was irretrievable. However, in this example, the lack of attribution to a

288
speaker gives a pervasive quality to what is presented as hearsay: it is a rumour

which cannot be traced to its source and therefore carries an expertise difficult to

refute.

10.6.6.3. Obfuscation of agency

Use of a pronoun instead of a noun for the anterior speaker sometimes made it

unclear who the agent actually was, for example:

Con: They've said there are one or two ikcturersl that are a bit fuddy
duddy
(Connie2, 67).

The use of a passive reporting verb also sometimes obfuscated what the source of

the voice actually was, for example:

Car: When I was told to do you know sort of do an essay


(Carol, 151).

Here, as in some other cases where the passive was used, a good guess at who the

agent was could be gleaned from the context - here it seemed to be Carol's tutors

at F.E. college. It is worth noting that within the selected discourse representation

used for most of this chapter, there were only 14 cases of passive reporting verbs.

They all referred to things the interviewee was told by educational institutions.

Carol, (in the example above), and Sharon referred, respectively, to academic and

administrative aspects of F.E. college; Sam and Sara, referred to school, (see

examples in section 10.6.4.3); Sharon, Anne and Maria referred to university, for
example:

Sha: You were.., told to go and stand in queues


(Sharon, 7).

289
Mia: I've been warned not to [ask questions] in lectures only do it in
seminars [laugh]
(Maria, 309-10).

Though these cases were infrequent, (14 out of 376 instances), they are suggestive

of certain powers the interviewees perceived impersonal educational institutions

had in relation to them.

10.7. CONCLUSION

In this chapter I have discussed in some detail the interviewees' use of discourse

representation, which I argued generated a range of perspectives on their initial

experience of university. I note that discourse representation, as a smaller sized

phenomenon than narratives, has involved some overlap with my discussions in

chapters 7 and 8. Narratives did, after all, often contain the representation of

discourse.

It is an interesting reflection on the interviewees' meaning making strategies that


in order to talk about an experience that was still very new to them, they drew so

extensively on how other voices represented it.

290
- CONCLUSION -

CHAPTER 11: REFLECTING ON APPROACH

FOLLOWED IN THESIS

11.1. INTRODUCTION

This study has been an exploration of meaning making in a group of research

interviews. In this concluding section I reflect on the usefulness for social

scientists of the approach to analysing my data which I have followed in this

thesis, (section 11.2.). I also comment briefly on methodological issues specific to

this study which I encountered during the research process, (section 11.3.).

11.2. REFLECTING ON USEFULNESS OF APPROACH FOR


SOCIAL SCIENTISTS

Unstructured research interviews such as mine are generally conducted in order to

gather material on interviewees' perspectives and experiences. However, the

approach I have taken in this thesis is to explore in some detail how the meanings
given by the interviewees' were discursively constructed.

11.2.1. WHAT INTERVIEWEES TALK ABOUT AND HOW

THEY DO SO

My original intention in analysing the material I collected in my research

interviews was to use it as background information on what the mature

291
undergraduate student interviewees said about their experience of starting at

university. This is a standard way in which research interviews are used in the

social sciences, and my 'content' analysis of chapter 6 was an analysis of this kind.

However, as I explained in chapter 2, my focus shifted to how these interviewees

constructed meanings in the particular context of my research interviews. The

other analyses in this thesis were devoted to this how of meaning making.

Fairclough's approach to the analysis of discourse enabled me to offer an analysis

not just of the ideational content of the meanings the interviewees generated, but

of the interview texts in some of their complex relations to social context(s).

I follow Mishler, who foregrounds interviewing as a form of discourse,

(1986:136), and suggest that to take account, as I have done, not only of what

interviewees say but how they do so enhances analyses of research interview data.

Since language is always produced and interpreted in social contexts, it is

important in using interviews as a research tool, to take account of their

discursively interactive nature and the effect of this on the meanings constructed

in them. The contribution of my study to social science research is that it has

illustrated some of the values of doing this.

In this thesis I explored two dimensions of the 'how' of meaning making in my

interviews: the influence on interviewee meaning making of the social context in

which those meanings were elicited - the interview event itself, (Part II); and the
realisation of meanings in particular discursive forms, (Part III). I discuss these
dimensions in the following two sections.

