Elites and experts as subjects of qualitative research: challenges in design, execution and analysis (3rd edition 2019)


The course is open for PhD candidates in the social sciences, such as criminology, sociology, psychology, pedagogical sciences, history, linguistics, political sciences and law. Evidently, PhD students in other disciplines who are interested in this course are warmly invited. The course is therefore not restricted to members of the Doctoral School Arts, Humanities and Law of Ghent University; members of the Doctoral Schools Social and Behavioural Sciences are also expected to benefit from this course and are therefore encouraged to participate. PhD students from other universities are also invited (fees are determined by the Doctoral School of Arts, Humanities and Law). The course offers the opportunity to meet other researchers who are using expert interviews, both from other disciplines and universities.
The course will be mainly useful for researchers who are in the process of designing or conducting expert interviews, but also the matters of analysis and reporting will be addressed, and might as such be of relevance for PhD candidates who have finalized their data collection and analysis.

Organising Committee

The Doctoral School of Arts, Humanities and Law (AHL) of Ghent University - Dr. Olga Petintseva (Department of Criminology, Criminal law & Social law) -


This is a 3-day course, in which both theoretical and practical (interactive) sessions will take place. These sessions will introduce participants to the major advantages and pitfalls of interviewing elites and experts. Additionally, practical guidelines will be provided: e.g. How to gain access to experts? How to prepare and conduct expert interviews?

The following topics will be covered during the course:

  • Introduction to qualitative methods and place of expert interviews
  • Definitions of elites and experts
  • Expert interview format and design
  • Gaining and maintaining access
  • Ethics in expert interviews: recording, confidentiality, anonymity, etc.
  • Impression management
  • Researcher’s self-positioning during the interview
  • ‘Keeping up’ with the expert
  • Discussing sensitive issues
  • Maintaining control over the interview
  • Power relations between researcher and research subjects
  • Reliability and validity of expert interviews
  • Avoiding bias while analyzing data and reporting
  • Feedback and communicating the results to respondents

Each day, the lecturers will distribute and discuss theoretical material on the different aspects of expert interviews (reader and slides). In the lectures, they will provide numerous examples from their own empirical experiences, which will allow the participants to envisage how often vague and abstract notions that recur in methodological textbooks on qualitative methods translate into practice.
During the second half of each day, the participants will have space for hands-on exercises, presentations and discussion with regard to their own research (every day several papers of the participating researchers will be presented and discussed in group). At the end of each day of the course, there is time for general questions that have arisen during the lectures, exercises and presentations.


Participants are required to write a short paper (2-3 pages) in which they explain the design of their research, focusing on the aims and goals of the study. It should also include information about which type of experts they have included or wish to include in their research and which challenges they have encountered or expect to encounter in doing so (please refer to the topics that will be covered during the course, as listed above). They are also encouraged to include specific questions they would like to discuss during the course. Please make sure that you clearly indicate in which stage of research you find yourself (design, data collection and analysis or writing up). The paper should be submitted prior to the course, at the latest on June 15th 2018. The participants should hand in their paper, by emailing it to
The PhD candidate will receive personal feedback from the lecturers and other participants.

Dates and Programme

Date Time Subject Lecturers
Wednesday July 3, 2019 09h30-16h30 Choosing to interview experts and designing such a research
Introduction to qualitative methods and expert interviews, definitions of experts and elites, format and design of the interviews, access
9h30-12h00 Lectures Dr. Olga Petintseva
Prof. Dr. Leo Van Audenhove
12h00-13h00 Lunch
13h00-16h00 Exercises and presentations All lecturers
16h00-17h00 Discussion

Dr. Yarin Eski
Prof. Dr. Leo Van Audenhove

Thursday July 4, 2019 09h30-16h30 Conducting expert interviews
Ethics, impression management, researcher’s self-positioning, ‘keeping up’, maintaining control over the interview, talking about sensitive issues
9h30-12h00 Lectures

Dr. Yarin Eski
Dr. Rita Faria

12h00-13h00 Lunch
13h00-16h00 Exercises and presentations Dr. Rita Faria
Dr. Yarin Eski

