Presidents, provosts, deans, and other upper-level administrators in higher education fit common definitions of “elites” in the context of qualitative research. Scholarship on methods specific to the field of higher education has not identified or described the unique challenges of interviewing these and other elites. The purpose of this paper is to examine challenges and share strategies for elite interviewing, with specific application to qualitative research in the field of higher education. We provide three examples of empirical studies involving elite interviewing and, using literature from other fields, highlight challenges and strategies. By anticipating challenges and implementing these strategies, researchers can enhance the data collection experience and quality of data.


elite interviewing, power, case study, interviewing strategies, higher education

Author Bio(s)

Kevin R. McClure is an Associate Professor of Higher Education, University of North Carolina Wilmington, 601 S. College Rd., Wilmington, NC 28403. Website with Additional Bio Information: http://people.uncw.edu/mcclurek/. Please direct correspondence to mcclurek@uncw.edu.

Jon McNaughtan is an Assistant Professor of Higher Education, Texas Tech University, 2500 Broadway, Lubbock TX 79409. Website with additional Bio information: https://www.depts.ttu.edu/education/our-people/Faculty/jon_mcnaughtan.php. Please direct correspondence to jon.mcnaughtan@ttu.edu.


We are grateful to Dr. Cecilia Orphan for here excellent feedback on the initial version of this paper.

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





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