Field seminar B 2009-2010, Spring Weeks 1 and 2

Interviewing techniques for academic research, Dr. Jacqueline Hayden

Friday January 22nd and 29th

Location: Room 3131 Arts Block (Podcast/Video Recording and playback facility)

Time: 9-11 am and 12-1pm

Note: Room 3131 is booked by the English Dept. from 11-12. I have 2 slots booked from 9-11 am and 12 -1.  The best option is to take the 9-11 am slot which will allow us to record a number of interview sessions " then (if necessary) we could utilise the 12 " 1pm slot for self and peer evaluation.

This is a practical workshop designed to develop your techniques for academic interviewing. The focus of the two sessions will be on developing your awareness of the issues relating to the following

  • Why " when to interview?
  • Pre- interview preparation
  • Interviewee identification and selection
  • Preparing your questions
  • Interviews as part of a data set " checking veracity of interviewee claims/triangulation
  • Interviewing strategies and techniques
  • Peer group and self-evaluation


Your interviews will be recorded for self and peer evaluation " we will review the interviews in the 2nd session between 12 and 1pm on both days.

Making this workshop effective requires a fair amount of advance preparation and input from you. You will get out of it what you put in! The best way to find out what works and doesn’t work in interview scenarios is for you to conduct an interview and be interviewed and then to review the end product.

Prior to the workshop you will need to talk to each other about the following:

  1. Who wants to act as an interviewer and interviewee " (depending on time it is hoped that everyone will play both roles).
  2. Select subject areas where you can play expert interviewee and interviewer. More than one person can interview an ’expert’ " you just need to liaise on whose doing what. You can for example use your own research agenda (or current research proposal) or you can create a ‘mock’ research issue " this has its advantages in that it means you can do something outside your own ‘box’. In practical terms this means that Student X is designated as an expert theorist on say " political parties and Student Y will interview him/her for some part of his research. Be creative about choosing your subjects…many of you are already on the way to being experts on specific research areas but you also have first hand knowledge of politics from your own domestic political contexts so remember you can adopt many different ’expert’ hats.
  3. You may be able to encourage senior PhD’s or perhaps even some staff to act as your interviewee " all you need is someone willing to take on an ’expert’ role in some area for 10-15 minutes. There is no harm asking!
  4. Create a running order or agenda for the two sessions

Having done all of the above you need to agree on a class member to prepare a list of topics stating who is the ’expert’ interviewee and who’s interviewing (reminder – there can be more than one interviewer per ’expert’ interviewee). This will allow me to allocate a duration for each interview session.

  1. Essential requirement for participation is that you write up a brief memo " 500-750 words which outlines where interviewing fits into your research agenda. I can’t offer a critique of your interview skills if I don’t understand your objectives so specifically you must
  • designate the aspect or part of your research that necessitates an interview
  • outline the information you want to illicit from the interview
  • how you intend to use the interview material
  • how you intend to validate/triangulate the interview data
  • how you intend to store or share the data for other scholars (replication purposes)
  • how you will evaluate the material you get from the interviewing process
  • outline a framework for the core topics and questions you will use for your interview
  • PLEASE EMAIL ME THIS OUTLINE BY WED 20 Jan so that I have time to read them before the workshop (please note I have a very heavy teaching schedule on Thursdays)

Reaction papers

Those wishing to write a reaction paper may use their pre-prepared workshop memo as a starting point for an evaluation of the projected role of interviews in their research.

Getting started

I have  emailed you papers from a Symposium on interviewing in political science and a paper based on the experience of interviewing in divided societies. Please find a fuller bibliography below prepared by Adrian Bunea below.


Interviewing techniques " Compiled by Adriana Bunea

Handbook of interview research: context & method. 2001. Ed. By Jaber F. Gubrium, James A. Holstein. Sage Publications.

Interviewing experts. 2009. Ed. Alexander Bogner, Beate Littig and Wolfgang Menz. Palgrave Macmillan.

Elite and specialized interviewing. 2006. LA Dexter, A Ware, M Sanchez-Jankowski. ECPR Press.

Mason, Jennifer. 2002. Qualitative researching, Ch 4 “Qualitative Interviewing”. Sage Publications.

Symposium on Interview Methods in Political Science in Political Science and Politics (2002) 35 (4).

Joanne McEvoy 2006 ‘Elite Interviewing in a Divided Society: Lessons from Northern Ireland’ Politics 26 (3): 184-191.

Craig D. Murray and Judith Sixsmith. 2003. ‘E-mail: A Qualitative Research Medium for Interviewing?’ in _Interviewing _Sage Benchmarks in Social Research Methods Vol. 2. Ed. Nigel Fielding. London: Sage. 128-148.

Ken Benoit
Ken Benoit
Professor of Computational Social Science
comments powered by Disqus