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Tools for Qualitative Researchers: Interviews

This section deals with the following:

A Checklist for Interview Researchers
An Interview Protocol Checklist
A Sample Faculty Interview Protocol
A set of Interviewing Tips


A Checklist for Interview Researcher


Conduct a literature review on the topic of interest. Sources to be used include journal articles, books/monographs, and conference papers.

Conceptualize the literature around the topic. Look for themes emerging from the literature that may be applied to the research.

Based on the topic and the review of literature, make an interview plan (substantive frame) of interviewees and content.

Logistic Considerations

Develop a budget for your research.

Prepare materials necessary for interview: tape recorders, microphones, tapes, and notepads, among others.

Prepare a schedule of research.

Check with Institutional Review Board (IRB) concerning research regulations, and secure IRB approval if required.

Develop a consent form (a detailed description of what a consent form should include).

Developing an Interview Protocol

Be clear about the goals to be achieved in the interview.

Determine a time limit for each interview.

Develop interview questions.

Develop an interview protocol.

Here is a detailed description of what an interview protocol should contain.

Do some preliminary interviews to try out your protocol.


Identify respondents:

Key informants: people who are experts in an area, or people who are key witnesses to an event

Sample of representatives: selection of people from a population

Convenience sampling: selecting respondents because they are what we can get

Recruit respondents:

Be prepared to explain to potential respondents about the study

Consider various recruiting strategies: phone calls, email, formal letter, or a combination of these

Some kinds of sponsorship may be needed in some cases in order to approach a potential respondent.

Schedule interviews with your respondents who agree to participate


Getting started

Introduce yourself and your project to the respondent

Ask the respondent for permission of taping

Ask the respondent to sign the consent form, explain to her/him if necessary

[See interviewing techniques below]

Data Analysis

Issue-Focused Analysis: what could be learned about specific issues from the respondents

Coding: link what a respondent says to the concepts and categories of the study.

Sorting: organizing excerpts of interview according to concepts and categories

Integration: Making sense of the sorted interview data

Case-Focused Analysis

The focus is to construct a clear story of a specific case

Report Writing

Keep your audience in mind: academic, professional, clients who commissioned your study, general reader, or a mixture of these?

Watch your tone: you can be an advocate, a critic, or a detached reporter.

Use excerpts as illustration and evidence of your arguments.

Keep confidentiality of your informants.



An Interview Protocol Checklist

What Should An Interview Protocol Contain?

a. A heading

b. Instructions to the interviewer (opening statements)

c. The key research questions to be asked

d. Probes to follow key questions

e. Transition messages for the interviewer

f. Space for recording the interviewer’s comments

g. Space in which the researcher records reflective notes

An Example

Here is an example of interview protocol. It is adopted from the protocol used in project case studies on teaching, learning, and assessment in various campuses around the country.

[You can also download a PDF version here. Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader to access it]



Tips on Interviewing and Hallmarks of an Interview

1. Identify yourself and set the respondent at ease.

2. The respondent’s reaction often mirrors that of the interviewer. The respondent will know if you are uncertain and uneasy. Your pleasant, positive, well-informed approach will be reflected in the interviewees readiness to respond.

3. If you want longer and detailed responses, reinforce those kinds of answers—say, “Yes,” “Okay,” or “I see,” or nod. Using similar reinforcers for unresponsive answers gives the wrong signal; save them for responsive answers.

4. To teach and motivate the respondent, use feedback expressions like these: “Thanks, this is the sort of information we’re looking for in this research.” “it’s important to us to get this information.” “These details are helpful.” “It’s useful to get your ideas (your opinion) on this.” “I see; that’s useful information.” “Let me get that down.”

5. Master the probe: repeat the question; give an expectant pause (an expectant look or nod of the head); possibly repeat, summarize, or reflect the feeling tone of the reply. Say: “Anything else?” “How do you mean?” “Could you tell me more about it?” “I’m not sure I know what you mean by that (bewildered look).” “Could you tell me a little bit more?” However, don’t overuse these, or the respondent will think you can’t recognize a valid answer.

6. Where probing recall, use probes that give memory cues of items likely to be forgotten. For example, if probing hospitalization, say, “Well, people quite frequently forget; it is more difficult to remember just an overnight hospitalization, for instance. Was there any chance you had something like this?”

7. When overtly interviewing, sit in a comfortable spot where you can record the responses verbatim, using abbreviations to get them down. Record abbreviations, probes, and interviewer comment in parentheses. Write as the respondent talks.



References for Interview Method

Creswell, J. W. (1994). Research design: Qualitative & quantitative approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Krathwohl, D. R. (1998). Methods of educational & social science research: An integrated approach. (2nd ed.). New York: Longman.

Strauss, A. L., & Corbin, J. M. (1990). Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory procedures and techniques. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.

Strauss, A. L., & Corbin, J. M. (1998). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory. (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Weiss, R. S. (1994). Learning from strangers: The art and method of qualitative interview studies. New York: Free Press.




Resources on this Page

Interview Researchers' Checklist

Interview Protocol Checklist

Other Resources
Interviewing Tips

Hallmarks of an Interview

More Sources

Related Resources

The Faculty Interview Protocol

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Stanford Institute for Higher Education Research