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McNamara, C. (2009). General guidelines for conducting research interviews. Retrieved December 1, 2017, from

  • McNamara suggests 8 steps for preparing for the interview
    • Choosing an appropriate setting
    • Explain interview purpose
    • Clarify confidentiality terms
    • Explain format
    • Let the participant know how long it will take
    • Give the participant your contact information
    • Allow for questions prior to the interview
    • Be prepared, have a recorder, don’t rely on memory/notes
  • Explores various types of interviews, I will be focusing on General interview guide approach (aka, semi-structured interview approach). This ensures that the same general topics/questions are asked, but allows for flexibility to explore topics as they come up.
  • Types of topics to cover with questions (past, present, and future)
    • Behaviours
    • Opinions/values
    • Feelings
    • Knowledge
    • Sensory
    • Background and demographics
  • Keep questions open-ended, neutral, clear. Ask questions one at a time. Be aware that why questions may make participants defensive.
  • During the interview check that the recorder is working, encourage responses (neutrally, head nods, or uh-huh), be aware of your note taking and how it may be interpreted, keep control of the interview.
  • After the interview check the tapes/recording, clarify your notes, and add any observational notes.

Wilson, V. (2012). Research methods: Interviews. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 7(2), 96–98.

  • Interviews are optimal for exploring human experiences, when numbers will not do justice to the findings, or you wish to explore an experience for specific themes.
  • Three main forms of interviews: Structured interviews, Semi-Structured Interviews, and Unstructured Interviews.
    • Semi-structured interviews have guiding questions that will allow the interviewer to keep the interview on track. However flexibility allows the researcher to explore topics as they arise.
  • Using internet or phone services for interviews can be cost and time effective as no travel time is required. These formats may also be more comfortable to participants.

Tierney, B. W. G. & Dilley, P. (2012). Interviewing in education. In J. F. Gubrium & J. A. Holstein (Eds.), Handbook of Interview Research (pp. 453–471). Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.

  • Policy Interviews
    • Typically a meta-level interview.
    • Goal is to explore why a plan, strategy, or model has been used
    • Typically conducted with state-level agencies
  • Interviewing to understand the social contexts of Learning
    • Less concerned about policies but rather the social context within the school or the context of learning.
    • Typically look at the school or a specific classroom
    • Goal is to understand the relationship among components and the group members, or the members’ viewpoints.
    • Seek to represent the social context from as many viewpoints as possible.
      • Case studies are prime examples of this
      • Allows for the exploration of each group’s reality within the school/board.
  • Case studies
    • Focus on a group or an individual (life history).
    • Use a combination of methods to explore a phenomenon
  • Types of respondents
    • Understand the hierarchy and different realities of members within the group(s).
  • Interview formats
    • Qualitative inquiry requires a small but theoretically significant number of participants.

Gubrium, J. & Holstein, J. (2012). Forms of Interviewing. In J. Gubrium & J. Holstein (Eds.), Handbook of Interview Research (pp. 55–58). Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.

  • Interviews are “conversations with purpose” (p. 56)
  • Qualitative and in-depth interviews are more exploratory than the survey interview (structured). There is greater flexibility as the interview is an open-ended exchange focused on a particular topic.
  • It is less about gathering facts, and more about exploring the experience and the shared meanings that participants may have.
    • “Common knowledge that informs their understandings” (p. 57).

Turner, D. W. (2010). Qualitative interview design: A practical guide for novice investigators. The Qualitative Report, 15(3), 754–760. Retrieved from

  • Three types of interviews
    • Informal conversational interview
      • For more info see Gall, Gall & Borg (2003)
      • Emphasis on natural, spontaneous interaction
    • General interview guide approach
      • A more structured approach, however, there is greater room for flexibility
      • Allows for asking follow-up or probing questions based on responses to the pre-constructed questions
      • Ensures that all participants are taking about the same general topics, allowing for more focus but also more flexibility.
    • Standardized open-ended interview
      • Very structured
  • Ensure that participants are comfortable with the location of the interview to ensure that they are able to share freely.
  • Questions should allow for digging deeper into participant experiences and knowledge
    • Keep questions neutral, e.g., how an experience influenced or did not influence a decision
  • Prepare some follow-up questions or prompts to ensure you are able to effectively elaborate on responses.