292
11.2.2. THE SOCIAL CONTEXT OF INTERVIEWEE MEANING
MAKING - THE INTERVIEW

I argue that to arrive at an understanding of the views and perspectives of

interviewees, it was necessary to take into account the interview context in which

those meanings were generated. In Part II of my thesis I focused on the effect on

meaning making of the complex power relations which obtained between myself

and the interviewees.

Among other things, this involved me in exploring the way I, as the interviewer,

elicited information from the interviewees. This does not accord with the

traditional positivist paradigm of social research in which good quality data is

considered to be that which is not 'contaminated' by observer effects. I instead

took the view that it was essential to be critically reflective about my own role in

the meaning making process:

"the subjectivity of the researcher should not be seen as a regrettable

disturbance but as one element in the human interactions that comprise our

object of study", (Cameron et al, 1992:5).

I suggest it impoverishes analyses to look only at interviewee responses. This is

because the way responses are elicited by an interviewer, along with other
conventions governing interviews, constrain how talk may occur in them. In my

own study I highlighted the effects on meaning making of the interview as a

discursive event. However, even in research where the ideational content of

interviewee responses is the priority, I suggest it is still important to take account

of the social context in which those responses are produced and interpreted.

293
11.2.3. THE DISCURSIVE PRACTICES INTERVIEWEES USE

FOR REPRESENTING INFORMATION/DATA

The other dimension of how meanings were constructed on which I focused in this

study was their discursive form. In Part III I explored the interviewees' frequent

use of two particular discursive practices - the representation of their experience

in narratives and through the use of the discourse of others. I suggest that to

explore how the interviewees used particular discursive forms to represent their

experience of starting at university opened more and different analytical

perspectives on the data than a focus on ideational content alone would have done.

For example, it was by looking at the narrative forms of interviewees' talk that I

was able to show how they represented their experience of starting at university in

relation to a dense network of other experiences in other times and other domains

of their lives. This gave a holistic perspective on the experience which was the

topic of the interviews, since it showed how the interviewees wove it into the

fabric of their lives. In addition, the ideational content of a few of these

narratives was much enriched by exploring the linguistic detail of their

construction, as I did in chapter 8.

Exploring the use interviewees made of represented discourse also offered an

enriched perspective on the interviewees responses. It showed not only that they

drew extensively on the views of others about their experience, but also showed

what sorts of relationship the interviewees had to the views they represented -

their own ambivalence, whose views they valued in helping them to understand

their experience of starting at university, and the extent to which they assimilated

those views in their own talk in the interviews.

294
These perspectives on the meanings made in interviews are of value to social

scientists because they show the kind of enriched analysis that can be undertaken

when the discursive practices interviewees commonly employ in their responses

are taken account of.

11.3. REFLECTING ON THE RESEARCH PROCESS

In this section I briefly reflect on the process of doing this particular piece of

research. First I note the inevitable problem of integrating earlier and later

analyses in a project undertaken over three years. Every trawl thorough the data to

analyse one phenomenon acquainted me better with the data set. Every analysis I

undertook acquainted me better with the range of analytical tools at my disposal.

This meant that by the end of the research process I had more objectivity about

what I did near the beginning than I had about what I did near the end. I note two

effects of this. One is a certain unevenness in the written thesis. The other is that

by the time I got to the redrafting stage, hindsight and greater experience meant

my perspective on my own analyses had changed. For example, I might have


coded certain borderline instances of a phenomenon differently.

Another feature of the process of doing this particular piece of research was

dealing with the consequences of the shift I have described in my research focus.

For my original purpose of gathering 'content data' about the interviewees'

perceptions of university, the sixteen interviews seemed a reasonably sized data

set. However, as my focus shifted onto how those views were actually

discursively realised in the interviews themselves, my perception of the data set

changed to seeing it as 87,500 words of text - a much larger data set.

295
I dealt with analysing this large data set in two ways. Firstly, I imported a lot of

extracts from the interview transcripts into the thesis. I did this for several

reasons. One of these was that, as I have explained, I decided not to append the

transcripts to the thesis. So I wanted to include enough extracts from the

interviews to give a flavour of the interviewees talk as the talk of real people. I

also wanted to include many extracts because each phenomenon was widely

present in the data and I wished to illustrate and discuss the range of its

manifestations. However, there was the need to balance having many extracts

with the need to select few enough to undertake sufficient critical commentary of

them. In addition it was the case that any stretch of interview data might realise

more than one phenomenon, which is why some extracts were used in more than

one context in the thesis.

