Interviewing is an important technique for collecting subjective data in qualitative research. Some information for your final year research project cannot be obtained through bibliographic research or observation. The only way to collect them is through interviews. With that in mind, we have prepared this complete material with everything you need to know to collect data for your scientific research through interviews.
What is an interview?
The interview is the social interaction between the researcher and the person being interviewed, following methodological rigour. It is performed to understand some phenomenon, which is the object of scientific research.
In other words, the interview is the direct contact between the researcher and the person being interviewed to answer the scientific research problem. Databases are therefore formed from the understandings and perspectives of the people interviewed.
Difference between subjective data and objective data
Subjective data refer to the beliefs and opinions of the people interviewed. Objective data, on the other hand, are metrics and personal characteristics. That is, subjective data depends on the point of view of the person being interviewed, while objective data is based on impartial observations.
In the case of a survey on consumers of a certain product, for example, subjective data refer to the person’s perception of the product or the person’s willingness to consume it. While objective data refer, for example, to the person’s age and salary.
Types of interviews
The interviews are classified based on the dynamics of the interview and the interviewer’s autonomy. So, they can be structured or semi-structured.
1. Structured interview
Structured interviews are carried out based on a previously planned questionnaire. The main characteristic of a structured interview is that the interviewer must be careful and rigorous in restricting the interview to the questions asked. So, no new questions should be elaborated, in addition to those previously foreseen.
The main objective of conducting this type of interview is the possibility of comparing the results. This is because, from the same set of questions, the research richness is only in the analysis of the answers. Structured interviews are used, for example, in census surveys, opinion polls, and electoral surveys.
Among the advantages of a structured interview is that the survey result is independent of the interviewer. So, anyone who is aware of the quiz script can do it. Furthermore, it prevents the interviewer’s bias from interfering with the research result.
2. Semi-structured interviews
In the semi-structured interview, the interviewer follows a script of previously established questions. However, you don’t need to strictly follow them, that is, the semi-structured interview combines definite questions with spontaneous questions, which arise only at the time of the interview.
The process of this type of interview is similar to the context of an informal conversation. The interviewer must be careful to direct the discussion to the subject that interests the research. For this, you can ask additional questions, in addition to the questions that had been defined in the script.
The great advantage of the semi-structured interview is the chance of greater proximity and greater interaction between the interviewer and the person being interviewed. From then onwards, possibilities open to touch on more complex issues, referring to the personal meanings of the person interviewed.
And more than that, the person interviewed can spontaneously direct the course of the research, producing the best sample of the population of interest. The duration of the interview is also made more flexible, allowing for deeper coverage of the subject.
The main disadvantage refers to the partiality of the interviewer. It is possible that the interview is directed towards a path of interest, losing scientific credibility.
Why Undertake an Interview?
But, after all, what are the advantages of doing interviews for a final year research project? Imagine how interesting it can be to go beyond the limits of documentary data to know the opinion of research subjects about the phenomenon being studied? How can it be interesting to know the impacts of racist social structures by black people who suffer this type of discrimination? Or, in a law research project, to find out what people think about passing a law?
This is the main reason for conducting an interview: The versatility of studying problems from the perspective of the research subjects themselves. Thus, it is possible to have a broad and accessible view on the understanding of certain phenomena.
It is also possible to turn an interview into a way to develop techniques and propose solutions. When interviewing employees of a company about the organization of the human resources department and its communication with employees, for example, it is possible to write about corrections and courses of action different from those already adopted that can demonstrate more efficiency.
How to Carry Out an Interview?
Interviews can vary greatly depending on the area and topic of research. However, without a doubt, the quality of all interviews depends on the application of academic rigour. That’s why we’ve created a list that includes all the tips for a good interview:
Before – Interview planning
It is essential to think and plan how these ideas will be presented.
1. Define your goal
The first step in research preparation is to decide on a clear and specific object of study. The interesting thing is to find a balance between an interesting question and a searchable question. This step, however, consists of preparing the research project.
