Researcher’s Guide: How to Prepare for a Successful Qualitative Interview?

One of the biggest roadblocks in the research journey a researcher must face is conducting a successful interview with the participants. The strength of 79% researchers in Singapore fail to conduct successful qualitative interviews during their PhD research.

How successful an interview turns out to be can be measured by the authenticity and the reliability of the data collected through it. The success of a research interview is dependent on the behavioural stance taken by the interviewer, relevancy of the questionnaire, and reliability of the participants’ responses. All these factors play an equal and significant role in determining the success of the interview.

The researcher-interviewer must be eloquent throughout the conversation with the respondent and assure him about the confidentiality of his identity. By gaining the confidence of the respondent, the interviewer can get the correct and logical answers to each of his questions throughout the discussion.

Things that contribute to the effective interviews:

An interview guide: Interview guide is a mainly a script which helps interviewers to remain on the right track throughout the interview. A perfectly scripted guide for an interview with the informant or the respondent would ultimately lead to a successful interview with having its purpose served. Each interviewer can prepare a guide on his own before interview and list down the necessary points regarding to the introduction with the participants, asking questions without offending, the topics to cover, the maximum time he has to devote to a particular topic, etc. This is required as a researcher-interviewer might miss important data to gather while talking about a different topic. Thus, it helps to manage time, and collect the required data in an efficient way.

Limited time duration and questionnaire length: A research interview must not stretch up to beyond 45 minutes at most. The extended discussion over a long period of time fatigues the respondent which would decrease his efficiency in understanding each question and answer accordingly. This is why, the researcher-interviewer must limit the interview time to 45 minutes or so, to entertain his questionnaire to the respondent without any distraction. However, 45 minutes appears too less to get on with a complete discussion about each topic or answering each question of the questionnaire. Therefore, the interviewer must prepare the questions that are in-line with his hypothesis and research question. The possibility of leading to any other irrelevant topic or issue must be reduced by focusing on the relevant questions only. It’s the interviewer’s responsibility of managing the time duration of the interview without compromising with the respondent’s answers.

Concise questionnaire: A researcher-interviewer must carefully develop the interview questionnaire. It should not be too extensive that respondent finds it tough to answer honestly and it should not be too short that respondent takes it for granted. To develop the trust of the respondents, the interview questionnaire should focus on relevant issues or research problem in concise. He must develop the questions through logical implications, practical experience, and support with the relevant literature. To-the-point questions that are not offensive leads to the maximized information during the interview. This has to be noted, however, that interview questions should not be exchanged with the research questions where interview questions are used to collect the primary data, and research questions are used to examine a novice research problem.

Pilot tested questionnaire: The researcher-interviewer must test the reliability and validity of the interview questionnaire in advance. A pilot test involves preliminary testing of the interview questionnaire in the real-time conditions with a group of people alike the sample size selected. Before asking the questions or taking the interview with the real chosen sample size, the interviewer first judges the effectiveness of the questionnaire by asking the questions to a particular group of people who have features or qualities like that of the sample size. This gives an idea to the researcher which questions would affect the respondent in what manner and what sort of data can be collected if applied to real sample size.

Transparency in communication: The researcher-interviewer must be clear in asking the questions, neutral in tone while reacting to respondent’s answers, and composed to ask follow-up questions. His goal should be to learn the respondent’s opinion or subject matter as much as possible without being nosy to him. He should not pitch the respondent for more detailed insight or experience. If the respondent answers the questions without being much descriptive, the interviewer must try to fill the gap by his own knowledge such as the obvious reasons, universal facts, etc. He must not get aggressive if respondent asks him many times to repeat a specific question. He must not be biased and impose his opinion on the respondent. He should clearly recite the ethical guidelines to him before initiating the interview. It would make the respondent become comfortable with him and respond to the questions freely without being pressurised.

Developing a reliable questionnaire to turn a research interview into a successful investigation is tough for the novice researcher-interviewer. But if one sees a future in research academia, he must become versed with it.

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