This paper addresses methodological issues that emerged unexpectedly during a qualitative study set up to explore nurses’ descriptions of difficult, challenging and satisfying experiences at work. The purpose of the study had been to look for critical factors influencing nurses’ perceptions of their performance in specific situations, and their labelling of each event Ten nurses were asked to describe in detail three events, a difficult situation in which they had coped well, a difficult situation in which they would like to have coped better, and a satisfying or rewarding situation The critical incident technique was used Rich descriptions were obtained, tape recorded, transcribed verbatum, and analysed by constant comparative analysis, following the principles of grounded theory Some suprising hypotheses emerged regarding the methodology of the informal interview in qualitative research This paper addresses these hypotheses, which focus on the interaction between the researcher and informant, the role conflict facing the nurse researcher, the effect of the reseacher's past experience on the interaction, the use of counselling strategies and the principle of self-disclosure. These hypotheses were incidental to the original area of study and were more exciting in their emergence because of this