The second way in which I dealt with the large data set was to adopt a 'broad'

rather than 'in-depth' approach to analysis. I decided I was more interested in

looking at a range of phenomena than in exploring how one or two phenomena

were realised in these interviews. There was a tension throughout the project as a

result of this. On the one hand, my exploration of each phenomenon convinced

me that they all could have been analysed in much more depth, which trying to

cover a range of phenomena prevented me from doing. For example, it was not

possible to do a clause level analysis of personal experience narratives throughout

the data set and still hope to keep the analysis of narratives as only one part of the

thesis. There were also a great many interesting examples of each phenomenon

which space constraints prevented me from discussing. A cross-sectional approach

also meant there was a loss of focus on how individual interviewees used the
meaning making practices I explored, and a loss of the coherence they established

during their interviews. On the other hand, a broad and cross-sectional approach

enabled me to give a more holistic account of the discursive meaning making

practices in the interviews, and I was able to present an in-depth analysis of at

296
least part of one interview in chapter 8, where I explored how Connnie constructed

meanings about her university experience).

11.4. CODA

I wrote my first 'book' when I was 9 years old, The Story Of A Horse, three

chapters and three pages, with illustrations by the author. I hope this thesis will

not be my last. From the almost-finished point I have now reached, I feel that I

have written a careful and detailed, (though selective), reflection on a social

practice social scientists frequently engage in. My limited claim for it is that it

does indeed expose some of the complexity of the discursive meaning making

practices in the interviews I conducted, and that these findings are of interest more

generally to social scientists because of the common use of research interviews for

collecting data. I think that the constraints of researching and writing for

examination purposes have made this thesis a somewhat cautious piece, subdued

in the articulation of creativity and ideas. My hope is that my researching and

writing hereafter will be as careful and reflective, but more buoyant and

exuberant; that it will bear more clearly the marks of the passion I have always

had for studying and experimenting with language.

297
BIBLIOGRAPHY

AGAR, M. 1985. Institutional Discourse. Text 5. 3.

ATKINSON, J.M. and HERITAGE, J. (eds.) 1984 Structures of Social Action.


Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

BAKHTIN, M. 1986 The Problem of Speech Genres. In Emerson, C. and


Holquist, M. (eds.) Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. Austin: University of
Texas Press.

BAUMAN, R. 1986 Narrative, Performance and Event. Cambridge: Cambridge


Univeristy Press.

BERGER, C. R. and BRADAC, J. J. 1982 Language and Social Knowledge.


London: Edward Arnold.

BRIGGS, C. L. 1986 Learning How To Ask. Cambridge: Cambridge University


Press.

BRITISH ASSOCIATION OF APPLIED LINGUISTICS 1994 Draft


Recommendations on Good Practice in Applied Linguistics.

BUBLITZ, W. 1990 Discourse analysis: the state of the art. In Uhlig, C. and
Zimmermann, R., (eds.) Anglistentag Marburg (pp. 259-284).

CAMERON, D., FRAZER, E., HARVEY, P., RAMPTON, M. B. H. and


RICHARDSON, K. 1992 Researching Language. London: Routledge.

CONNELLY, F. M. and CLANDININ, D. J. 1990 Narratives of Experience and


Narrative Enquiry. Educational Researcher. 19. 5. (pp. 2-14).

COULMAS, F. 1986 Reported speech: some general issues. In Coulmas, F. (ed.)


Direct and Indirect Speech. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter & Co.

COZBY, P. C. 1973 Self-disclosure: a Literature Review. Psychological Bulletin.


79. 2. (pp 73-91).

DOWNING, A. and LOCKE, P. 1992 A University Course in English Grammar.


New York: Prentice Hall.

FAIRCLOUGH, N. 1988 Discourse Representation in Media Discourse. In


Sociolinguistics 17. (pp. 125-39).

FAIRCLOUGH, N. 1989 Language and Power. Harlow, Essex: Longman.

FAIRCLOUGH, N. 1992 Discourse and Social Change. Cambridge: Polity Press.

