Interview: Art of Asking Questions and Getting Answers

Interview is probably one of the most popular tools of a researcher who is keen on learning a lot about some issue or event. This time I used this instrument to get an insight into the gender differences in perceptions of online learning by Master students.

The preparation stage included doing the literature review and building the interview questions. It was quite difficult to think of the appropriate set of questions which would not be too easy or difficult and lead to the interviewee’s extended answers. When deciding how many items I should have I stopped at 6 and made them quite open-ended and broad. Not having too many questions gives more focus to the purpose of this semi-structured interview and does not wear the people involved down. At the same time, having not enough questions might result in failure to obtain enough information. The pre-prepared outline and structure helped me to concentrate on the conversation and think of further questions if necessary. I actually like to interview more than conducting surveys as it is always exciting to listen to the stories rather than asking yes/no questions and getting ‘dry’ short answers.

We could not negotiate the convenient time for both of us with one of the peers whom I interviewed so I send her the list of interview questions and then we had a Skype talk about it. She did not like the idea of recording the conversation and I was taking notes while listening to her. To be honest, that is challenging to do it simultaneously! When looking at my notes afterwards I saw plenty of spelling and grammar mistakes, some sentences were not finished. That experience helped me realize how important the recording is and if the person is unwilling to have their voice recorded, than the researcher should ask him/her to talk a bit slower.

The most challenging part of the whole experience was transcribing the data. It seems easy first but when you actually start doing it you realize what a long and boring process it is. But one must understand that it is an enevitable part of a researcher’s job which you need to live through.

The overall experience confirmed for me again the effectiveness of using interview in the process of research, provided with some practice and revealed what research skills I should work on.


3 thoughts on “Interview: Art of Asking Questions and Getting Answers

  1. I agree, that the most time consuming part of the research is writing the transcript of the interview, so it is better to have everything recorded. Creating the suitable questions is one more challenge, because at first, you think they are great, but asking them you can realize that they are far from the necessary idea or another variant: the person can refuse to answer a question to his personal opinion. It is a real art of interview.


  2. Dear Gulnara,
    thanks for sharing your experience.
    I am very interested in your mini-Thesis as I have never thought about gender differences in online learning.
    As for challenges you experienced I agree that time issue is one of the major factors that can be a barrier for data collection, especially in our case when everyone is busy with different responsibilities.
    Of course, I do understand the issues of transcribing data and interrupting participants when taking notes. What is more embarrassing it is when you are forced to stop them in the middle of important thought or ask to repeat it.
    Hope it is something that comes with practice and we can overcome these challenges.


  3. Excellent post, Gulnara.

    There are a couple minor mistakes (send instead of sent, and a comma splice or two) but overall, you do a great job relating your experience to the reader in an open, clear, and organized way. Glad to hear your interpretation of both the usefulness and frustrations of using interviews in educational research!



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