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Background of research (context) - theory, purpose etc.
Methodology - quantitative/qualitative/mixed, approaches such as case studies, surveys
Methods - techniques or tools (i.e. observations, interviews)
Data handling and analysis
Interviews and Focus Groups Paula Nottingham BAPP WBS3835 16th March 2010
Interview- what is it? It is a qualitative method where you collect what people say (from your sample) in order to use it as evidence. Its advantage is that you “can follow up on ideas, probe responses and investigate motives and feelings” (Bell, 2005, p.157). You can ask the why questions… It is an occasion to gather information ‘for the record’, with a specific agenda set out by the researcher, it is not just a conversation (Denscombe,2007). When it is processed, the evidence from the interview will provide data for your research.
Types of Interview
Structured - closed questions to illicit information that can be turned into data, like a social survey in person or for targeted information, uses identical questions that can be standardised
Semi-structured - broad topic questions but with some built in flexibility, usually some standardisation
Open – usually around a general topic but where you allow the participant to introduce subjects and/or narratives more freely.
Number of people in the interview can vary One to one - allows the participant to think through their in-depth responses and cover confidential or personal information Group - like a one to one but allows you to see more people at once and might help people think through the questions during the process Focus Groups - allows the interaction of group members to look at the topic, can sometimes go off in unexpected directions (focus groups are used a lot in Marketing)
The one-to-one interview process (Image courtesy of beewebhead on Flickr obtained from MIT open access website)
Sampling – choosing who to interview There are a number of different ways to design a sampling frame and this will depend on your approach and access. Match your methods to your research problem and work-based learning project. For example: Purposive - choosing people who can answer the questions using defined criteria (qualitative) Representative - selection of the sample population (quantitative and mixed - i.e. the interviews might follow a survey) more ‘scientific’ - using a version of probability or non-probability sampling
Sampling - using roles to help choose
Developing questions and trying them out
Interview Questions - ask what you would like to know about for your project. Think this process through.
Piloting the process - draft the questions and their sequence. Try this out with a willing participant who can offer you suggestions for any changes - you can also talk about this stage with your Academic Advisor. Change your interview process as needed.
How does this differ from professional networking? How is it similar?
Notes and taping
Gain permission to record the audio visual – use 2 devices to ensure you get the interview - digital devices mean that you can store the information but be careful about the storage and confidentiality
You may want to take a few notes to highlight certain responses - have sheets prepared and maybe a clipboard. This may not be possible in an ‘ethnographic’ situation i.e. an evening performance venue.
Consent Forms - the ‘researcher’ needs to ensure informed consent from the participants – more in the campus session on ethics
Access and/or Gatekeeper Permission – you may need to write or email the Manager telling them what you are doing and receive the ok to interview people
You may need a letter from Middlesex University to formalise your agreement with the workplace, especially if confidentiality agreements are required.
Thinking about the setting required Your choice of setting, public or private, depends on the situation.
Protocols - arranging the meeting
Send an information sheet, interview questions and consent form prior to the meeting if possible. Tell the participant what they will need to do to prepare and how much time you will need. Make clear your needs…
Allow time to contact people to agree to interview , for example, to work with children you might need a CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) check.
Most people at work are busy and scheduling is required, other interviews might take place outside of work because of confidentiality or preference. You may have to do interviews over the phone or Skype.
Doing the interview Be punctual and have all handouts ready (Consent form, questionnaires, etc.). Arrange the surroundings, i.e. the seating and recording devices, so that the participant is comfortable. With focus groups you may want to have everyone identify themselves first so that you can identify their voice - these are more difficult to transcribe. It is important that the participant is supported in the process and that you also engage with them in a professional manner BUT that you come away from the interview with the evidence that you need for your inquiry
Focus Groups - the setting Researcher Gatekeeper Recording devices Actual seating arrangement for a recent focus group in which Paula took part.
Asking the questions
Keeping a neutral tone and ‘chairing the process ’ to keep it on time, stopping if necessary or asked to stop.
Taping also means the recording of your voice, so you want to keep your talking down to a minimum. Don’t ask leading questions - this is harder than it sounds - BUT try to ask clarification questions to bring out interesting points, that is why you are there.
In a semi-structured or open interview or focus group - there will be extra information that you may need to sift out, but try not to cut off the flow of the speaker.
More in-depth interviews
Limit the number of topic questions in order to give longer response times – i.e. 5 - 8 questions in an hour for a semi-structured interview
Some example questions might be:
How has professional networking affected your career?
Have you experienced change in the workplace? If so, how did you develop strategies for this change?
Troubleshooting Cancelled appointments - situations change in the workplace - so you must plan for changes and contingencies (Plan A, Plan B). Getting people to send you documents if they do not have them to hand. Working with children and parents’ permission Working with people you know at work Getting the details for additional participants for the research project - non-probability snowballing or signposting…
Actions for after the interview
Transcription should be verbatim – including pauses, nonverbal responses, repetitions in order to analyse the data after the interview
If you are transcribing yourself, leave enough time
(rule of thumb is 1 hour = 8 hours of transcription)
OR transcribe only the quotes you need.
You can pay someone to do this but need to insure confidentiality and anonymity – i.e. use pseudonyms or name substitutes like Respondent 1, Actor 1, Actor 2 etc. or describe them by their role UNLESS you have permission in a WBL project to do otherwise.
Activity – Groups of 3
In groups of three - try out your research skills – each interview is 3 minutes long and then feedback at the end
Interviewer: Active listening and taking notes while responding clarifying and encouraging engagement through your demeanor, treating your interviewee with respect and good manners
Interviewee: Talking on the record to give considered responses - think before you speak.
Observer: looking taking notes - interpretative or more uniform - looking at body language (70% of communication), noting cultural or individual considerations, keeping a friendly but neutral demeanor (May not have time for)