298
FAIRCLOUGH, N. 1993 Critical Discourse analysis and the marketization of
public discourse: the universities. Discourse and Society 4. 2. (pp. 133-168).

FAIRCLOUGH, N. 1994 The Conversationalisation of public discourse and the


authority of the consumer. In Keat, R., Whiteley, N. and Abercrombie, N. (eds.)
The Authority of the Consumer. London: Routledge.

GOETZ, J. P. and LeCOMPTE, M. D. 1984 Ethnography and Qualitative Design


in Educational Research. New York: Aldine.

HALLIDAY, M. A. K. 1985 An Introduction to Functional Grammar. London:


Edward Arnold.

HALLIDAY, M A K, 1989 Spoken and Written Language. (2nd ed.) Oxford:


Oxford University Press.

HALLIDAY, M. A. K. and HASAN, R. 1985 Language, Context, and Text:


aspects of language in a social semiotic perspective. Oxford: Oxford University
Press.

HERITAGE, J. C. and WATSON, D. R. 1979 Formulations as Conversational


Objects. In Psathas, G. (ed.) Everyday Language. New York: Irvington Publishers.

HODGE, R. and KRESS, G.. 1988 Social Semiotics. Cambridge, Polity.

HODGE, R. and KRESS, G. 1993 Language as Ideology. (2nd ed.) London:


Routledge.

HOLTGRAVES, T. 1990 The Languge of Self-disclosure. In Giles, H. and


Robinson, W. P. (eds.) Handbook of Language and Social Psychology.
Chichester: John Wiley and Sons.

HOMAN, R. 1991 The Ethics of Social Research. London: Longman.


IVANIC, R. and SIMPSON, J. 1992 Who's who in academic writing? In
Fairclough, N. (ed.) Critical Language Awareness. London: Longman.

KRESS, G. and HODGE, R. 1979 Interviews. In Fowler, R., Hodge, R., Kress, G.
R. and Trew, A. Language and Control. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

KRISTEVA, J. 1986 In Moi, T. (ed.) The Kristeva Reader. Oxford: Basil


Blackwell.

LABOV, W. 1972. Language in the Inner City. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

LANCASTER UNIVERSITY 1992 Rules of The University.

LANCASTER UNIVERSITY Theatre Studies Course Booklet.

LEECH, G.N. and SHORT, M.H. 1981 Style in Fiction. London: Longman.

299
LUDWIG, D., FRANCO, J. N., and MALLOY, T. E. 1988 Effects of Reciprocity
and Self-Monitoring on Self-Disclosure with a new acquaintace. In Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology. 50. 6. (pp. 1077-1082).

McHALE, B. 1978 Free indirect discourse: a survey of recent accounts. In


Poetics and the Theory of Literature 3. (pp. 235-87).

MISHLER, E. 1986 Research Interviewing. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard


University Press.

OAKLEY, A. 1981 Interviewing Women, in Roberts, H. (ed.) Doing Feminist


Research. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

OCHS, E. 1979 Transcription as theory. In Ochs, E. and Schieffelin, B. (eds.)


Developmental Pragmatics. New York: Academic Press.

POLANYI, L. 1985 Telling the American Story. New Jersey: Ablex Publishers
Corporation.

ROBSON, C. 1993 Real World Research. Oxford: Blackwell.

ROGERS, C. R. 1961 On Becoming a Person. London: Constable.

SCHATZMAN, L. and STRAUSS, A. 1973 Field Research. Englewood Cliffs,


N.J.: Prentice Hall.

SILVERMAN, D. 1993 Interpreting Qualitative Data. London: Sage.

SLEMBROUCK, S. 1992a The study of language use in its social context:


pragmatics and the representation of parliamentary debates in newspaper
discourse. Unpublished PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

SLEMBROUCK, S. 1992b The Parliamentary Hansard 'verbatim' report: the


written construction of spoken discourse. In Languge and Literature. 1. 2. (pp.
101-19).

TANNEN, D. 1989 Talking Voices. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

THOMPSON, J. B. 1984 Studies in the Theory of Ideology. Cambridge: Polity


Press.

TOOLAN, M. J. 1988 Narrative - A Critical Linguistic Introduction. London:


Routledge.

