Elites and experts as subjects of qualitative research: challenges in design, execution and analysis


The course is open for PhD candidates in the social sciences, such as criminology, sociology, psychology, political sciences and law. PhD students from other universities are also invited. 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, in collaboration with colleagues of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, the University of Porto and Liverpool John Moores University, will offer a three-day methodological course on qualitative research involving elites and experts (with a particular focus on open-ended, narrative or ethnographic interviews; hereafter: ‘expert interviews’).

Main organizers:


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 2 weeks prior to the course: at the latest on May 15th 2017. The participants should hand in their paper, by sending it to

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 biases while analyzing data and reporting
- Feedback and communicating the results to respondents


- Encouraging researchers to use expert interviews in their research by highlighting the added-value of such type of interviews;
- Offering tools to researchers to guide them in designing, carrying out and analyzing expert interviews;
- Offering ‘good’ and ‘bad’ practices from multiple disciplines to encourage critical assessment of own work;
- Mentoring students in their methodological work.

Dates and Programme

  • Tuesday 30 May 2017 from 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
    9h30-11h45 LECTURES
    11h45-12h00 QUESTIONS & DISCUSSION
    12h-13h LUNCH
    13h-14h30 LECTURES
    14h30-16h30 EXERCISES
    • Wednesday 31 May 2017 from 09h30-16h30
      Conducting expert interviews
      Ethics, impression management, researcher’s self-positioning, ‘keeping up’, maintaining control over the interview, talking about sensitive issues
      9h30-12h LECTURES 
      12h15-13h00 LUNCH
      13h-16h30 EXERCISES
    • Thursday 1 June 2017 from 09h30-12h30
      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


      Ghent University; Faculty of Law, Department of Criminology, Criminal Law & Social Law; Auditorium G (3rd floor), Universiteitstraat 4, 9000 Gent


      Dr. Yarin Eski is a senior lecturer in Policing Studies at Liverpool John Moores University. 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.

      Dr. Rita Faria is currently lecturer 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 scientific misconduct. During her research, she has had the opportunity to interview scholars, and law enforcement actors on several topics, She has published in international journals, and co-authored a chapter in the Routledge Handbook of White Collar and Corporate Crime in Europe. In 2014, she was awarded for “Creative and critical use of theory for understanding research behavior”, at the Doctoral Forum of the 4th World Conference on Research Integrity.

      Dr. Olga Petintseva is a lecturer at the Department of Criminology, Criminal Law and Social Law at Ghent University, Belgium. Her research is located at the intersection of criminology, migration studies and linguistics. Olga’s doctoral research project focused on the ‘new’ migration – youth justice nexus, approached through a discursive lens. 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. Some of Olga’s publications look into broader issues, such as migration and crime on the one hand and youth justice on the other. She is involved in different scholarly networks and courses concerning (qualitative) research design and methods, theoretical criminology, critical, cultural and narrative criminology.

      Dr. Julie Tieberghien is currently a post-doctoral fellow of FWO at the Department of Criminology, Criminal Law & Social Law (Ghent University, Faculty of Law). She has been active in the area of social drug research and drug policy analysis and has been a frequent contributor to international journals as well as to international scientific conferences. Dr. Tieberghien works in the area of public criminology, the evidence-based policy debate and its critiques, and the intersection between science and policy with particular focus on the drug policy domain.

      Prof. Dr. Leo Van Audenhove is professor at the Department of Communication Studies at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. He teaches courses on international communication, new media and society, comparative communication research and control, censorship and governance of the internet. Since 2013 he is extra-ordinary professor at the CoLab for e-Inclusion and Social Innovation at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa. He is the director of the Knowledge Centre for Media Literacy, an independent government funded organization that gathers knowledge on and implements projects in relation to media literacy in Flanders. He is senior researcher at imec-SMIT (Studies on Media, Innovation and Technology) of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

      Registration fee

      Free of charge for members of the Ghent University Doctoral Schools


      By sending an e-mail to

      Number of participants

      Maximum 14

      Evaluation criteria (doctoral training programme)

      100% active participation in all sessions