Book marks new era in study of ‘the whole human being’

Published 02 May 2008

booklaunch.jpgProfessor Warwick Anderson, Chief Executive Officer of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), speaking at the University of New England last week, said that medical research in the 21st century was widening its focus from “the human genome” to “the whole human being”.

Professor Anderson was launching the third edition of a book – In-depth Interviewing (Pearson Prentice Hall, Sydney, 2008) – that has laid some of the foundations for this development. The book explains how researchers and practitioners in many fields can use techniques of “in-depth interviewing” to gain insight into “the whole human being”.

The authors – Victor Minichiello, Rosalie Aroni and Terrence Hays – say in their Preface that the book “provides a detailed discussion of the use of in-depth interviewing as a research tool for collecting data to better understand people”. They explain that the method “attempts to capture people’s meanings, definitions and descriptions of events” rather than provide information that can be quantified numerically.

Professor Anderson, a UNE graduate in physiology, observed that the latest methods of qualitative research, such as in-depth interviewing, were just as sophisticated, in their own way, as the latest “big machines” used in quantitative research. He said the book was relevant to a wide range of research areas in the social sciences and health sciences.

The Vice-Chancellor of UNE, Professor Alan Pettigrew, who shares Professor Anderson’s background in physiological research and was his predecessor as Chief Executive Officer of the NHMRC, said the book represented “the other side of medical research” – a research perspective that was “important to furthering the prospects of the human race”.

All three of the authors were present, and responded to Professor Anderson’s appreciation of the book. Professor Victor Minichiello, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of UNE’s Faculty of The Professions, explained that, while he and Dr Aroni (from Monash University) had been co-authors of all three editions (1990, 1995 and 2008), Dr Hays, a UNE Senior Lecturer in Music Education, had joined them for the third edition. This edition, he said, benefited from the “scholarly interaction of 18 years” between him and Dr Aroni, and a fresh “education perspective” contributed by Dr Hays.

In-depth Interviewing was the first Australian textbook on qualitative research methods,” Professor Minichiello said. “Qualitative research has become increasingly popular in both health and social science research, allowing researchers to investigate how patients – for example – experience health care and their interactions with health professionals. Since the publication of its first edition in 1990, In-depth Interviewing has played a key role in training health and social science researchers in Australia.”

THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here shows Professor Warwick Anderson (left) and Professor Victor Minichiello at the book launch. It expands to include Dr Rosalie Aroni and Dr Terrence Hays.