Interview: Stay focused

The research questions of my mini-scale study offered me a great opportunity to understand the factors influencing the students’ engagement during online learning. However during the data collection process I have faced different obstacles and understand some peculiarities of the process.

The first challenge I faced with during the data collection process is number of participants. It was difficult for me to identify ‘the best’ number. On the one side, time schedule of online NUGSE students who are working are completely booked, and on the other side, I have to ask at least more than one student, in order to answer the research question and discuss findings. After consultation with the instructor I understand, that ‘ideal’ number from 2 to 5 students.

Another step that is vital in the process of data collection is design and content of the interview protocol. All questions should be aligned with research question and sub questions. And if interviewee during the question session will start to discuss something different, it is important to return him/her back to the track by asking a leading question. For this reason, I prepared set of probing and posing follow-up questions that will provide information about participants’ opinion about online students’ engagement.

The interview protocol allowed the communication to be more spontaneous, and by observing the reaction of interviewee, (like tone of voice, pauses and etc.)  I could drive more deeply understanding of participant’s feelings. And of cause, this process requires more concentration from me.

Both mini-scale study and proposed thesis research projects have qualitative research approach and an interview protocol as instrument. It was intentionally made for several reasons. First reason is that by employing the same methodology I could probe and test on small scale and avoid the ‘big’ mistakes during the proposed thesis. Next reason is that during my Bachelor studies I used quantitative approach many times, our professors frequently asked us to conduct   questionnaires and analyze the finding using software. Therefore I decided to understand the nature of qualitative approach this time and enjoy the conversation with participants of the study.

I could personally claim that conducting the interview and using the data collection instrument contain many unexpected advantages and disadvantages. The nature of qualitative approach let researcher to gather more information from one-to-one interviews. However it is important to be focused in order to answer the research questions.


4 thoughts on “Interview: Stay focused

  1. Dear Zhanna,
    I think that the problems that you faced with are the common problem for all of us. Your mentioned that it was difficult for you to agree on time. I am experiencing this problem right now with my thesis paper. I can not create a schedule that will be suitable for me and for my participants. What did you do? How did you solve this problem?


  2. Dear Zhanna,

    As you and Aizhan have already mentioned, conducting interviews this time was quite challenging in terms of finding proper time and place for the interviews. To be honest, I couldn’t find participants almost to the very last day of our intensive session. Due to our overloadness with all the assignments, people were not so eager to participate in the research project.
    Now I am also thinking of recruiting participants for my real thesis project. I hope this time I will be able to find the relevant number of interviewees and get enough information for the data analysis.
    Thank you for the post and good luck with the thesis 🙂


  3. Dear Zhanna,

    I agree that it is fair enough to choose the same instruments for our mini-thesis and the ‘big’ thesis. The main thing is to practive the skills of using different research tools and improve our ability to analyze the data.

    Regarding usage of interview protocol, it is indeed a life-saving thing! While conducting an interview you are so focused on the talk and excited about the process that you can easily forget or just not have any ideas at the spot.


  4. Zhanna, nice post. I can see from the comments that you have touched on some important common ideas that really resonate with your peers. Keep processing and thinking!
    Some language items that jump out at me are your use of articles and prepositions. These little words play a big role in perfecting English grammar! Let’s consider these examples:

    1. The first challenge I faced with (we only use face “with” in the phrase “face to face with” “He came/stood face to face with the bear.”) during the data collection process is number of participants (When we have a noun-of-noun phrase, we’ll use an article, usually “the”, as in “the number of participants”).

    2. ____ time schedule of online NUGSE students (see the noun-of-noun rule)
    3. I prepared ____ set of probing and posing follow-up questions (this is an example of the same rule, but would be “a set” because you are introducing a new item.
    4. let ___ researcher to (article needed, and never use “to” with “let”.

    You can say: He allowed me to finish my test. He forced me to eat my vegetables.
    But let and make don’t use to: She let me finish the test. She made me eat my vegetables.

    Keep working toward perfection!



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