Sample questions raised by students about the challenges of preparing and conducting interviews. BEF0RE THE INTERVEIW Should I prepare prompts to use during the interview (maps, diagrams, highlighted sections of documents)? Or should I go in with nothing in hand. What are the advantages/disadvantages of structured verses unstructured interviews? Do I prep the people before the interview: tell them ahead of time what I'll be asking so that they can prepare? Should I call in advance or just send an email? DURING THE INTERVIEW Several of my interviews will be on projects completed years ago. How do I go about getting accurate information from people's memory? My topic is on the criteria for success of the collaborative planning process. Since my interviewees may not have thought expressly about this topic before, how do I approach it? Should I record the interview? Can I hide my recorder? What if I disagree with the interviewer, should I let them know? What if I am interviewing someone in opposition to a project I am working on, should I let them know I am involved with the “enemy camp.” What if the interviewer tells me something in confidence and I really want to use it? Can I interview two people at once? Should I take notes while I do the interview, or is this a distraction? AFTER THE INTERVIEW What advice to you have about writing up notes after the interview? How does one go about analyzing interview data?
Types and Styles of Interviews A commonly made distinction is based on the degree of structure or standardization of the interview: Fully structured interview • Has predetermined questions with fixed wording, usually in a pre-set order. The use of mainly open-response questions is the only essential difference from an interview-based survey questionnaire. Semi-structured interview • Has predetermined questions, but the order can be modified based upon the interviewer's perception of what seems most appropriate. Question wording can be changed and explanations given; particular questions which seem inappropriate with a particular interviewee can be omitted, or additional ones included. Unstructured interviews • The interviewer has a general area of interest and concern, but lets the conversation develop within this area. It can be completely informal.
Circumstances in which a qualitative research interview is most appropriate • Where a study focuses on the meaning of particular phenomena to the participants. • Where individual perceptions of processes within a social unit - such as a work-group, department or whole organization - are to be studied prospectively, using a series of interviews. • Where individual historical accounts are required of how a particular phenomenon developed - for instance, a new shift system. • Where exploratory work is required before a quantitative study can be carried out. For example, researchers examining the impact of new technology on social relationships in a workplace might use qualitative interviews to identify the range of different types of experience which a subsequent quantitative study should address. • Where a quantitative study has been carried out, and qualitative data are required to validate particular measures or to clarify and illustrate the meaning of the findings. For instance, people with high, medium and low scores on a new measure of stress at work might be interviewed to see whether their experiences concur with the ratings on the measure. (From King, 1994, pp. 16-17.)
Your job as interviewer is to try to get interviewees to talk freely and openly. Your own behavior has a major influence on their willingness to do this. To this end you should: Listen more than you speak • Most interviewers talk too much. The interview is not a platform for the interviewer's personal experiences and opinions. Put questions in a straightforward) clear and non-threatening way • If people are confused or defensive, you will not get the information you seek. Eliminate cues • which lead interviewees to respond in a particular way • Many interviewees will seek to please the interviewer by giving 'correct' responses ('Are you against sin?'). Enjoy it (or at least look as though you do) • Don't give the message that you are bored or scared. Vary your voice and facial expression. It is also essential that you take a full record of the interview. This can be from notes made at the time and/or from a recording of the interview. (p. 274).
Introducing yourself: a list of self-instructions • I. Explain purpose and nature of the study to the respondent, telling how or through whom he/she came to be selected.2. Give assurance that respondent will remain anonymous in any written reports growing out of the study, and that his responses will be treated in strictest confidence.3. Indicate that he may find some of the questions far-fetched, silly or difficult to answer, for the reason that questions that are appropriate for one person are not always appropriate for another. Since there are no right or wrong answers, he is not to worry about these but to do as best he can with them. We are only interested in his opinions and personal experiences.4. He is to feel perfectly free to interrupt, ask clarification of the interviewer, criticize a line of questioning, etc.5. Interviewer will tell respondent something about himself - his background, training, and interest in the area of enquiry.6. Interviewer is to ask permission to tape-record the interview, explaining why he wishes to do this.
