Conducting Interviews

The team budgeted three weeks to conduct thirty five interviews – each lasting approximately one hour.  Interviews were conducted in student pairs, not only for security purposes but to ensure quality note taking.

Prior to setting out to conduct the interviews, the team discussed the note taking process and how to be effective in capturing the essence of an interview for later recall in the analysis phase.

The students employed a “numbering technique” – writing the question number beside their notes corresponding to the interviewee’s answers.  In this manner, they were able to correlate their notes to the appropriate question on the interview guide for instant referral when the analysis phase of the Field Study began.

For the Wheaton Medical Clinic Field Study team, the students began to clearly notice the repetitive nature of the answers after approximately 30 interviews.

Again, it is IMPERATIVE to point out that ALL QUESTIONS ASKED WERE ASKED DIRECTLY BY READING THE QUESTION DIRECTLY FROM THE INTERVIEW GUIDE!  This was to ensure continuity in the data collection process and to be able to compare “apples to apples” during the analysis phase.  At NO TIME were the questions asked in a different way from what was written on the interview guide.

It is important to point out the effectiveness of summarizing notes IMMEDIATELY after an interview session.  The team followed this practice to enable themselves to determine what it was that they actually learned from the interview and to “think through” the responses they received.  They carefully wrote down specific examples offered by the interviewee as quotes in order that they would be able to refer directly to those statements if not in the written report, but during the oral presentation.  Summarizing immediately ensures that the information is fresh in their minds and is not simply forgotten over time.

In general, those conducting a Field Study can feel assured that enough interviews have been conducted when each team member has the experience of hearing the same answers to questions over and over again.  When this starts to happen, then the team can feel confident that the analysis phase can begin.  For the Wheaton Medical Clinic Field Study team, the students began to clearly notice the repetitive answers to questions after approximately 30 interviews.

In general, remember that the interviews are your principal source of data from which you will conduct your analysis.  Therefore, taking meticulous notes is crucial to capturing the essence of what the person being interviewed has to offer and is really the reason that the interview is being conducted in the first place.

The interview team needs to write quickly and clearly in order that the rough notes may be reconstructed later and interpreted.  For this reason, students should follow two important guidelines:

When a question is asked, write the number of that question on the note paper in order that the notes may be correlated to the specific question at a later time;

When the interview is finished, SUMMARIZE the notes at the first possible time immediately following the interview!  Without summarizing, the interviewer runs the risk of losing recall for reconstructing the notes with accuracy during analysis.

The team will generally know when enough interviews have been completed to begin analysis.  The key indicator is each interviewer begins to hear the same kind of answers over and over again.  When each student is able to verify that this is happening, it is an important sign that analysis should begin.

Remember that each interview will be different – different people have different experiences to share.  There are some general and hopefully helpful “interviewing tips” that should be observed.  These include:

Interviewing Tips

  • Describe why you are there and what you hope to accomplish.
  • Show an interest in the individual you are interviewing.
  • Ensure that information you receive will be held in confidence.
  • Let the interviewee share his/her experiences – don’t answer the questions yourself.
  • Ask follow-up questions as much as possible.  Seek examples and/or anecdotes.
  • Keep alert for the interviewee’s mentioning an issue more than once.  Ask why he/she feels that it is important.
  • Try to determine from the interviewee’s answers what his/her values are regarding the issue being discussed.  What is important to this person?
  • Be alert to recognize what the interviewee is not saying about issues that have arisen during the course of the interview.
  • Look for patterns or similarities with what this person has to say compared to others who have raised the same points.  Probe further into these similarities.
  • Listen, Listen, Listen!
  • Do NOT put words in the interviewee’s mouth or suggest answers.  (This will be a tempting thing to do after several interviews have been conducted.)
  • Express your appreciation for the interviewee’s time and attention to issues of importance to your client.  Ensure him/her that these views are important both to you, your Field Study team, and to your client.
  • Remember that you are an extension of your client and are representing them to the community.

Now get out there and collect your data!