Emotions and the research interview: What hospice workers can teach us

Cindy L. Cain

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Interviewing about death and loss can bring up unexpected emotions for respondents and interviewers. Positivist social scientifi c research methods often either ignore the emotions of the researcher, or argue that emotional expressions are to be avoided in research, even when the topic is thought to inspire intense feelings - like death and dying. This article argues for taking an alternative position toward emotions in death and dying research. Using data from over two years of participant observation and 34 semi-structured interviews with hospice workers, I illustrate one potential way to productively and ethically share emotions during a research interview. This approach includes learning and being open to the 'moderated cry', which involves minimal tears, the absence of sobbing, and an overt acknowledgment of the emotional reaction. This article illustrates the ways respondents in this research used the moderated cry as well as the value of reconsidering prohibitions on emotions in research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)396-405
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Sociology Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Death and dying
  • Emotions
  • Ethical research
  • Interviewing
  • Qualitative methods
  • Sociology


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