Preparation for Interview • Choose a setting with the least distraction. • Explain the purpose of the interview. • Address terms of confidentiality. • Explain the format of the interview. • Indicate how long the interview usually takes. • Provide contact information of the interviewer. • Allow interviewee to clarify any doubts about the interview. • Prepare a method for recording data, e.g., take notes.
Types of Topics in Questions • Behaviors -what a person has done or is doing. • Opinions/values -what a person thinks about the topic. • Feelings -what a person feels rather than what a person thinks. • Knowledge -to get facts about the topic. • Sensory -what people have seen, touched, heard, tasted or smelled. • Background/demographics -standard background questions, such • as age, education, etc
Putting your questions in order (i.e., what to ask first) • IntroductionInterviewer introduces herself, explains purpose of the interview, assures of confidentiality, asks permission to tape and/or make notes. • (Warm-up) Easy, non-threatening questions at the beginning to settle down both of you. • Main body of interview Covering the main purpose of the interview in what the interviewer considers to be a logical progression. In semistructured interviewing, this order can be varied, capitalizing on the responses made (ensure 'missed' topics are returned to unless this seems inappropriate or unnecessary. Any 'risley' questions should be relatively late in the sequence so that, if the interviewee refuses to continue, less information is lost. • (Cool-off )Usually a few straightforward questions at the end to defuse any tension that might have built up. • ClosureThank you and goodbye. The 'hand on the door' phenomenon, sometimes found at the end of counselling sessions, is also common in interviewing. Interviewees may, when the recorder is switched off or the notebook put away, come out with a lot of interesting material. There are various possible ways of dealing with this (switch on again, reopen the book, forget about it) but in any case you should be consistent, and note how you dealt with it.
Sequence of Questions • Get the respondents involved in the interview as soon as possible. • Before asking about controversial matters, first ask about some facts. • Intersperse fact-based questions throughout the interview. • Ask questions about the present before questions about the past or future. • The last questions might be to allow respondents to provide any other information they prefer to add and their impressions of the interview.
Questions to avoid in interviews • Long questions The interviewee may remember only part of the question, and respond to that part. • Double-barrelled (or multiple-barrelled) questions, e.g. 'What do you feel about current pop music compared with that of five years ago?' The solution here is to break: it down into simpler questions ('What do you feel about current pop music?'; 'Can you recall any pop music from five years ago?'; 'How do you feel they compare?'). • Questions involving jargon Generally you should avoid questions containing words likely to be unfamiliar to the target audience. Keep things simple to avoid disturbing interviewees; it is in your own interest as well. • Leading questions, e.g. 'Why do you like Huddersfield?' lt is usually straightforward to modify such questions, provided you realize that they are leading in a particular direction. • Biased questionsProvided you are alert to the possibility of bias, it is not difficult to write unbiased questions. What is more difficult, however, is not (perhaps unwittingly) to lead the interviewee by the manner in which the question is asked, or the way in which you receive the response. Neutrality is called for, and in seeking to be welcoming and reinforcing to the interviewee, you should try to avoid appearing to share or welcome their views.
