How to Conduct an Interview- Step 1: Design and Plan
- Design and Plan the Study
- Select and Recruit the Participants
- Conduct the Interviews
- Analyse the Data
- Report the Results
Step 1: Design and Plan the Study
Investigators design and plan the study, determining the approach (structured, semi-structured, unstructured), the research or evaluation questions, and any practical, conceptual and ethical external factors to consider. The design of the study is based on the evaluation objectives of the interview process and how will the results be used. Remember that you may need to obtain approval from your university Institutional Review Board (IRB) prior to conducting interviews.
An interview protocol is developed for structured and semi-structured interviews. The interview protocol lists the questions to be asked, along with follow-up questions or “probes” that may prompt the interviewer to elicit more explanation or information.
The questions should:
- Be directly related to the research / evaluation question(s). Ask yourself how you will use the information from each question. Don’t ask questions that may be interesting, but are not related to the central issues. It is very important to value people’s time.
- Address one issue or topic at a time. For example, this question puts two different topics together and should be separated: “would you support a farm bill that provides funding for organic farming and SNAP benefits?
- Be neutral in tone (unbiased).
- Be placed in a logical order. Handle one topic at a time, starting with the present before asking about the past or the future. One approach is to start with questions about present behaviors or activities related to a topic that is not controversial. This helps to get people talking in a descriptive way without challenging them to recall something in the past.
- Be free of jargon and technical language.
Avoid asking questions that are “leading” and encourage the respondents’ answers in a particular way. Do not presume information (unless you are speaking with a specific group that you know have a specific skill set). It is strongly recommended to pilot-test your questions on a small group before finalizing the questionnaire.