Conducting an Interview

Conducting an interview is is a fun, adventurous way to learn about your subject and a great way to get original research material. Whether you are researching a family history or a specific issue in your community, you will learn much more from conducting an interview than you set out to find out!

Follow the steps below and learn how to become an interview guru!

  1. Research.
    The only way to know what questions to ask is to know as much as you can about your subject.
  2. Contact the person you would like to interview.
    You could do this by email, letter or phone. Remember to be polite – you need them! Try to set up the interview in person, but if this is not possible, ask if you could set up a phone interview instead.

  3. Brainstorm your questions before the interview.
    Decide exactly what information you are looking for. To get the most out of the interview, make the questions as specific as possible!

    Write down all of your questions in a notebook. Practice asking them with a friend before the interview. Getting familiar with your questions will make the real interview much easier to conduct and make it seem more like a natural conversation.
  4. Be prepared!
    Don’t arrive empty-handed for the interview. Essential items include: pen, notebook, list of questions. You could also bring along a recording device, such as an mp3 player, a Dictaphone or a video camera, but you must always ask permission before using it.
  5. Arrive on time!
    Remember that it is you who wanted to conduct the interview. The person has given up their time to meet you, so don’t be late!
  6. Be professional during the interview.
  • Speak with confidence and always be courteous to the person you are interviewing.
  • Take your time asking the questions. Don’t be afraid of some pauses and allow the person plenty of time to give their answer.
  • Make eye contact with the person and use facial expressions to encourage them. This shows them that you care about the subject and interested in what they have to say.
  • Think of the interview as a conversation. Listen carefully to the answers you receive – they may lead to ask other questions you hadn’t though of before.
  • It’s a two-way conversation. It may be appropriate to tell the person you are interviewing a little about yourself. Establishing a good relationship with them will result in a more natural conversation and make them feel that you respect their opinions and stories.
  • Stay neutral. Remember, you are trying to find out another person’s opinion or point of view. When asking the questions, don’t reveal your own bias or beliefs as this could influence their answer. Let them be as natural and honest as possible. This is especially important when researching political, moral, religious or social issues.
  1. Take notes, even if you are recording the interview.
    Jot down the parts of the interview you think are most important for your research, but don’t try to write down every word. You will only become distracted and loose the flow of the interview.
  2. After the interview.
    Write down any thoughts or ideas you have while they are still fresh in your mind. Label your notes and tapes with the date of the interview, topic and name of the person interviewed.
  3. Review.
    Review your interview notes and/or recording at home. Pick out parts that you think will be useful to quote or reference in your project.

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