Deletion, distortion and data collection: the application of the Neuro-linguistic Progamming (NLP) meta-model in qualitative interviews

Jennifer Knight

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The skills required of the researcher undertaking qualitative interviews are considerable. A range of writers discuss the importance of a conversational approach, avoiding inhibiting interviews, a skilled approach to asking follow-up questions and strong listening skills. These questioning and listening skills are of crucial importance in the context of semi-structured, exploratory interviews where themes are emergent. Whilst it could be argued that these skills are a natural part of any conversation, if the qualitative researcher fails to pay sufficient attention to how language is used and ask adroit follow-up questions they may fail to gather rich and meaningful data. This paper explores the usefulness of the application of the NLP meta-model to qualitative interviews, drawing on the experience of a researcher undertaking doctoral research and applying this approach to semi-structured interviews. The main conclusions are that (1) The NLP model is an eclectic model and as such draws on the mode 1 knowledge of academics and the mode 2 knowledge of professional practitioners, or ‘praxis’ (the connecting of learning to ‘real life’ situations); (2) the good qualitative researcher remains conscious of the importance of skilled questioning, as well as the danger of colluding with or influencing participants. The NLP ‘meta-questioning’ model provides the researcher with a ‘tool’ for critical questioning, as well as a set of underpinning principles (i.e. the operating principles) as a possible way of ensuring questioning remains rigorous and, where appropriate, challenging; (3) Subsequently the model may provide a reference point against which to consider data. Whilst the model is traditionally applied to individuals, it could be argued that specific concepts and techniques could usefully be applied to whole organisations or systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-21
Number of pages7
JournalAustralasian Journal of Market & Social Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2012


  • Neuro-linguistic programming
  • Deletion
  • Distortion
  • Generalisation
  • Qualitative research
  • Qualitative interviews


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