The purpose behind any type of research is to find answers to unanswered questions. Research in psychology
sets to satisfy this purpose by better understanding humans, their various relationships and behaviors and their general interactions with the world around them. Considering these goals, the importance of the interview as a means of obtaining prime research data to study individuals is pretty clear and apparent.
Interviews, along with questionnaires, surveys, databases and other modes of collecting data, are the central elements of empirical research. Whether an informal essay or research paper, interviews are an excellent source of information on a particular group of people. They provide direct responses, reasonings, and explanations behind many valid research concepts and ideas and are invaluable to both writers and researchers.
To use interviewing as a source of empirical data students need to first outline several things related to the framework and outline of their particular research project.
Before you interview
Identify the purpose of writing
Before gathering information for any type of assignment its important to clearly identify whether your writing is intended to inform, explain, argue, persuade, or convince the audience. This will heavily impact the type of interview you conduct as well as how you select an appropriate sampling group.
Identify a research question and preliminary thesis statement
Along with identifying a purpose, these two points are required to begin any research endeavor. The research question is needed to pinpoint exactly what points of your topic you will be trying to address and the thesis statement
is the answer to your research question. Hence, the initial statement is titled 'preliminary' because this may change as your research develops and evolves. But even before you begin investigating you need to know what the problem is and what you think the answer will be.
*Even if you don't have trouble coming up with a preliminary thesis statement you should still conduct a light literature review to gain a better understanding of your topic and what other people have learned and discovered regarding it.
Narrow down a specific sample
The most important issue here is that your interviewees are representative (meaning that they truly represent the group of people you are interested in). This can be done by random sampling or stratified random sampling. Additionally if you are unable to obtain a representative sample for some reason other types of sampling can also be done such as quota and snowball sampling (though these are considered non-probability samples and are less reliable than the random samples).
Determine the type of interview you want to conduct and create a script if necessary
There are three main types of interviews; structured, semi-structured and unstructured. Structured interviews are when all the questions are preset by the interviewer, such as printed-out list of questions, semi-structured interviews are when the interviewer has a script to follow but may ask a few spontaneous questions from time to time, unstructured interviews are when the interviewer is open to ask a variety of questions and the interview is more conversational in nature.
*Choosing which one works best with you will depend on your collection methods and expectations (for instance structured interviews will provide you with quantitative data which can be easily measured).
Detail the methods of collecting information
When considering how you will obtain the answers to your questions you need to take into consideration time and resources. Its likely that you will spend both time and money when conducting any type of research so plan accordingly. Also identify whether you would like to conduct face-to-face interviews, telephone, or online interviews. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages, and though face-to-face interviews are usually the ideal they may also be more time consuming than other methods.
During the interview
Once you've taken all the recommended steps in preparing for the interview there are a few things to keep in mind during each session. If you are meeting with your interviewees in person you should try to...
- Be cordial and briefly explain your project and what you hope to achieve.
- Kindly encourage participants to fully answer all questions, be clear with each answer, and stay on topic.
- Work hard to not appear bias or forceful towards any particular question or answer (believe it or not the way you react to answers or present questions can greatly impact the interviewee's response).
After the interview: including your responses in an essay
For an essay
in which there are no designated sections for results, methods, etc., the writer has to determine the best places to integrate quotations, viewpoints, and overall interview findings. The most common means of integrating interviews into an essay are to
- summarize the results of the interview
- insert strong long quotations and analyze and evaluate their value and meanings
- highlight short but relevant quotations that can easily be incorporated into a sentence or paragraph.
Generally, you may find it beneficial to use all of these means in your essay (but be careful about the placement of each) and each one can easily help to build and support your argument or thesis
*Some sample questions to ask yourself when evaluating responses are; Do the results support or disprove my hypothesis? What can now be said about the sample population based on their interview responses?
Including your responses in a research paper
The research paper
is structured differently from the essay in that it has clear and defined sections that need to be addressed (for example the Introduction, Literature Review, Methods, Results, Analysis/Discussion,
and Conclusion sections
). Since the results of an interview are considered to be raw empirical data those findings would be placed directly into the Results
section of a research paper. And likewise the methodology in which that information was obtained as outlined in the above section, would be placed in the paper's Methods
*This section should also include basic information about the sample that was selected as well as why they were selected. Any unique characteristics such as socioeconomic status, geographic location, race, gender etc. Likewise, if the interviewees do not remain anonymous (i.e. some identifying information is revealed) consent needs to be obtained by them before publishing.
For both research papers and essays expansion on the meanings behind interview responses as well as understanding causal relationships can be the most interesting and rewarding part of the writing process. And without too much thought, this type of examination can easily be undertaken by simply evaluating strong and powerful quotes as well as illuminating any unique patterns and connections found in the research process.