University of Hertfordshire

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Emotion work in qualitative research: Interviewing parents about the neonatal care experience.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-30
Number of pages5
JournalNurse Researcher
Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2017


Background; ‘Emotion work’ is a term used to describe the emotional responses that may arise in qualitative research exploring recall of difficult experiences. The experiences of parents within neonatal care can raise sensitive issues during the interview process which may lead to emotional responses.

Aim: To provide a reflection of an interpretive study involving narrative interviews with parents of preterm neonates, in order to inform researchers about the potential emotive issues that may arise in such work.

Discussion: Reflection on interviews with parents of preterm neonates revealed areas for discussion relating to: emotion work, the role of the researcher, emotional connections and empathic interviewing. Consideration of these areas highlights the importance of reflexivity for researchers.

Implications for practice: Qualitative researchers undertaking narrative interviews should be prepared for emotive issues that arise and recognise the need for emotional intelligence. Achieving a balance between being an empathic, emotionally aware interviewer and remaining objective can be challenging. There are a range of strategies researchers can use to address this balance and to manage the emotion work involved in research of this nature.


This document is the Accepted Manuscript version of the following article: Julia Petty, ‘Emotion work in qualitative research: interviewing parents about neonatal care’, Nurse Researcher, Vol. 25 (3): 26-30, December 2017. The final. published version is available online at doi:

ID: 11244828