An interview is a one-on-one directed conversation with an individual using a series of questions designed to elicit extended responses. Because this method allows you to probe for greater depth or explanation, simple yes/no questions or fixed-response questions are typically not used. Interviews allow respondents to express their thoughts using their own words and organization and thus are particularly valuable for gaining insight. Because of ethical considerations and problems with validity, supervisors should not interview their own staff.
Types of interviews
Types of interviews include: informal, guided and standardized. [more]
Suggested uses of interviews:
- Evaluating an instructional program
- Gaining insight into attitudes and perceptions
- Assessing instructional changes or innovations
- Understanding non-verbal as well as verbal communication
- Providing insight to inform subsequent surveys
- Following up results from surveys to gain insight into interesting or unexpected findings
- Capturing and describing learning or other complex processes
- Acquiring in-depth information
- Exploring individual differences in experiences and outcomes
Limitations of interviews:
- Training interviewers, conducting interviews, and transcribing can be expensive and time-consuming.
- Data analysis is complex and time-consuming.
- Results may not generalize to an entire group.
- Cannot determine causal effects
- Not appropriate for faculty to interview their students
Interviewing requires a high level of resources. You must be knowledgeable about writing questions unless you are using previously validated questions. You will need training or experience in appropriate interview techniques and analysis of qualitative data. In addition, you may need to hire and train staff, purchase equipment, solicit participants, arrange interviews, and transcribe tapes. Transcribing tapes typically requires four to six hours for every one hour of interview speech. [more]
Plan your interview
STEP 1. Describe the context
Include the objectives of the program: the need it addresses, its expected effects, current resources, resources to implement changes, and its stage of development. Describe your clients (education, motivation, skill levels) and how the program setting and environment impact the program. A worksheet is available to help you document your program context
STEP 2. Identify stakeholder needs and develop central questions
Central questions shaped by what is most essential for program participants to accomplish, your needs, and any organizational priorities-identify what you want to learn through an interview. For example, "What features do instructors want in the Ongoing Course Assessment system?" A worksheet is available to help you identify stakeholder needs and develop central questions.
STEP 3. Determine the purpose of interviewing
An interview should have a clear purpose and focus. Avoid the temptation of asking too many questions or interviewing "just to see what's going on." Translate central questions into measurable research questions, specifying how interviews will help you gain insight, change current practices, or measure the effects of a change you have implemented. Determine how you will measure attitudes or other concepts and identify whom you will need to interview. Carefully consider the design of the study, including how you will analyze data and report your findings. If your time is limited, or you will not be able to get help transcribing or analyzing interviews, it may make sense to conduct standardized interviews that will simplify data analysis. A worksheet is available to help you develop and refine your study’s purposes.
STEP 4. Determine how you will use interview results
How you intend to use results should also guide the content of your interview. If you will not use responses to an interview question, leave it out. A worksheet is available to help exemplify how to use results after determining the purpose of a study.
STEP 5. Write questions and organize the interview
Writing good questions is crucial to achieve interview objectives and obtain valid responses. Rewrite questions until they are clear and succinct. [more]
It is also helpful to organize your topics and know the issues you want to cover in advance [more]
Conduct pilot testing on people similar to those you want to interview to check if the questions are clear and to determine how long it takes to answer them. Revise questions before interviewing in earnest. An alternative is to conduct one or two interviews with people in your case study sample and then revise questions.
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Berkowitz, S. (1997). Analyzing Qualitative Data. In J. Frechtling, L. Sharp, and Westat (Eds.), User-Friendly Handbook for Mixed Method Evaluations (Chapter 4). Retrieved June 21, 2006 from National Science Foundation, Directorate of Education and Human Resources Web site: http://www.ehr.nsf.gov/EHR/REC/pubs/NSF97-153/CHAP_4.HTM
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Sewell, M. (no date) The use of qualitative interviews in evaluation. Retrieved June 21, 2006 from the University of Arizona, School of Family and Consumer Science, Institute for Children, Youth, and Families Web site: http://ag.arizona.edu/fcs/cyfernet/cyfar/Intervu5.htm.