3.1.2 The Basic Procedure Is in 10 Steps

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(1) Agree a topic with your respondent and write it onto the sheet.

(2) Agree a set of elements, and write these along the diagonals at the top of

the grid sheet.

(3) Explain that you wish to find out how s/he thinks about the elements,

and that you’ll do this by asking him or her to compare them

systematically.

(4) Taking three elements (numbers 1, 3, and 5), ask your respondent,

‘Which two of these are the same in some way, and different from the

third?’ Provide assurance that you’re not looking for a ‘correct’ answer,

just how s/he sees the elements.

(5) Ask your respondent why: ‘What do the two have in common, as

opposed to the third?’ Write down the thing the two have in common, in

the first row on the left side of the grid sheet; and the converse of this (the

reason the third element is different) in the same row on the right of the

grid sheet, making sure that you’ve obtained a truly bipolar expression – a

pair of words or phrases which express a contrast. This is the person’s

construct.

(6) Check that you understand what contrast is being expressed; use the

interviewee’s words as much as possible, but do feel free to discuss what

s/he means, and to negotiate a form of words that makes sense to you

both.

(7) Present the construct as a rating scale, with the phrase on the left standing

for the ‘1’ end of the scale, and the phrase on the right standing for the ‘5’

Figure 3.1 A basic grid sheet

end of the scale. A form of words like this: ‘Now, the words I’ve written

down on the left: imagine they define the ‘‘1’’ end of a 5-point scale.

And that the words I’ve written down on the right define the ‘‘5’’

end of a 5-point scale.’

(8) Ask your respondent to rate each of the three elements on this scale,

writing the ratings into the grid as s/he states them: ‘I’d like you to rate

each of the three elements on this scale; give each of them one of the

numbers, 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5, to say which end of the scale they’re nearest to’,

or words to that effect. Occasionally, check that the directionality of the

scaling is preserved, that is, that your respondent shouldn’t be using a ‘1’

when s/he is offering a ‘5’ and vice versa.

(9) Now ask the respondent to rate each of the remaining elements on this

construct. S/he’s only rated three elements so far; now to complete

rating the rest.

(10) Your task is to elicit as many different constructs as the person might

hold about the topic. So, repeat steps 4 to 8, asking for a fresh construct

each time, until your respondent can’t offer any new ones; use a

different triad of three elements each time: numbers 2, 4, and 6; then 1, 2,

and 10, and so on. Aim to obtain 8 to 12 constructs in all.

You’ll need to practise this procedure before progressing through this book.

Skim-read the rest of this chapter if you like, but as soon as you can:

Please carry out Exercise 3.1 before reading the

next section in detail.

‘Is that it, then? Er . . . a bit of a rigmarole to end up with these constructs and

numbers? A whole book about this?’ Yes and no! The value of a grid lies in

two things:

(a) Getting an accurate picture of the way in which the other person sees the

world (or part of it at least). Accuracy demands that you go about things in

a particular way, but, to be sure, there’s nothing especially difficult about

doing it.

(b) The description and analysis of the particular topic being dealt with. Some

subject matter is fascinating in its own right: imagine doing a grid on ‘my

policies’ with the prime minister. And some subject matter depends on its

context: the duke of Windsor, or Wallis Simpson, just before and just after

the duke’s abdication.

Like any other interview technique, in other words, its use has to be designed

in accordance with the purpose of your investigation. The technique, in itself,

is straightforward enough.