Whether you're a business owner or an academic, qualitative research interviews are a great way of collecting detailed information, data, and feedback on a specific topic.
If you're a business owner, that topic might be a product you're developing or have recently launched. If you're an academic, that topic is likely to be the research question you're working on for your next paper.
In this guide you'll learn how to prepare for and structure a research interview, and how to transcribe the interview once it has ended.
In a nutshell, quantitative research focuses on numbers and statistics, whereas qualitative research focuses on words, meanings, and behavior.
The aim of qualitative research is to describe a topic, rather than measure it. And while quantitative research is typically carried out via surveys with close-ended questions (like yes or no questions), qualitative research usually involves interviews.
Preparation is key when it comes to ensuring you get the most possible out of your research interview. Here are five ways to prepare ahead of the interview:
1. Prepare a list of questions
Start by thinking about what you want to get from the interview, and plan your questions based on this. The beauty of qualitative interviews is that you can't predict how the respondent will answer, but have a think about the follow-up questions you could ask depending on the direction the interview takes.
The number of questions you should ask in a research interview will vary depending on the project and the type of interview you want to conduct. For an academic research interview you might have just one or two broad questions in addition to the main research question, while for business research, you might have a longer list of questions. It's a good idea to have a couple of priority questions, and then plenty of additional follow-up questions that you can ask when appropriate.
Check out our guide on how to interview someone for an article for tips on the type of questions you should ask.
2. Practice your interview techniques
Enlist a colleague or peer to help you rehearse the interview and practice your interview techniques so that you feel confident for the real thing. Focus on actively listening, and ask your peer to comment on your body language and demeanor. While running through the questions, notice if anything could be phrased in a better way, and make a note of any additional questions that crop up.
3. Choose a safe and comfortable meeting place
For face-to-face interviews, arrange a meeting place where you and the interviewee will both feel safe and comfortable. An office space feels professional, while a public place like a cafe might feel more relaxed and informal.
4. Be clear about the when, where, why and how
Make sure the person you're interviewing knows well in advance when and where the interview will take place, and how long it will last for. Research interviews commonly last between 20 minutes and half an hour, depending on the context.
Be clear about the purpose of the interview, and give your interviewee a good idea of what to expect from the session.
5. Have your recording equipment ready
Recording an interview is good practice, as it means you can focus on actively listening and asking relevant follow-up questions to ensure you get the most out of the interview - rather than taking notes. Make sure you have a laptop and a microphone at the ready, and check it's all working before you start the interview.
Once you've greeted the participant and made them feel at ease with some friendly chit chat, start by introducing yourself and explaining the purpose of the interview. If you're recording the interview, make sure you ask their permission before you hit record.
Then you can start working through your questions. How you structure the interview from this point onwards depends on exactly what you want from the interview:
You might want to work through a structured list of questions, keeping things on track throughout
You might want to work through your questions but allow for plenty of tangents to see what interesting information you can gather
Or you might want an entirely unstructured interview where you let the interviewee speak freely
However you choose to structure the interview, make sure you actively listen and allow the interviewee plenty of time to respond to each question. Don't be afraid of silence, as this can allow the respondent time to reflect, which might provide you with additional insight.
Show respect for interviewee's time by keeping to the agreed timeframe, and end by asking them if they have any questions or anything they'd like to add. Thank them for their time and explain how and when you will follow up, if necessary.
Soon after the interview is finished, it's a good idea to transcribe the recording and start your analysis while the information is fresh in your mind. Make a note of key points, quotes, findings and recommendations, and use insights from each interview you conduct to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of future interviews. You might want to adjust your questions slightly or allow a little more time for the next interview.
Save yourself from having to take notes while the interview is in progress
Easily search for key sections and themes, and jump to important parts of the interview
Copy and paste verbatim quotes from your academic transcriptions directly into your reports
Refer back to your written notes as and when you need to
Transcribing an interview by hand is a long and time-consuming process, so consider saving yourself precious time by using an automated transcription tool like Transcribe.
Take a look at our guide on how to transcribe an interview for extra guidance.
Written By Katie Garrett