Dr. Olga Petintseva
16h00-16h30 Discussion Dr. Yarin Eski
Dr. Rita Faria
Friday July 5, 2019 09h30-13h30 Critically analysing and reporting research findings
Power relations, reliability and validity of expert interviews, avoiding biases while analyzing data and reporting, communicating the results to respondents
9h30-11h00 Lectures Dr. Rita Faria
Dr. Olga Petintseva
11h00-12h30 Exercises and presentations All lecturers
12h30-13h00 Discussion and evaluation Dr. Olga Petintseva
Dr. Yarin Eski
Dr. Rita Faria
Prof. Dr. Leo Van Audenhove



Ghent University; Faculty of Law, Department of Criminology, Criminal Law & Social Law; Auditorium F zijn, Universiteitstraat 6, (2nd fl.) 


  • Dr. Olga Petintseva  is a postdoctoral research fellow (Research Foundation Flanders)  at the Department of Criminology, Criminal Law and Social Law (Ghent University) and at the Department of Criminology (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), Belgium. Her research is located at the intersection of criminology, migration studies and socio-linguistics. Olga’s doctoral research project focused on the ‘new’ migration – youth justice nexus, approached through a discursive lens (resulting in the book Youth Justice and Migration: Discursive Harms; published by Palgrave). During this research, she has conducted in-depth interviews with youth judges, prosecutors, social services, intercultural mediators and professionals involved in the execution of decisions taken by juvenile courts. Her current project (funded by FWO) involves ‘active’ ethnography and participatory action research in institutional settings. Olga is involved in different scholarly networks and courses concerning (qualitative) research design and methods, theoretical criminology, critical, cultural and narrative criminology. Olga is one of the chairs of the Working Group on Qualitative Methodologies and Epistemologies at the European Society of Criminology and of the Consortium for Criminological Research on the Powerful.
  • Dr. Yarin Eski  is assistant professor at VU Amsterdam. His research is aimed at ethnographic understanding of security and securitisation, in particular within the maritime domain. He is interested in understanding the social realities of those made responsible for maritime policing and security. Next to that, his research interests cover the topics of (preventing) transnational crime, specifically the arms trade; state-corporate crime; war (crimes); crimes against humanity; and genocide. He has a keen theoretical interest in ideas revolved around 'othering', (Nietzschean) existentialism and phenomenology. Yarin is one of the chairs of the Working Group on Qualitative Methodologies and Epistemologies at the European Society of Criminology and of the Consortium for Criminological Research on the Powerful.
  • Dr. Rita Faria is currently Assistant Professor at the School of Criminology of the Faculty of Law – University of Porto (Portugal). She has been researching elite crime and white-collar crime, with a special focus on research misconduct. During her research, she has had the opportunity to interview scholars, as well as law enforcement actors on several topics, and now has been supervising dissertations in Criminology and Law using qualitative methodologies. She has published in international journals, and co-authored a chapter in the Routledge Handbook of White-Collar and Corporate Crime in Europe. In 2018, she published the book “Research Misconduct as white-collar crime. A Criminological approach”. Rita is one of the chairs of the Working Group on Qualitative Methodologies and Epistemologies at the European Society of Criminology and of the Consortium for Criminological Research on the Powerful.
  • Prof. dr. Leo Van Audenhove  is a professor and head of department at the Department of Communication Studies of Vrije Universiteit Brussel. He is a researcher at iMEC-SMIT – Studies on Media, Innovation and Technology at the same university. He is extra-ordinary professor at the University of the Western Cape. In 2013, he was instrumental in setting up the Knowledge Centre for Media Literacy in Flanders, of which he subsequently became the director. The centre was established by government as an independent centre to promote media literacy in Flanders. His research focuses on Internet governance, media literacy, e-inclusion and ICT4D.

Registration fee

Free of charge for members of the Ghent University Doctoral Schools


Number of participants

Maximum 14

Evaluation criteria (doctoral training programme)

100% attendance and active participation during the course