Content of the Interview: Probes and Prompts • Probes: A probe is a device to get interviewees to expand on a response when you intuit that they have more to give. Obvious tactics, such as asking 'Anything more?' or 'Could you go over that again?' Sometimes when an answer has been given in general terms, a useful probe is to seek a personal response, e.g. 'What is your own personal view on this?' There are also very general tactics, such as the use of: • a period of silence; • an enquiring glance; 'mmhmm. . .'; • repeating back all or part of what the interviewee has just said. • Prompts: Prompts suggest to the interviewee the range or set of possible answers that the interviewer expects. The list of possibilities may be read out by the interviewer, or a 'prompt card' with them on can be shown (e.g. a list of names of prominent housing advocates for a question about charisma and leadership in the area of affordable housing in San Diego)
Pdf of articles about interviewing • The list of files below was compiled by Sam Popkin in Political Science for a workshop on field research (focused on interviewing). Copies of the pdf files are on our class web site for educational use only. They will be removed from the web site at the end of class. Thank you to Susan Shaler for alerting us to this list of files. The graduate students taking the workshop on interviewing and field research were instructed to start with the two Dexter articles, then Whyte, then Schwarz. The order in which you read the rest doesn't matter. • Dexter Elite & Specialized Interviewing.pdf • Dexter Goodwill of Important people.pdf; • Whyte What Kind of Truth Do You Get.pdf; • Schwarz Logic of Conversation.pdf; • Goldstein Getting in the Door.pdf; • Leech Techniques for Unstructured Interviews.pdf; • Peabody Elite Interviewing.pdf; • Rivera Interviewing ELites -- Russia.pdf; • Woliver Ethical DIlemmas.pdf; • Zuckerman Interviwing Ultra-Elite.pdf; • Berry Validity & Reliability.pdf; • Fenno Observation, COntext, Sequence.pdf; • http://www.public.asu.edu/~kroel/www500/Interview%20Fri.pdf
Forms to use in getting informed consent • UCSD has a Human Research Protections Program (HRPP) in place to promote high quality, ethical research. HRPP does this by serving as the advocate for the rights and welfare of persons who participate in research programs conducted by UCSD faculty, staff, students, and researchers affiliated with the Veterans Administration San Diego Healthcare System (VASDHS). Though located within the School of Medicine, the Human Research Protections program has responsibility for review of research involving human subjects conducted by all Schools, Centers, and Programs of UCSD. The Human Research Protections Program office assists researchers in complying with federal, state and University policies regarding experimentation involving human subjects, and oversees the review and conduct of research conducted by federally registered Institutional Review Boards (IRBs). • The HRPP’s Informed Consent Checklist – Basic and Additional Elementshttp://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/humansubjects/assurance/consentckls.htmConsent form for interviews and video: • See class web site for a microsoft word doc , adapted for USP at UCSD, using a template created by MIT • Specialized Supplementary Consents (in MS Word format) are also on the class web site • Sample Audio Taping Consent • Sample Video Taping Consent • 2007-08-24 Student Video Submission Form.doc • Photo Film Release SSHfinal.doc • Photo Release Communications Deptfinal.DOC
After the Interview • Verify if the tape recorder, if used, worked throughout the interview. • Make any notes on your written notes. • Write down any observations made during the interview.
Note from Parke Troutman: TA for the Senior Sequence from 2000-2004 • Setting up interviews is easy and most people will be extremely cooperative. Your proposal should sketch out the kinds of people to interview and what kinds of questions to ask. I usually make up a pretty thorough interview schedule (list of questions) before I try to contact anyone. This is a good way to double check that its worth your time to interview the person, and it increases your confidence in contacting the person because you know exactly what information youre looking for. [Depending on your research project, you may be able to use the same or virtually the same interview schedule for all your interviews. • There are different ways to get in contact with a person. The three I use the most are: email, phone, and face-to-face. Email: Usually, I start with email. Since most people I interview are professionals as will be the case with people in the senior sequence doing interviews they use email at work, and I get a quick response. Your email should be short and sweet. Explain that you are an undergrad in UCSDs USP program. You are doing a senior project on topic X. Given their critical role/expertise/whatever in X, you would be interested in interviewing them. Then I always include a couple sentences to the effect of An interview would be scheduled at your convenience and last approximately thirty to forty-five minutes. The strategy behind this is twofold. First, if they'll give you forty-five minutes, they’ll likely give you an hour, as most people don’t schedule things in fifteen minute increments. Second, by mentioning thirty minutes, it gives you an escape if the person isn't helpful. Sometimes, you'll guess wrong about who to interview and you can end the interview after half an hour without the person wondering why the interview was shorter than you said it would be. In writing such an email, your basic tone should be respectful and appreciative. One of the basic rules of doing interviews is that they are doing you a favor and you should act like it. Once you've done several interviews, you can spice up the email a little. If you are doing snowball sampling, you could say, Person Y said that you were the person to talk about XX. That reinforces the sense that you know what youre talking about and that they are important to talk to. Sometimes, people won’t respond to email. The email address you have might be one they check infrequently; they might be swamped with so many email (e.g., listservs) that they find it easy to ignore you; some people just don’t use it. Email is ultimately rather impersonal, so the psychological costs to rejecting someone are much less. So if someone doesn’t respond to an email in, say, a week to ten days, you can try calling them.Phone calls: The advantage of a phone call is that you can set up an interview in five minutes without any wait. (You can even interview people directly over the phone, though I think it is a poor substitute for a face-to-face interview.) The disadvantage of using a phone is that a lot of people do not answer their phone that often they are in many meetings, they screen their calls, whatever and you can get into a game of phone tag, which the potential interviewee has no incentive to play. Another, smaller disadvantage to the phone (and face-to-face) is that they might ask you questions and suddenly you find yourself having to explain your project. As long as you remember what's in your proposal, you can respond with confidence. But sometimes I have had this jolt of Wait, I was asking the questions; why am suddenly having to rephrase my research in laymans terms? No biggie, just be sure you can explain what you're doing in a few sentences.In person: The ultimate approach is to corner the person and ask them directly. Its hard to evade such an interview request. The problem is, of course, getting yourself in the same room as the person. Realistically, the only way that is likely to happen unless your internship gives you access to people is that you attend the same public meetings as them.
