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 participants to express their thoughts using their own words and organization and thus are particularly valuable for gaining insight.
Types of interviews
Types of interviews include: informal, guided and standardized. [more]
Suggested uses of interviews
- Evaluating an instructional program or intervention
- 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 researchers to interview their students or subordinates
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. Identify the educational research problem or topic
Identify a research problem or topic from everyday life experiences, practical issues, past research, or theory. Pay attention to the feasibility of your research problem or topic and whether it can be researched systematically. Determine the resources needed to conduct the study, your interest level, its size and complexity, as well as the value of your results or solution for both theory and practice.To thoroughly describe the research problem or topic, create a statement that includes the educational topic or specific problem and the justification for research.
STEP 2. Review prior research
The literature review will help you gain an understanding of the current state of knowledge pertaining to your research idea. It will inform you of what data collection methods have been used for similar research and to help make sense of the findings from these methods once data analysis is complete. Try to specifically explore previous research that has used interviews for research problems or topics similar to your own.To review prior research, the most effective and efficient way is to search educational journals through electronic computer databases such as ERIC, PsychINFO, or Google Scholar. Searching other library databases is also recommended.
STEP 3. Determine the purpose, research question(s) or hypothesis(es)
For interviews, the purpose of your study will generally be more explorative or descriptive in nature rather than testing a hypothesis. However, interviews can also be used to explain (and triangulate) findings obtained from other methods. For example, if we determine from an experiment that A is better than B, interviews can be used to help us further explore why A is better than B.
Once you have created your research question(s) or hypothesis(es), specify or match which question(s) interviews will help to answer, or which hypothesis(es) interviews will help to triangulate.
STEP 4. Consider the research implications of interview findings
Implications are the practical ways your research will assist the field of education. These are the underlying goals, the rationales for, or the importance of your study. Implications are linked to your research problem or topic, research purpose, and research question(s) or hypothesis(es) of your study. Therefore, once you have matched the research question(s) or hypothesis(es) that interview findings will try to answer, determine the implications of these results and how it will aid the field of education. This will help you keep focused and maintain a clear vision when writing interview questions, conducting interviews, and interpreting results.
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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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