VOLOSHINOV, V.N. 1973 Marxism and the Philosophy of Language. New


York: Seminar Press.

WATERS, M. 1994 Modern Sociological Theory. London: Sage.

300
APPENDIX 1

LETTER A: 4 September 1992

Dear

As a mature student, would you be interested in talking to me about your


experience of starting a degree at Lancaster University this Autumn?

I am a mature student myself, now doing a PhD in the Department of Linguistics


and Modern English Language. I am interested in the way mature students see,
(and talk about), their experience in higher education, and how it might affect their
sense of identity. I hope the results of my research will be of use to future
generations of mature students.

If you would be willing to talk to me, I can be contacted in the following ways to
arrange a place to meet. You can write to me at the Department of Linguistics,
(giving a telephone number so I can contact you quickly), or you can telephone
me at home, (Tel: xxxx). If possible, and if you live near enough, I would like to
meet you before Intro Week, (28 Sept-2 Oct), to talk about your initial
impressions of being a student. The meetings will be informal, no longer than an
hour, and at times to suit you. I will be restricting my study to full-time, British
students, over the age of twenty five.

If you are interested, please let me know within a week of receiving this letter. I
wish you anyway the best of luck as you begin your degree.

Kathy Doncaster

301
LETTER B: 15 November 1992

Dear

I hope your first term at Lancaster University has been going well. I am writing to
see if you would be interested in meeting near the end of term to talk about how
you have found university life so far. You may remember that we discussed this
as a possibility in September. I am sure a lot has happened since then! I am
particularly interested in your views on seminars, lectures and essays, as these are
situations which may influence students' perceptions of themselves, and in which
they have to engage very specifically with academic language. And these are my
main research interests.

If you would be willing to talk to me again, or would like some more information,
I can be contacted at home, (Tel: xvoc ), or via the internal mail, (Linguistics
Department). If you leave a message on my ansaphone or in the Linguistics
Department, please could you give a telephone number so I can contact you
directly - otherwise we'll never be able to set up a time to meet!

Best wishes

Kathy Doncaster

302
LETTER C: 16 April 1993

Dear

It has been sometime since you were kind enough to talk to me about your
expectations and experiences of being at the university. I have collected quite a
lot of information from mature students, and am now deciding what parts of it to
use for my PhD thesis, and for any articles or papers I may write as a result of my
research.

I will probably not contact you again, (though you are welcome to contact me if
you want), and we may therefore lose touch. I don't yet know whether I will use
the material you gave me, but I am writing to you now to check out the following:
if I do use it, are you willing to trust me to treat it in ways that respect your
privacy? I would refer to you via a pseudonym in my work, and get in touch with
you if I had any specific doubts about confidentiality, or about how to protect your
anonymity. To be able to do that, I want to make sure I have an address where I
can reach you.

So, if your address below is incorrect, or if you want to discuss this further, please
get in touch with me by 30 April, (Friday, week 2). I can be contacted at home,
(Tel: xxxx), or via the internal mail, (Linguistics Department).

If I do not hear from you I shall assume you are satisfied with the plan I have
outlined.

I hope all is going well in your studies, and I wish you the best of luck in this new
term, and in your exams.

Kathy Doncaster

ADDRESS AT WHICH I CAN CONTACT YOU:

303
APPENDIX 2

INTERVIEW THEMES 1 TO 6 AND ASSOCIATED PROMPTS

1. General:
What made you respond to my letter?
How do you feel about starting your degree?

2. Life history: reasons for doing a degree


Why do a degree at this point in your life?
What is important to you about doing this particular degree?
Do you have personal fulfilment / career reasons for doing a degree?

3. Identity change: the possibilities of changes in interviewees' sense of self


as a result of doing a degree
Have you had to make significant changes in your life to do this degree?
Do you think doing this degree will change you?
What do you hope to gain from doing a degree?

4. Power relations/student identity: interviewees' perceptions of their


relationship to other members of the academic community
Will you think of yourself as a student?
How do you think you will get on with staff...with younger students?

5. Social construction of university: perceptions of the university


What are your impressions of the university thus far?
Is there anything you are particularly looking forward to or feel apprehensive
about?
Do you have any thoughts about university 'jargon'/specialised language?

6. Other:
Is there anything else that interests you about doing a degree that you would like
to mention?

304