Note from Parke Troutman: 2 of 2 • When: Usually, people have free time towards the end of the following week. I try to pick the earliest date they suggest that fits into my schedule. I also try to make interviews for the morning: I have more energy then; I have the rest of the day to transcribe the audio recording of the tape; and its less likely that some crisis in the persons day will intrude about your time slot. (That is, I assume that people gradually fall behind their plans as the day progresses.) Also, if I have an afternoon interview, I tend to fidget the morning away. Be attentive to the persons schedule. For example, try to think of their commute. Don't arrange the interview so that theyll be put in rush hour traffic to get home.Where: Typically, when you set up interviews, people assume that you'll meet in their office, which is usually best. If the person is not a professional (or is retired), they may suggest a more informal setting. Let them pick the place as much as you can, but it should be someplace you would feel comfortable being. You should also consider the potential distractions and noise. My friends don't like to interview in coffeehouses because the noise makes it hard to hear whats on the tape. For important people, you might sometimes run into a gatekeeper, someone who shields them from the public. I try to get to the person directly another advantage of email because if I set up something through a gatekeeper, I havent established any kind of human contact with the person the interview, and you have an uphill battle at the beginning of the interview establishing some kind of relationship through them. Sometimes, however, gatekeepers are unavoidable and you just deal with them. As Ill say again in class, the main thing in doing interviews is getting started. Procrastinating on starting interviews seems second nature to students. Once you do the first one, youll realize that they are easy and fun. People are, on the whole, extremely helpful, and you just get into a groove in which you are on a mission and asking all kinds of questions of strangers is something you do without hesitation.
Using Interview data in your proposal or thesis. Here is an example (from Charlene Bredder, TA from several years ago) of how to use your interviews or field notes. Start writing memos on themes you see or trends or ideas you have. Once you have a usable stock of trends or ideas you can supplement them (put meat on their conceptual bones) with the data or evidence you’ve collected. So for example, Jane Smith is Chief Environmental Officer and you interviewed her on 2.3.06. Here is an example of how you can use her interview: Sample SRP text Several officials mentioned the political climate of SD influences the city’s ability to meet a certain target. Jane Smith, CEO … stated “It has been really hard for us to try to get legislation through because the city council doesn’t like to impose mandates. Instead, they like to go for voluntary compliance” (interview by author, 2.3.06). While voluntary compliance is one way of reducing waste, without the city’s weight behind changing behaviors, businesses continued to produce the same amount. The city’s participation and support can be an integral part to reducing waste, as was the case in LA, where they imposed fines on business……. So: here is an analysis of what I (Charlene) just did: I had an idea, introduced the idea, had a quote to back it up and then said what that quote meant for the theme. This type of thing is how you want to use your data. You can also have longer quotes, which you indent like you do quotes from a book, and then analyze them. You can also use observations, memos, etc. whatever your data is. How to Format reference to an Interview: “Unpublished interviews are best cited in text …, though occasionally appear in … reference lists.”(Chicago Manual of Style, sec. 17.210-17.237). See the example above. If you have a lot of interviews, you may want to include a table, in an appendix, that lists the interviews categorically. This format is appropriate: Rudolph, Frederick. 2001. Interview by author. Williamstown, MA, May, 15.