Qualitative Interviewing – Things to do

Reference: http://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-and-institutes/center-for-refugee-and-disaster-response/publications_tools/publications/_pdf/pr_section_3.PDF

Use open-ended questions:

Closed questions limit the breadth of information that a respondent has to offer – closed questions provide possible answers in the question of the answer is a simple yes or no; e.g. Is your hair brown, black or blonde? and Are you interested in research?

Open questions include what? who? how? where? when? why? In qualitative interviewing, you should limit the use of why questions as it implies that there is a right answer to the informant. E.g. What colour is your hair? What are your interest? What do you enjoy most about research? How did you become a teachers? etc.

Avoid Leading Questions:

Allow people to answer in their own terms, voicing their own views, values and experiences. Use non-leading questions:

e.g. How good was the research programme you attended? (leading question) use the following instead: how do you feel about the research programme you attended?


“stimulate the informant to produce more information”

Probing Techniques

  • What questions
  • Silent Probe: remain quiet and wait for informant to continue – this usually happens when you are busy writing what the informant has just finished saying
  • Echo Probe: repeat the last thing an informant said and ask them to continue by posing another question
  • The “uh-huh” probe: encourage the participant to continue with a narrative by making affirmative noises: “uh-huh”; “Yes, I see” and “right, uh-huh”.
  • Grand Tour Questions:
    • General Overview: generalize; discuss patterns of events
    • Specific Tour: ask the informant about a specific incident or what they did on a certain day
    • Guided Tour: ask the informant for a tour of the workplace or to accompany them while doing a job
    • Task-related Guided Tour: ask the informant to perform a task or to help you understand the context of something
  • Mini-Tour Questions:
    • similar to the grand tour questions but it deals with a much smaller aspect of experience
    • it puts a magnifying glass on an activity or area that you think is important

Letting the informant lead:

In an unstructured interview, you keep the conversation focused on a topic, while giving the informant room to define the content of the conversation

Rule: Get the informant on to a topic of interest and let the informant provide information that they think is important

Tips for interviewing:

  1. Do not begin interviewing straight away –
    1. friendly greeting and explanations
    2. interviewer as learner
  2. Listen and express interest in what the informant tells you –
    1. more of a friendly conversation
    2. not a strict question and answer exchange
    3. remain neutral: don’t approve or disapprove
  3. Try to get the informant to expand on their answers & give as many details as possible –
    1. use words like “describe”, “tell me about”
    2. do not move on to a new topic until you have explored the informants knowledge on the question at hand
  4. Let the informant’s answers determine the direction the interview takes –
    1. Keep within topics of interest
  5. Use informant’s own language to ask new questions –
    1. do this as you learn the informants language
    2. this encourages informants to speak to you in their own language
  6. Crude measure of success is the volume of response –
    1. 80% at least “their” own words
    2. most problems are the fault of the interviewer
  7. Learn how to re-phrase or re-think questions
  8. Avoid using “why?” questions as much as possible –
    1. it implies that there is a factual, correct answer
    2. informants will try and give you a “right” answer
    3. ask “what was happening at the time?”

Use of Translators

  • Provide literal translation
  • Keep key terms in local language
  • Keep your own dictionary of key local terms
  • Interviewer introduces translator to the informant
  • Interviewer speaks directly with the informant
  • Interviewer maintains eye contact with the informant at all times – they essentially ignore the translator
  • Interviewer and translator sit down after the meeting and they compare notes, complete raw notes together and write expanded notes if possible.




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