Interviews are usually between two people – an interviewer and an interviewee. Interviews are well suited for the collection of qualitative information from people about their thoughts and experiences. Interviews allow a researcher to ask follow up questions to understand the meaning of what people are saying.

Things to prepare before the interview

  • Who will you interview?
  • Prepare the interview protocol. This is the list of questions you aim to ask, as well as notes and advice for the interviewer regarding additional prompts and reactions depending on what the participant says and where the discussion is going. Make sure the questions are easy to understand for your target participants, and are mostly open-ended, meaning that they can’t just be answered with short no-or-yes answers. Add follow-up questions, such as “Can you explain why you think that”, “Can you describe what you mean” or “What makes you say that” to get more information. Also avoid “leading questions”, these are questions that give the interviewee a hint of what your own opinions are or what you want them to answer.
  • How will you record your interview? Will you use an audio recording device such as a smartphone, or will you just take notes? What might be the advantages and disadvantages of either one in your context? With audio recording, you can focus on the interview and you will have exactly what was said available to be analyzed later. However, audio recordings might make people uncomfortable. Taking notes is difficult and will take time during the interview. You might also lose important details of information. On the other hand, analyzing notes takes less time than analyzing audio data. Consider which method is more appropriate depending on the kinds of questions you ask and the purpose of the interview.
  • When and where will you interview your participant(s)? Contact the person you will interview to agree on a time for the interview. Try to find a place for the interview that is comfortable for the person and does not have too many distractions.
  • Practice the interview with one or a few people and make adjustments to the protocol if necessary. The interview questions should be easy to understand and the interview should not take too long, e.g. not more than 30 min.
  • Make sure you inform your participant about the purpose of the interview, how long it will be, and get their consent for the recording of their data before you start the interview.

Things to pay attention to during the interview

  • Start the interview with some small talk to make the participant comfortable and establish some rapport and trust.
  • Make sure the participant is comfortable throughout the interview.
  • If a question makes the participant uncomfortable, do not force the participant to answer it.
  • Listen attentively to what the participant is saying and show interest and empathy through your body language and verbal responses.
  • Try to rephrase what the participant is saying and think about adding follow-up questions to better understand what the participant means, before moving on to the next question.
  • At the end, make sure to thank the participant for their time. It is a good idea to remind them what you will do next and how you will share your results with them.

Things to reflect on after the interview

  • What went well, what went not so well?
  • What might be changed, added, or omitted in the interview protocol?
  • Should the location where you conducted the interview be changed next time?
  • What should be done differently in your interaction with the participant?

Analyzing interview data

  • Interview data is largely qualitative data, it is analyzed using qualitative data analysis methods.
  • If you have audio recordings, then the audio recording needs to be turned into text format by typing it up (this is called transcribing). If you have written interview notes, then type them up into a digital text format as well.
  • Often you can use your interview protocol as the structure and analyze or summarize the interview data by question or theme.

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