Studying military organizations shows that the use of more than one method is crucial due to one of its specifics, which is a closed environment. It is very difficult to gain permission to enter a military organization and even more difficult to encourage servicemen and servicewomen to cooperate and share their problems. It is impossible to say whether their answers are honest and therefore observation may be considered a useful tool to estimate the reliability of acquired data. Besides that, the researcher can never move freely within military barracks or gain access to all places. It should also be taken into account that the ‘story’ presented to the researcher is often well-prepared. However, observing life within military walls, even with some evident restrictions, helps researchers create a clearer image and improve their understanding of the information gathered with other methods. Participation with observation can also help develop the framework for interviews (Dean et al. 1969). One method that can be, and in our case often is, successfully merged with observation with participation is an interview as a face-to-face method where the first impression that is gained is particularly important as the time the interviewee and researcher spend together is very limited. A structured3 interview is a method known in both qualitative and quantitative methodology and used very often in researching military organizations, especially when there is a sample of a few hundred respondents. It can also be used to compare opinions held by several individuals on a specific topic (Vogrinc 2008: 107). Data gathered by this method can be easily coded and interpreted with the use of predefined categories (Fontana and Frey 1994). On the other side, when we want to gain individuals’ opinions, attitudes, perspectives, etc. we use a nonstructured interview. The researcher roughly prepares an idea of what needs to be discussed, with no specific questions. There is still a rule that the researcher should not offer own opinions and should therefore stay neutral and out of the discussion (Kogovšek 1998: 33). However, Fontana and Frey (1994) believe

just the opposite, namely that the researcher should participate actively in the interview to guarantee reliability and honesty. In between, there is the semi-structured interview, which basically means that a researcher has a list of topics but the exact wording of questions and their sequence is formed during the interview (Kogovšek 1998: 31). Further, Sagadin (1995: 318) and Tashakkori and Taddlie (1998: 102) developed a special type of interview that merges some characteristics of the structured and nonstructured interview that is the so-called funnel strategy (in Vogrinc 2008). In line with the latter, the researcher proceeds from general questions at the beginning to more complex and closed ones towards the end of the interview. The researcher thereby creates a relaxed environment and gives the interviewee time to prepare for more difficult questions. Patton (1990) defines yet another type of interview that stands between the structured and semi-structured interview, that is, the so-called standardized openended interview. The same questions are posed to all interviewees in the same order. Those questions are open, which represents the main distinction between a standardized open-ended interview and a standardized interview. To pretest a questionnaire or to conduct an in-depth analysis in the field a group interview can be used. Its specific feature is a wide selection of opinions that lead the researcher to clearer conclusions and a better understanding of certain phenomena (Fontana and Frey 1994). The researcher must be experienced and know how to engage every member of the group, including those who are less talkative. Group interviews are an important source of information; they are flexible, cumulative and relatively cheap. However, the researcher needs to prevent situations whereby some interviewees step out and impose their opinions on others. A problem can also occur when some members of the group do not feel comfortable sharing their opinions in the presence of others (ibid.). The latter happens relatively often in instances when group interviews are being conducted with members of a military organization. After years of analyzing military organizations, based on experiences with the SAF it can be established that the standardized open-ended interview combined with a structured interview and observation with participation yield the optimal insights and enable an in-depth analysis of a military organization. In this manner, the problem of ordered participation in the research is minimized. Despite all efforts, an interview is not a neutral tool for acquiring data. The answers are influenced by the context; in the social sciences, the researcher’s personal attributes are very important (e.g., gender, ethnic background, social class, etc.) (Kogovšek 1998: 29). In addition, Kogovšek (1998: 34) states that social stratification can be reflected in an interview. Denzin (in Kogovšek 1998: 34) claims that an interview is influenced by established gendered identities and information is therefore limited by those same identities. When talking about a military organization, gender is particularly important. However, this depends

on the ratio of men and women entering the armed forces in general, the relations between the two genders, as well as the gender ratio within a studied unit. In most armed forces, combat units are formed only by men and therefore those units evolve in a masculine environment. It is general knowledge that a military organization is highly masculine, meaning that in most cases men feel superior to women. When there is a female interviewer and a male interviewee, a shift in roles occurs (ibid.). Still, the presence of a female researcher could be disrespected by the objects of research or they might even not take the research seriously, making their answers irrelevant. Conversely, some members of combat units could, due to their highly masculine orientation, accept a female researcher better than a male one and feel more relaxed in her presence. They might also see their mother, spouse or sister in her and therefore develop a positive attitude. Further, in military organizations, the place where the interview takes place is highly important. Without doubt, an interview organized in the relaxed environment of a faculty would provide different results compared to one organized in military barracks. In every situation, members of the military organization represent their institutions and therefore their answers are limited by certain rules and restrictions. However, conducting an interview in barracks might result in an even more reserved attitude. In the case of military organizations it is very important to create an environment that inspires trust and where the interviewee will feel comfortable discussing relevant topics. This requires a well-trained and experienced researcher. Members of a military organization can only participate in research based on a direct order of their superior, meaning that it can never be clear whether they were willing to cooperate or did so merely as a result of the order. This dilemma is particularly salient since the interviewee’s perception of his or her own role in the research significantly influences their answers and consequently the results of the analysis. When conducting an interview with a serviceman, the researcher also needs to take account of the fact that the object of observation will probably not tell the complete truth and uncover personal thoughts or beliefs connected to the studied topic. Members of armed forces speak in the name of their organization and, even in their free time, they represent their military organizations. Military socialization is one of the strongest forms of socialization within a certain organization and being a member of armed forces occupies a high position in soldiers’ identities. In researching the SAF, the gender of the researcher has not been presumed to be an obstacle and female researchers have not reported any kind of disrespect from the male servicemen included in the research. On the contrary, female researchers have found their gender to be a benefit since servicemen were more willing to ‘open their hearts’ to female researchers and to offer more insight into their personal and family problems.