My experience of conducting interviews

interview taking

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My mini-thesis qualitative study is aimed to explore the perceptions of secondary school teachers of the effectiveness of online learning they are involved in. In order to receive a broader range of teachers’ experiences and better understand the challenges they face in online learning I decided to use a one-on-one interview as a research instrument.

To start with, I designed a semi-structured interview with ten open-ended questions. When constructing interview questions there were two things I kept in mind: first, my questions should help me answer the research question and, secondly, there should be a logical progression in the sequence of questions. To make sure the wording and order of the questions were not confusing I probed the interview questions on one of my NU group mates. Based on piloting, clarifications were made to some questions by changing the words. Besides, I had to add and amend the order of the first questions to avoid a fast jumping to the main issues.

The next stage, selecting participants for the interviews, to some extent turned out not a very easy task. To be honest, my school colleagues were not so enthusiastic about the idea of sharing ideas with me at first. The reason for their being hesitant lies in my status of an administrator. Probably, there was a fear of being prosecuted by school administration later for having voiced some awkward issues. I guess my master peers might face the same challenge in future when conducting data collection for their thesis studies at their schools and there will arise the issue of building trust between the interviewer and participants. In my case, I had ‘to change my hat’ and explain that I was doing a research as a master student, and the interviews would be absolutely anonymous and confidential. Moreover, the participants were assured that the collected data would be deleted after the study was completed and no measures would be applied to them as participants for unpleasant answers. Eventually, two teachers agreed to take part in the study. For confidentiality I spoke with each of them separately. The participants were informed that the interview would last forty minutes maximum and they would have to answer ten open-ended questions and some additional questions for clarification if needed. Besides, it was agreed that the answers would be recorded on my i-phone.

According to the advice of my thesis supervisor, I had made appointments with each of my interviewees on two different days. That strategy was convenient as from my last year experience of interviewing NU bachelor students I know that recording may be a tiring procedure, sometimes you have to keep notes. Besides, it is better to sit to transcribe the interview data immediately on the same day when you can recollect well the atmosphere, the gestures of the speaker during the conversation. On the agreed time after lessons we met with participants in a quiet room of the school for the interviews.

I should admit that I could evaluate the real quality of the questions only when conducting the interviews. I could see that the language of the questions translated into Russian should have been more simplified, i.e. closer to spoken Russian, so that the respondents would feel more relaxed to communicate their perceptions. That was the issue I had not considered when piloting the questions. It was not easy for me to keep a moderate mood during the conversation, not to react to the emotional expressions of the speakers. Quite a new experience was the note taking process. Frankly speaking, during the first interview, I gave up writing the notes as I began to get distracted from keeping the conversation. I should admit that the eye contact, nodding to the participant’s words turned out to be very important. The second interview went calmer, I could control the pace of the conversation, even managed to put down very brief notes.

As a whole, I appreciate the experience received while interviewing my colleagues. Undoubtedly, it will build to my skills and positively affect my further interviews within my main thesis study, which I am going to conduct with teachers from other schools.


7 thoughts on “My experience of conducting interviews

  1. Gulnaz,

    Thank you for sharing such an honest and detailed discussion of your interviewing process. You point out some extremely important points about the difficulties of interviewing, like translating, body language, and logistics. The most interesting point I found was the power dynamic, where you suspected that your colleagues saw you as a supervisor and therefore didn’t want to share their frank opinions. This unintended influence can arise due to age, ethnicity, gender and any number of other factors. Apart from working with new acquaintances, it is still important to plan how to minimize and prevent this type of interference.

    As for your writing, you have an excellent direct style and a clear authorial voice. No noticeable grammar or vocabulary errors.



  2. Dear Gulnaz,

    Thank you a lot for sharing such an interesting at the same time invaluable post with us. I definitely agree with you that questions should be reconstructed and are clearly made up to minimize any misunderstandings and the researcher is able to construct effective follow-up tips or questions to further understanding. This could reduce many of the problems we have and assist us in obtaining the information we need from the interview.

    Best of luck with your research.


  3. Dear Gulnaz, I read your post with great pleasure, I noticed that you mentioned your colleagues who didn’t have any wish to take participation in your interview. To my mind, we have the same problem everywhere, as people are shy, or they are in a hurry, and they don’t think that they are able to make any contribution into your study or prosperity of our country. You wrote very detailed blog about your data collection process. My question to you is:
    How do you usually react to the favour to answer some questionnaire from some strangers?


    1. Dear Akzharkyn,
      Thank you for the comment and the question.
      I usually try to help by answering the questions. The only thing, I should know the purpose and understand how it can contribute to solving the problem. If I do not get answers to theses questions I do not participate.


  4. Dear Gulnaz,
    I like the style of your writing, which is very easy to read and concise. I suppose that it would be difficult for your respondents to be open if they feel authority pressure. And this is true for all the interview cases. How do you actually minimize these kind of risks associated with your actual thesis data collection procedures?


    1. Dear Ruslan,

      Thank you for the comment.
      As for the question, this is what actually I am also thinking about. No matter how throughly I am planning the data collection, I feel a bit worried about how it will work in my real communication with young children and teachers, keeping in mind, that we are all unfamiliar to each other.


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