Co-interviewing across gender and culture: expanding qualitative research methods in Melanesia

Redman-MacLaren, Michelle, Api, Unia K., Darius, Matupit, Tommbe, Rachael, Mafile'o, Tracie A., and MacLaren, David J. (2014) Co-interviewing across gender and culture: expanding qualitative research methods in Melanesia. BMC Public Health, 14. 922. pp. 1-7.

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Background: The social and cultural positions of both researchers and research participants influence qualitative methods and study findings. In Papua New Guinea (PNG), as in other contexts, gender is a key organising characteristic and needs to be central to the design and conduct of research. The colonial history between researcher and participant is also critical to understanding potential power differences. This is particularly relevant to public health research, much of which has emerged from a positivist paradigm. This paper describes our critical reflection of flexible researcher responses enacted during qualitative research in PNG.

Methods: Led by a senior male HIV researcher from PNG, a male from a PNG university and a female from an Australian university conducted qualitative interviews about faith-based responses to HIV in PNG. The two researchers planned to conduct one-on-one interviews matching gender of participants and interviewer. However, while conducting the study, four participants explicitly requested to be interviewed by both researchers. This experience led us to critically consider socially and culturally situated ways of understanding semi-structured interviewing for public health research in Melanesia.

Results: New understandings about public health research include: (i) a challenge to the convention that the researcher holds more power than the research participant, (ii) the importance of audience in Melanesia, (iii) cultural safety can be provided when two people co-interview and (iv) the effect an esteemed leader heading the research may have on people's willingness to participate. Researchers who occupy insider-outsider roles in PNG may provide participants new possibilities to communicate key ideas.

Conclusions: Our recent experience has taught us public health research methods that are gender sensitive and culturally situated are pivotal to successful research in Melanesia. Qualitative research requires adaptability and reflexivity. Public health research methods must continue to expand to reflect the diverse worldviews of research participants. Researchers need to remain open to new possibilities for learning.

Item ID: 35890
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1471-2458
Keywords: co-interviewing; qualitative research; public health research; culture; gender; power; Papua New Guinea; Melanesia
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© 2014 Redman-MacLaren et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

Funders: National AIDS Council Secretariat of Papua New Guinea, Pacific Adventist University, Papua New Guinea, James Cook University (JCU)
Date Deposited: 22 Oct 2014 05:21
FoR Codes: 11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1117 Public Health and Health Services > 111715 Pacific Peoples Health @ 100%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9204 Public Health (excl. Specific Population Health) > 920499 Public Health (excl. Specific Population Health) not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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