Mann, C. & Stewart, F. (2012). Internet interviewing. In J. Gubrium & J. Holstein (Eds.), Handbook of Interview Research (pp. 602–627). Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.

  • Synchronous vs. Asynchronous communication
    • Asynchronous: email
    • Synchronous: real-time chat from separate devices
  • Semi-private vs. public arenas
    • Semi-private: email, one-to-one discussions, conferences/forums. Participant and interviewer have some control over content
    • Public arenas: interviewer has little control, e.g., news groups, bulletin board.
  • Computer mediated communication (CMC) allows for participation from the comfort and convenience of the participant’s home (or preferred location). May provide a safer space for vulnerable populations in a physically safe environment
  • Cost-effective, practical for groups that may be geographically spread out.

Warren, C. A. B. (2012). Qualitative Interviewing. In J. Gubrium & J. Holstein (Eds.), Handbook of Interview Research (pp. 83–102). Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.

  • Qualitative Interviewing is based on conversation and listening.
  • Tends to be based in a more constructionist epistemology (as opposed to positivist).
    • Participants are meaning makers
  • Goal is to understand participants’ experiences and world through their perspective
  • Participants (and researchers) come to the conversation with varied perspectives, historically based in their roles, hierarchy within society (gender, class, race).
    • These perspectives should shape the analysis of the interview.
  • Explore and listen for meaning, thick descriptions of a social world to generate themes.
    • Based in what the participants say, how they act, and the artifacts that they use (Spradley, 1979)
  • Ethnography tends to focus on the current lived experience, while an intensive interview seeks to explore the biographical, extending into the past and the future.
    • Interviews are often chosen over ethnography when the goal is not a specific setting, but rather various perspectives from various groups of respondents.
  • Use 10–12 specific questions along with demographics.
  • Rubin & Rubin (1995) suggest three types of questions: main questions (start off the conversation), probes (clarify or expand) and follow-up questions (what are the implications of responses to main questions).
  • Being open within the research allows for the possibility that predetermined questions may be irrelevant as the interview progresses.


Throughout my journey of conceptualizing my research proposal, I have gone back and forth in an attempt to define my methodology or approach. I believe that the chapter by Warren (2012) offers clarification that I am indeed conducting a case study, as opposed to an ethnographic study. While I am focused on a particular context/situation, I am delving into the history and its implication on present practices.

Also, I noted in a couple of the readings the authors emphasize ensuring that the location of the interview be somewhere that the participant will be comfortable and with little distraction. I will be offering participants to choose the location of the interview, even if it means completing it online. However, while some suggest that telephone/internet based interviews may be more comfortable for participants, I think we need to weigh this with the potential for distractions while at home as well (e.g., pets, kids, household chores, etc.).


Interviews provide a complementary method within a case study approach (Tierney & Dilley, 2012). It provides an opportunity to delve deeper into participants perspectives and values. Thus, I believe that it will provide a good way to end the data collection. Interviews will be based upon previous surveys, document analysis, and focus groups allowing a platform to gain a better understanding of experiences, perspectives, beliefs, etc. that may arise.

Things to explore further

Creswell, J. W. (2014). Research Design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications.

Gall, M. D., Borg, W. R., & Gall, J. P. (1996). Educational research: An introduction. Longman Publishing.

Rubin, H. J. and I. S.Rubin. 1995. Qualitative Interviewing: The Art of Hearing Data. Thousand Oaks, CA:Sage.

Spradley, J. P.1979.The Ethnographic Interview. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

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