The purpose of this paper is to discuss several cultural and psychological aspects that the author experienced in the interview fieldwork with Vietnamese and the strategies to deal with these methodological issues. It aims to assist non-Vietnamese researchers planning their qualitative fieldwork with Vietnamese participants.
The results are drawn from using an autoethnographic approach, in which the author presents and analyses the experiences of conducting individual semi-structured interviews with 15 Vietnamese college teachers in the PhD qualitative study on the Vietnamese concept of face – thê diên.
The author argues that in interviews with Vietnamese participants, an interviewer should be mindful of the interviewees’ unfamiliarity with the ethics approval procedure, their reliance on relationship and trust, their self-face concern and low level of elaboration. It is important that the interviewer be seen as an “insider” by the Vietnamese interviewees, not an “objective” outsider researcher. In addition, an interviewer needs to be sensitive to detect any subtle cues that may emerge, and be flexible enough to adjust the interview questions if necessary and employ suitable techniques to adapt to these changes.
The findings were limited to the scope of experiences within a PhD study with a small group of college teachers. Experiences with larger groups of Vietnamese participants from diverse backgrounds may be needed to confirm the findings of this paper.
This paper addresses the gap in the discussion of conducting qualitative research with the Vietnamese. It also discusses several issues that have not been discussed before, such as the Vietnamese unfamiliarity with the paperwork required for ethics approval and their face concerns in interviews.
The author would like to thank the reviewers for their constructive feedbacks and Dr Keith Simkin (La Trobe University) for his valuable comments and his help in proofreading this paper.
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