Keeping the object of study in mind, it is important to limit what the purpose of data collection is. This objective will guide the other elements, such as the type of research and the choice of technique for collecting information.
2. Consider the specifics of your area
Review what criteria you must meet to align with the needs of your area. For example, the legal area requires a certain degree of formality. The artistic area, in turn, requires you to demonstrate your creativity.
3. Is qualitative research the most suitable option?
You must be sure that qualitative research is the most suitable option for the approach. If your research problem needs to be answered with answers that go beyond “yes” or “no”, there is a strong indication that qualitative research will be more useful. If your research seeks to explore metrics and numbers, rethink whether quantitative research doesn’t fit better.
4. Is the interview the best option for data collection?
Choose the data collection technique. How you collect the data depends on the information you are looking for. If you need information that is quick and can be answered via an online form, for example, you may need to rethink the idea of conducting interviews.
5. What type of interview will be used?
The choice of interview format must comply with the needs of the research project. In the case of a final year project on the social reality of a community of native peoples, for example, the semi-structured interview can be more interesting and bring more richness to the research. On the other hand, a research project on a food pattern needs to start with established questions to enable data analysis.
It is important to think about the choices to be made. While a freer interview will allow you to explore unexpected directions and expand your knowledge, a solid structured interview will make it easier to turn answers into statistics, extending the usefulness of interviews.
6. Choose the optimal sample size
Qualitative research, in general, does not depend as much on sample size as qualitative research. However, be sure to consider all possible outcomes.
7. Choose the people who will be interviewed
The person interviewed must be familiar with the research topic, to meet the needs of the research objective.
8. Secure the interview opportunity
The opportunity for the interview must be guaranteed. So, schedule a date in advance to ensure you will be met by the person being interviewed.
9. Organize the script with the important questions
Formulate the survey script with the important questions. Pay attention to fulfilling the research objective. Organize an order and be careful not to ask absurd, ambiguous, or biased questions. And remember that clear questions favour clear answers.
10. If necessary, submit the research project to the Human Research Ethics Committee
Research carried out with human beings that will be published to the general public must be submitted to the Ethics Committees of Educational Institutions. The Committees serve to ensure compliance with security measures and to ward off research risks. Be sure about the need and meeting the requirements. This is a step that usually takes a long time. Beware of deadlines!
During – Interview development
The need to use a recorder must be analyzed. In some moments, the recording of interviews can cause embarrassment or distortion of answers. In any case, under no circumstances can the interview be recorded without the knowledge and consent of the person being interviewed.
1. If you are going to use a recorder, ask for consent
To prove consent, the person interviewed must be required to sign a Free and Informed Consent Form.
2. Use the language of the person being interviewed
As far as possible, speak the same language as the person interviewed. Avoid technical or far-fetched terms. If there is a distance in language, the person being interviewed may feel embarrassed and the interview will not go smoothly.
3. Be aware of sign languages
The interviewer must be aware of the silences, gestures, and intonations of the person being interviewed. These elements are not captured by the recorder, but they are also part of the communication and are very important in data analysis.
4. Respect the stories
In general, the interviews touch on issues related to personal feelings and affections. Therefore, it is necessary to respect the stories that are being told.
5. Provide well-being for the person interviewed
The person being interviewed should be comfortable speaking their opinion and perspective without feeling constrained.
6. Try to be as neutral and impartial as possible
The interviewer must create an atmosphere of trust and must not disagree with the views of the person being interviewed. You should try to be as neutral and impartial as possible.
7. Interview with a certain logical sense to the person being interviewed
The researcher should try to continue the conversation. The interview questions must take into account the thought sequence of the person being interviewed. It is often helpful to have the person being interviewed remember facts rather than answering direct questions. This ensures that you get a more spontaneous narrative.
After – Data processing
Be faithful when transcribing the interview
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The researcher must be faithful and transcribe everything the person interviewed said. Care must be taken not to exchange one word for another and not to reverse the order of responses.
As seen, conducting interviews depends on many steps that, in general, take a lot of time. But if you plan to do academic work with an interview, follow the steps above.
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