Interviewing for research: 5 tips and tricks

There comes a time in the life of every event student where the dissertation looms large – whether it’s a placement project or a pure research dissertation. For most of us, it’s the first real piece of research we’ll have conducted. I know that in my research methods module we counted people in a train station!

During the course of my research I’ve had to conduct quite a lot of qualitative interviews, and it’s an arduous process. Fortunately, my interviews have gone well, so here’s some things to think about on how to get the most out of your interviewee.

  1. Interview your participant somewhere that they’re comfortable: Whether this is their workplace or their home, a local cafe or a nearby park, make sure that the interviewee is comfortable in their surroundings. If they’re uncomfortable, you won’t get the best information from them, and it could have a negative impact on the quality of your research.
  2. Make sure there’s not too many distractions: A workplace can be great, but if your participant is constantly receiving phone calls and emails, or has people popping in and out all the time, it could really mess things up. Ensure that your time with them is protected from interruptions in a quiet, calm space.
  3. Record the interview: Even if you’re the fastest note taker in the world, it’s difficult to write down every nuance of what your participant is saying – especially if you’re going to want to quote them in your research. There’s nothing worse than trying to work out exactly what that squiggle says later when trying to decipher your notes… But do remember to always ask permission before recording someone.
  4. Make the participant like you: It’s really important to build a relationship with the interviewee, especially if you haven’t met them before. Introduce yourself, ask them how they are, whether they had a nice weekend – this all helps to establish a rapport and make the participant comfortable giving you information. As well, try to talk on the same level as them; use their language as you get used to it through the interview to encourage them to reply fluidly.
  5. Use probing techniques: silence and pauses often encourage participants to volunteer more information on the topic, as do the ever-popular “yes”, “I see” and “okay”. Echoing a statement works well too – “So you moved to the organisation and became executive director. What was your next move?”

I hope this will be helpful if you’re looking to interview for your research. Do you have any more tips and tricks for budding researchers?

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