A Journey Through Technology

What are the most important things to remember in conducting interviews?

on October 10, 2015

QualtitaiveResearchInterviewsA popular source of data in qualitative research is the interview. “The most common form of interview is the person-to-person encounter, in which one person elicits information from another.” (Merriam & Tisdell, 2016, p.108) There are a few things that are crucial to conducting an effective research interview. One of the first things that needs to be address before conducting an interview is the topic of discussion. Sun (2008) gives a few examples of questions to consider when preparing to interview. “What information can you gain from the interviewee? How will this information help you achieve your other goals? How will you be better off after having conducted this interview?” (Sun) Once you know why you are going to conduct an interview, you can move on to figuring out what you want to learn.

In qualitative research, “interviewing…is more open-ended and less structured.” (Merriam & Tisdell, 2016, p.110) “Respondents should be able to choose their own terms when answering questions.” (McNamara) Open-ended questions allow the respondent to answer how they see fit. Questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” should be limited. “The disadvantage of closed questions is that in using them, you may be jumping too quickly to conclusions.” (Sun)

One of the most important things about conducting an interview is selecting the participants. In qualitative research “the crucial factor is not the number of respondents but the potential of each person to contribute to the development of insight and understanding of the phenomenon.” (Merriam & Tisdell, 2016, p.127) Selecting participants should not be random, but instead each person should be selected to interview for a specific reason.

It is also important to take “The interviewer should record responses as they are being stated.” (Trochim) If a recording device is used, this can simplify the process and eliminate furious writing while the participants are responding. Even if the interview is recorded, it is still a good idea to write down any observations after the interview is concluded. “For example, where did the interview occur and when, was the respondent particularly nervous at any time? Were there any surprises during the interview? Did the tape recorder break?” (McNamara)


McNamara, C. (n.d.). General Guidelines for Conducting Research Interviews. Retrieved October 9, 2015.

Merriam, S., & Tisdell, E. (2016). Qualitative research: A guide to design and implementation (4th ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Sun, C. (2008, October 27). 10 tips on conducting effective interviews. Retrieved October 9, 2015.

Trochim, W. (2006, October 20). Interviews. Retrieved October 9, 2015.

3 responses to “What are the most important things to remember in conducting interviews?

  1. tmerculief says:

    Sarah- That is very interesting is to be selective when conducting an interview. That you should select a person for a specific purpose. I never thought of that before. I think a tape recorder is great for an interview but also read that it makes some people nervous. I guess it depends on the person you are interviewing and how they feel about it. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. pwjohnsen says:

    I really like how simple you made your infographic. Many of us struggled with being too wordy on the infographics. How do you plan on selecting your interviewees. I am beginning to realize that I will not be able to interview all my students. I like how you mentioned that “each person should be selected to interview for a specific reason”. I guess we just have to be carefull to not just pick students that will give us the results we want. So in our selection we should have students that represent different perspectives, dispositions, and aptitude.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sarah K says:

      At this point, I don’t think I’m going to do any interviews. After testing my technology last week, I don’t think I will need them because observations are going to be a large part of my data. If I were going to select students, I would want to pick those that I know would be forthcoming with information, both good and bad. I would make pick students that did well with the technology, as well as those who didn’t seem to care either way. I would also choose students who struggled with the technology to get a wide range of student perspectives.

      Liked by 1 person

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