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Interviews

 

What is an interview?
An interview is the process of asking questions of a knowledgeable person or small group to learn about a topic.

When do I use an interview?
Use an interview to learn detailed information from a single individual or small number of individuals. It is very useful when you want to gain expert opinions on the subject or talk to someone knowledgeable about a topic. Use interviews to strengthen the research you have found from other sources.

Where do I find someone to interview?
Think about what sort of person would be good to interview. A professional who works in the field you are studying? An academic, like a university professor or researcher, who studies your topic? An author who has written books or articles on your topic? A person in the local community who has experience with this issue?

Identify that person and make arrangements to contact him or her. Authors can often be contacted through the publisher of their books or the editor of their journals, though this may take a little time. Scholars can often be contacted through their university departments or campus directories. Professionals are often listed online or have their own websites, so they may be found through an Internet search. Allow yourself sufficient time to locate a person to interview.

How do I conduct an interview?
Once you identify an interviewee, contact him or her to see if and when an interview is possible. Typically, your interview will be a face-to-face meeting, but you may also conduct it by phone, email, or video chat. Be polite and respectful at all times with each contact.

Before the interview:

  • Make an appointment with the person you want to interview; identify yourself and briefly explain your purpose for the interview.
  • Investigate your topic and learn about your source.
  • Prepare four or five basic questions; the most effective interview questions are open-ended; that is, they ask for more than a yes or a no answer. Learn more about developing interview questions from Purdue University's Online Writing Lab.

During the interview:

  • Ask informational questions (who, what, where, when, why, and how).
  • Listen carefully.
  • Ask follow-up questions.
  • Take accurate notes.
  • Record the session, if possible (ask permission from the person being interviewed).

After the interview:

  • Write a detailed account from your notes.
  • Contact your source to clarify points or to double-check facts.
  • Send a thank-you note to the person you interviewed.

For more information about conducting an interview, read the eBook, Fire Away: Asking Great Interview Questions, and/or see Purdue OWL's "Interviewing" webpage.

Some information about finding a person to interview was used with permission from Dr. L. Kip Wheeler's "Conducting an Interview" web page.