Although I'm more strongly trained in quantitative data analysis, I abhor dogmatism. This includes the dogmatism that quantitative analysis is always better than qualitative analysis. Asking questions of other people is a powerful tool for learning. The art is knowing when to ask, who to ask, and how to ask.
The following are some common forms of interviews, with which I have some experience.
- Market research: Depth interviews are useful for learn about the thoughts and opinions of customers.
- Job interviews:
- Social Science Research: I often find interviews provide a useful supplement to quantitative research. A subset of individuals can be asked questions about closed-ended questions. This can be useful in pilot testing and test development.
- Consulting: e.g., Organisational Change, Information Gathering. Interviews are particularly useful for information gathering, problem definition phase, and for generating suggestions.
- Career Guidance
- Statistical Consulting and other Professional Guidance Roles: These roles are strictly interviews. Rather, as an advisor I need to ask questions of the client in order to gather information and facilitate the client's thinking on the topic. I put this down here, because many of the same skills relevant to interviewing apply these these advisor roles.
- Learning from Mentors, Supervisors, and others: I often have students come to talk to me about careers in I/O psychology. I'm always impressed with students who come prepared. They've thought about to whom they should talk and they have a set of relevant questions to ask.
Key Issues from my Perspective
- Is a depth interview the appropriate means for obtaining the desired information? Depth interviews are great when: the range of possible answers is unknown; the meaning of a quantitative question or answer is not understood; the research is about factual answers, not attitudes, and the interviewees may have the answers; the aim is to learn about the language used in the domain; the aim is to form a preliminary understanding of thoughts and reasons for behaviour; the aim is to capture the breadth of thoughts about a particular topic. Depth interviews are poor at generalising or summarising population attributes. If the question is well defined and the aim is to make a statement about the population, quantitative methods tend to be better.
- Asking open ended questions for purposes of information gathering is common to many domains.
- Clarifying the aims and research questions is critical.
- A Interview Guide links the research questions to specific interview questions. The guide also provides structure and flow to the interview. It also ensures important questions are covered.
- Being familiar with content area is also highly important.
- There are many dos and don'ts regarding interview questions. More ideas are listed below. Important points from my perspective: don't ask leading questions; Open Ended Questions are the key: e.g., those starting with: How, Why, Where, When, Why
- When conducting the interview, listen accurately and actively. Active listening means encouraging, reiterating, being attentive and interested.
- Probing is an important skill to explore issues adaptively as they come up in an interview. Sayre, (2001) discusses four types of probing: Information probes: “What do you mean by …?; Nudging probes: “I see; hmm; and?”; Clearinghouse probes: “Is there anything more to add?”; Reflective and mirroring probes: “So what you are saying is…?”
- Boyce and Neal provide an online chapter on depth interviews. They: (a) define depth interviews; (b) discuss the pros and cons of depth interviews; (c) discuss the steps in: planning, developing instruments, training data collectors, collecting data, analysing data, and disseminating findings.
- Good Questions, Better Questions: The manual provides some suggestions for conducting depth interviews (page 33 to 36).
- Lisa Guion provides further suggestions on depth interviews. She discusses Kvale's (1996) seven stages of conducting an in-depth interview: (1) thematising; (2) designing; (3) interviewing; (4) transcribing; (5) analysing; (6) verifying; (7) reporting.
- A guide to conducting structured job interviews; McDaniel et al's 1994 meta analysis of job interview validity; Sackett and Lieven's Annual Review of Psychology article on personnel selection.
- Career guidance interviews: London Metropolitan University; Australian Government Materials
- Valenzuela and Shrizasava's provide notes on the interview as a qualitative research method.
- 15 tips for effective research interviews
- Hannan's suggestions for conducting interviews in educational research
- A discussion of qualitative data analysis in a thesis