15-minute INTERVIEW and Transcription – Due
Feb 22, 2020 11:00 PM
Spring 2020 – Social Research Methods (SOC-415-W01)
Planning for the Interview
Read Chapter 2 Interviewing, pp. 23-64.
- Select an interviewee and request permission to interview them in a public, but quiet, location. A good idea would be to interview a family member or friend/acquaintance and use this opportunity to ask them more about some part of their life or career that you have always wondered about and would enjoy learning more about. This will be a semi-structured interview (See Box 2.1, p. 26) with a few questions prepared in advance and follow up questions prepared in advance, accompanied by follow up questions/probes you spontaneously create as you listen to your interviewee.
- Arrange date and time of interview. Explain that you are doing this interview as an assignment for your research methods class.
- Request permission for making an audio recording
- Design a set of interview questions tailored to the interviewee. In advance, prepare some open-ended questions that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. Also include some pre-written follow-up questions. You will also need to listen closely to the interviewee so that you can think of spontaneous follow up questions during the interview. (See the paragraph that starts on the bottom of p. 24 and finishes on the top of p. 25).
- Test out your smart phone or other recording device (to make sure you know how to record your own voice).
- Take fresh, spare batteries or your phone charger.
At the Interview
- Try to arrive first and set up your recording device. Do another quick test of recording your own voice.
- Greet the interviewee pleasantly and chat briefly about non-controversial subjects, e.g., the weather, your workload this semester, to relax yourself and the interviewee.
- Re-confirm permission to record and assure confidentiality. Start recording and ask your first prepared question.
- Add in other questions and follow ups spontaneously during the interview to keep the conversation focused and moving. Monitoring the time, continue the interview until the 15-minute point, thank them and close the interview, and stop recording.
- At the end of the interview, after you have stopped recording, request permission to contact them again in a day or so if you need to follow up with other questions that arise.
After the Interview
- Write an email of thanks to interviewee.
- Transcribe the interview. Type out the audio recording (your speech and theirs) verbatim, or word for word, exactly, into a Word file and submit in D2L Dropbox.
- For each question and answer throughout the interview, do this:
- Single space the document. Type the first question. Hit enter twice (so that there is a blank line between the question and the answer.)
- Type the answer. Hit enter twice.
- Type the next question. (And repeat, and so on).
- In short, the transcription you type will be single-spaced, and you’ll have a blank line after each interview question and after each response. This looks neat and tidy and is easy to read.
- Save transcript as a Word document. Keep a backup copy and at least one printout.
Interviewing tips and strategies
- Probe, Probe, Probe: The MOST IMPORTANT question for your interview is probably not on your carefully prepared question sheet. Rather, the most important question may be a probe, which is a question you ask to learn more about what an interviewee just told you. Probing more in depth makes the interviewee think more about his or her thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and thus allows you to learn just what is behind these things. Sometimes you can anticipate what issues will need further probing. If so, then it is helpful to write down probing questions underneath your main questions to remind you to probe further. Some specific interview probes you might use include: ‘‘Can you describe what the place looked like?’’; ‘‘How did that make you feel at the time?’’; ‘‘Can you give me an example of that?’’; and ‘‘What did you mean when you said_____?’’
- Avoid $100 Words: Don’t ask questions like ‘‘What is your gender ideology?’’ or ‘‘Tell me about your role overload.’’ Rather, phrase questions in a way that a generally educated respondent would understand. For instance, instead of asking ‘‘What is your gender ideology?’’ ask ‘‘What do you think the proper role for a woman [man] is?’’ or ‘‘Who do you think should be responsible for housework?’’ The answers to these questions will let you know something about a person’s gender ideology.
- Many closed-ended questions can be turned into an open-ended question by beginning the question with a ‘‘why’’ or ‘‘how’’ instead of ‘‘what,’’ or by following up the answer to a close-ended question with ‘‘Why?’’ ‘‘Why not?’’ ‘‘Why do you feel that way?’’ ‘‘How does that make you feel?’’ and other pithy phrases. For example, a question like ‘‘What chores do you do on a regular basis?’’ is rather closed-ended. However, adding the follow-up ‘‘Why do you do these chores in particular?’’ or ‘‘How did you and your partner decide who does what chore?’’ opens up the question for further elaboration by the interviewee. In general, try to use ‘‘how’’ more than ‘‘why,’’ since ‘‘why’’ questions sometimes cause interviewees to feel that you are judging them.
