How to Conduct Individual Interviews
by Richard A. Krueger
- Plan the study
Develop your questions
- Write down what you seek to accomplish or the purpose of the study
- Identify people you plan to interview
- Determine location and length of interview
- Determine who should do the interviewing
Pilot test the questions
- Brainstorm possible questions
- Identify key questions and place them in the second half of the interview
- Sequence questions-opening, transition, key, ending
- Use open-ended questions to get new ideas and opinions
- Use close-ended questions for details and facts
- Anticipate length of each answer and finish on time
Interview and take notes
- Test questions with friends, colleagues and family members
- Test questions with a few people like those you intend to interview and ask advice
Prepare a summary soon after the interview
- Place your complete attention on the interview
- Have it in a comfortable, relaxing place
- Be conversational
- Begin with topics of interest to the interviewee
- Food may be helpful
- Probe for amplification
- Be patient--learn to pause
- Be careful about verbal and nonverbal cues
- Tape record if possible
- Take field notes
Issues that often surface in individual interviews
- Prepare a summary immediately after the interview
- Highlight the key points and notable quotes
- Cross-cultural interviews require more sensitivity
- Don't lead the interviewee to give the answer you desire or expect
- The interviewee may request that some answers be confidential. This means you can report the answer as long as others cannot determine the source.
Suggestions for quality interviews
- Put the interviewee at ease. Find a comfortable and private place for the interview. Spend a few moments getting acquainted before asking your questions. Begin with easy questions.
- Prepare questions in advance to have a logical sequence.
- Know your questions well so you can be conversational.
- Reweave earlier comments into later questions.
- Be ready to ask the same question in different words if the person seems to be confused.
- Know which questions are most important. Drop lesser important questions if time is short.
- Just because someone is talking doesn't mean they are answering your question. If your question is not answered, ask it again.
- Analysis and reporting begin with a brief statement of the problem that gave rise to the study. Write a paragraph describing how the study was conducted. In this paragraph describe the situation, environment, questions, research team, those interviewed, etc.
- Prepare a brief summary of each person interviewed. Listen to the audio tape and use field notes as you prepare this summary. Structure the summary so it goes question by question.
- Summarize each question across all subjects. Describe the variation of answers. Look for patterns, themes, or overarching concepts.
- Use bullets to highlight key points. If possible, compare and contrast findings across sites, categories, etc.
Patton, M. Q. (1987). How to use qualitative methods in evaluation. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Patton, M. Q. (1990). Qualitative evaluation and research methods (2nd ed.). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
University of Arizona CYFER Net Evaluation
The Use of Qualitative Interviews in Evaluation (Arizona)
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