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Interview skills

Types of interview
  • Structured - short limiting questions - good for a lot of questions, not good for rich data, could be done with a questionnaire
  • Semi-structured - more open questions inviting elaboration
  • Unstructured - also called in-depth interviews, lots of further probing questions (quite a skill – not for the novice interviewer)
  • Group interviews/discussions - also called focus groups: good for different perceptions of one thing, correction of each other; can give a broad contextual picture.
Types of bias
  • Interviewer bias (e.g., leading questions in a desired direction)
  • Sample bias (e.g., fake answers provided by hired interviewers)
  • Race/Cultural bias (people will respond differently to someone from a different race or culture).
Other considerations
  • Be aware of your own interview skills - practise with friends before actually collecting the data.
  • Fit with the interviewees' timetable - go to their office/home, etc.
  • Make sure that the environment is private and no-one can overhear.
  • Develop rapport to begin with - friendly enquiries (e.g. What name would you prefer me to call you?). Explain who you are and why you are doing the research).
  • Avoid taboo topics.
  • Establish a shared understanding of concepts before asking about them e.g. what is understood by 'authority'.
  • Write up your own description of the interview and the interviewee in your field notes soon after while you memory is still fresh.
  • Be prepared for participants to choose not to answer a question.
  • Make sure that they know they have this option.
  • Interviews take time - time to arrange, time to conduct, and time to transcribe and analyse, so don't plan to do an unrealistic number of interviews.
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