- Sometimes you will ask questions that seem very commonsense to your interviewees. One tactic for handling this problem is just to tell them that you really are not well-informed about the subject. This will make your interviewee further explain things, which will provide you with much better data. Remember, you are playing ignorant, not dumb. You lack knowledge, information, or awareness of what the interviewee is talking about, but are otherwise a competent person!
- Battle the ‘‘You Know What I Mean?’’ You may find that your interviewee will end a statement by the phrase ‘‘You know what I mean?’’ or some other variant. Do not allow it by nodding your head and saying ‘‘Yep.’’ Rather, say not exactly, you don’t know what they mean, or ask the interviewee to just clarify for your sake. Unless you have the magical ability to know what’s in a person’s head, then you really don’t know what they mean.
- Order Attention Pay to: The questions that you ask should flow logically from one to another, or you should have transitions between sets of questions to let the interviewee know that you are now going in a different direction. Asking questions that do not logically follow one another makes the interview process seem disjointed and artificial, and this can have a huge impact on the interview dynamic. Questions that seem orderly put the interviewee at ease and make the interview seem more conversation-like, and this will help the interviewee to open up to you more. It will also make you seem as if you’ve got your act together, giving you legitimacy as an interviewer.
- Try to avoid leading questions that may make interviewees feel obligated to answer in a particular way. ‘‘How did the division of housework make you upset?’’ is a leading question because it assumes that the person was upset about the issue. However, the question ‘‘How did the division of the housework make you feel?’’ gets at the same thing, but it does not lead the interviewee into a specific emotional direction.
- Enjoy the Silence: Oftentimes there will be ‘‘dead air’’ during the interview. Realize that although you have been thinking a lot about the questions you are asking, the interviewee is hearing them for the first time. Avoid the temptation to fill the silence with your speech. Give your interviewees time to think about the answers that they want to give. Don’t worry. Interviewees are usually quick to tell you if they don’t understand a question or if they don’t have anything else to say about a topic.
- You may not agree with some or a lot of what your interviewee says. However, it is not your job as an interviewer judge your interviewee. Rather, your goal is to document, understand, and try to explain why they think and feel in certain ways. Therefore, during the interview try not to take a critical tone or stance toward what the interviewee says. Also remember that you can express disapproval in nonverbal ways, such as how you look at a person when they give an answer or the tone you use when asking follow-up questions. Try to keep these nonverbal cues in check during the interview.
- Do not put words into people’s mouths. Rather, let them say things in their own words, especially with questions that deal with thoughts, opinions, and feelings. Remember, if you say it, it’s not data. It is only data when the interviewee says it. If you go back over an interview recording and notice that you talk as much (or more than!) the interviewee did, just consider the need to scale back on your own speech next time.
Transcription tips and strategies
- Transcribing an interview means taking the audio recording and typing it out, word for word, into a Word document. Allow lots of time for this, much more than you think you’ll need.
- People talk much faster than you can type, so you will have to stop the voice recording many times as you type and then catch up. The only time I have ever been able to type at the same rate of a person’s speech was when I was interviewing a man whose hay allergies were acting up and he was so congested he had to speak very slowly in order to be understood!
- Rule of thumb is that it takes 3 to 5 times longer to transcribe a recording than the actual length of the recording.
- In simpler terms, a 15-minute interview will probably translate into 5 pages of typing and could take 45-75 minutes total to transcribe.
- Plus, it is undeniably tedious work and you may need to take lots of breaks.
If you are really running dry in terms of thinking up an interview topic or are interviewing someone you don’t know well, consider one of these:
- Tell me about a difficult circumstance you have had to overcome. How has that shaped who you are now?
- Describe some fads from your youth. Popular hairstyles? Clothes?
- Tell me about a really happy or satisfying event or time in your life.
15-minute INTERVIEW and Transcription
Due February 22 at 11:00 PM