An interview is a conversation between two or more people where questions are asked by the interviewer to elicit facts or statements from the interviewee. Although interviews are a standard part of journalism and media reporting, the focus of this piece is on how interviews can be used as a tool for psychological research.
Interviews are particularly useful for getting the story behind a participant's experiences. The interviewer can pursue in-depth information around a topic. Interviews may be useful as follow-up to certain respondents to questionnaires, e.g., to further investigate their responses. Usually open-ended questions are asked during interviews.
Before you start to design your interview questions and process, clearly articulate to yourself what problem or need is to be addressed using the information to be gathered by the interviews. This helps you keep clear focus on the intent of each question.
Preparation for Interview
1. Choose a setting with little distraction. Avoid loud lights or noises, ensure the interviewee is comfortable (you might ask them if they are), etc. Often, they may feel more comfortable at their own places of work or homes. 2. Explain the purpose of the interview.
3. Address terms of confidentiality. Note any terms of confidentiality. (Be careful here. Rarely can you absolutely promise anything. Courts may get access to information, in certain circumstances.) Explain who will get access to their answers and how their answers will be analyzed. If their comments are to be used as quotes, get their written permission to do so. 4. Explain the format of the interview. Explain the type of interview you are conducting and its nature. If you want them to ask questions, specify if they're to do so as they have them or wait until the end of the interview. 5. Indicate how long the interview usually takes.
6. Tell them how to get in touch with you later if they want to. 7. Ask them if they have any questions before you both get started with the interview. 8. Don't count on your memory to recall their answers. Ask for permission to record the interview or bring along someone to take notes. Sequence of Questions
1. Get the respondents involved in the interview as soon as possible. 2. Before asking about controversial matters (such as feelings and conclusions), first ask about some facts. With this approach, respondents can more easily engage in the interview before warming up to more personal matters. 3. Intersperse fact-based questions throughout the interview to avoid long lists of fact-based questions, which tends to leave respondents disengaged. 4. Ask questions about the present before questions about the past or future. It's usually easier for them to talk about the present and then work into the past or future. 5. The last questions might be to allow respondents to provide any other information they prefer to add and their impressions of the interview. Wording of Questions
1. Wording should be open-ended. Respondents should be able to choose their own terms when answering questions. 2. Questions should be as neutral as possible. Avoid wording that might influence answers, e.g., evocative, judgmental wording. 3. Questions should be asked one at a time.
4. Questions should be worded clearly. This includes knowing any terms particular to the program or the respondents' culture. 5. Be careful asking "why" questions. This type of question infers a cause-effect relationship that may not truly exist. These questions may also cause respondents to feel defensive, e.g., that they have to justify their response, which may inhibit their responses to this and future questions. Conducting Interview
1. Occasionally verify the tape recorder (if used) is working. 2. Ask one question at a time.
3. Attempt to remain as neutral as possible. That is, don't show strong emotional reactions to their responses. Patton suggests to...