Interviews are key to learning about someone’s specific experiences. Through stories and responses, you are able to better gain insight into the subject you are studying through the people most affected by the issue.
Questions should be thoughtful and supportive of your objective, helping to direct the conversation. Feel free to to explore any paths that naturally come up during the process – a great way to allow you to inspect new angles and other lines of questioning. Make sure to ask open-ended questions, which will yield richer responses than a simple yes or no. Also, try to avoid asking leading questions, as they set people up to respond a certain way. And that’s the worst, isn’t it? 😉
This is a nice way to make a person feel at ease about opening up to you. Often you are able to glean information from how they interact with the space, people, and items around them. This is especially important for cultural and community research. Though there will be circumstances when a person would feel most comfortable speaking with you over the phone or away from their usual surroundings – and that’s okay!
Take time to properly explain who you are, the reason for the interview, and how the information will be used. In some cases you may need to gain permissions or offer responses to be anonymous.
People are more likely to open up to you if you take the time to get to know them first. Easing toward more sensitive topics helps you establish rapport and allows for a more natural progression in the conversation. Also, asking Why is a great way to gain deeper insight and prompt them to offer more details as you go.
Keep in mind that this is an opportunity for the participant to share their stories, experiences, and opinions. It can be difficult not to interject with our own relatable thoughts, but try to refrain from doing so unless it helps provide additional comfort or context for the participant. Ultimately, this is about them, not you.
Resist summarizing what someone is saying. The accuracy of your insights depends upon recording people’s own words, not your interpretation of them. Take notes or set up a recorder when asking questions (always ask permission before recording someone). It is also helpful to stick to questions about actual experiences – what people have done, not what they would or might do.