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Interviewing is a great way to learn detailed information from a single individual or small number of individuals. It is very useful when you want to gain expert opinions on the subject or talk to someone knowledgeable about a topic.

Types of Interviewing

Several different types of interviews exist. You should choose one based on what kind of technology you have available to you, the availability of the individual you are interviewing, and how comfortable you feel talking to people.

Face to Face Interviews: Face to face interviews are when you sit down and talk with someone. They are beneficial because you can adapt your questioning to the answers of the person you are interviewing. You will need recording equipment for the interview, and it is highly recommended that you bring two recording devices with you in case one fails.

Phone Interviews: Phone interviews can be used when you need to interview someone who is geographically far away, who is too busy to meet with you to talk, or who does not want to use video or internet-based technology.

Email Interviews: Email interviews are less personal than face-to-face or phone interviews, but highly convenient for most individuals. You may not get as much information from someone in an email interview because you are not able to ask follow-up questions in the moment or play off the interviewee’s responses. However, email interviews are useful because they are already in a digital format.

Setting Up an Interview

When setting up an interview, be sure to be courteous and professional. Explain to the person being interviewed who you are, what you want to talk them about, and what project you are working on. Don’t be discouraged if not everyone you contact is willing to be interviewed.

Interview Do's and Dont's

When conducting interviews:

  • Do be careful of the types of questions you ask. See the page on Creating good survey and interview questions for more information.
  • Do start the interview with some small talk to give both yourself and the person you are interviewing a chance to get comfortable.
  • Do bring extra recording equipment in case something happens to one of your recording devices.
  • Do pay attention to what is being said during the interview and ask thoughtful follow-up questions.
  • Do come to the interview prepared. You should learn as much as you can about the person you are going to interview before the interview takes place so that you can tailor your questions to them.
  • Don't pester or push the person you are interviewing. If the interviwee does not want to talk about an issue, you should respect that desire.
  • Don't stick to your questions rigidly. If an interesting subject comes up that relates to your research, feel free to ask additional questions about it.
  • Don't allow the person you are interviewing to continually get off topic. If the conversation drifts, ask follow-up questions to redirect the conversation to the subject at hand.