Interview method


To cite or reference this content, please use the following reference:

Haake, A. B. (2010). Music listening in offices: Balancing internal needs and external considerations (Doctoral thesis, University of Sheffield, Sheffield) accessed from


The interview study was designed to explore issues that had emerged both in the survey study and during the design and pilot phase of the field study. The main aims were to explore experiences of music listening in offices and their contextual influences in more depth, to understand how the social and physical surroundings influenced listening patterns and experiences.

In order to obtain rich exploratory data on the issues identified in previous studies, qualitative methods were chosen as the most suitable for the research aims. Qualitative methods have also been rarer in the study of music at work and this study aimed to redress the balance.

As with the two previous studies, it was important that listeners were conceptualised as active and music was understood as a resource. This was achieved by trying as much as possible to treat participants as collaborators and knowing subjects who could inform me about their experiences in a meaningful way.

Semi-structured interview schedules were designed, in order to maintain a balance between exploring specific questions and retaining sufficient flexibility to allow new themes to emerge. In order to explore complexities in employees’ uses of music in offices, participants were interviewed in their offices. It was hoped that being in the physical context of their listening would both stimulate their own memories and experiences, and provide me with images and perceptions of their working environment, and thus increase my own sensitivity to the data.

Organisations and participants

Two workplaces were chosen as case studies: a research institute and an architectural practice.

The research institute was the same workplace that was investigated in the intervention study.

The architectural practice employed 120 people, and was located in the north of England, in an open plan space in a converted church. The office had a large shared ground floor space and workspaces located on balconies, with very few private offices.

Open office space in the architectural office

Eleven participants were recruited on a voluntary basis through one main contact at each workplace. In both workplaces, the participants included an information technology manager and a human resource manager, in order to gain insight into company policies relating to music at work.


Interviews were transcribed and analysed using a grounded theory approach. Exploratory analyses were carried out on three interviews, which indicated general themes and served to build rich descriptions of these themes. These themes were then exhausted through theoretical sampling of the remaining interviews. The circumstances and preconditions, properties, characteristics and consequences of music listening at work were explored. Extreme cases that did not fit these general themes were also identified and analysed. Reasons for shared or varying experiences were explored, and the analysis continued until no new insights emerged. Visual representations were regularly created to aid the analysis process and improve understanding of the relationships between the themes.

The analysis process also involved moving back and forth between data and published research, in order to develop a detailed in-depth account of the experiences of music listening at work. The two companies were only compared when it appeared important for the emerging themes. This happened in particular during the in-depth analysis of external considerations, as the analysis revealed different attitudes and business practices when it came to, for example, IT policies.


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