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How to... conduct interviews

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Article Sections

  1. Features of the interview
  2. Types of interview
  3. Conducting the interview
  4. Framing the questions
  5. Recording, analysing and presenting the data

Recording, analysing and presenting the data

This section looks at how you turn the data you gather in the interview into recordable findings.

Recording the data

Unless the interview is fairly short, much the best way of ensuring that you capture all points is by tape recording it. It will be virtually impossible to write notes and attend to your subject and your research agenda. Two things to remember here:

  • Always make sure that you have permission to record.
  • Never underestimate the time it takes to transcribe a recording: one estimate is seven hours for every one hour of interviewing.

Analysing the data

A very common method of data analysis which relies mainly on words is content analysis . Content analysis is used extensively as a tool in qualitative research for analysing the utterances of research subjects. Content analysis depends upon:

  • deciding what you unit of analysis is – sentences, paragraphs, other unit of meaning.
  • deciding how you will categorize your information.
  • coding the units of analysis according to categories.
  • setting out the data in tabular form, so that you can see the frequency of utterances, and emerging themes, and possibly carrying out some form of statistical and analytical tests, perhaps with software.

Whether or not you used pre-determined categories, or whether you develop these as you go along, will depend upon your research design. You may have decided to use categories that emerge from your literature review, which some writers maintain is a more reliable method, but developing categories from the evidence is also a characteristic of this sort of inductive, theory building technique. You may decide to go for a mixture of these approaches, adding categories that emerge from the findings to ones you have already decided to use.

In (Market Intelligence & Planning , vol. 14 no. 6), Denise G. Jarratt categorizes the themes as follows:

Themes Interviews using a semi-structured technique Interviews using a non-directed technique
Perception of lack of choice in local shops

Disappointment with local instore service

Frustration with local shopping experience

Variety of need? outsourcing behaviour

Variation of media usage with level of shopping enjoyment

Lack of anonymity with local shopping

Time available influences shopping experience

Shopping as a recreation activity

Broad definition of instore service

Desire to see local businesses survive

Price is not the main issue when shopping locally

Poor knowledge of range of goods available locally

Need for information about new products on the market

See (Maia Duerr, Journal of Organizational Change Management, vol. 17 no. 1) for a very detailed coding system based on her interview questions.

Analysing the data

For a research article, it is probably sufficient to present the main findings as they present themselves as themes.

Denise G. Jarrett, in (Market Intelligence & Planning , vol. 14 no. 6), contrasts the data produced in the two techniques.

Maia Duerr, in (Journal of Organizational Change Management, vol. 17 no. 1), presents findings according to major themes.

Carol D. Hansen and Mary Kay Willcox, in (Career Development International , vol. 2 no. 4), organize their findings round a pre-existing schema - Sackman's schema of cultural knowledge - and cite key utterances. 

John Wood and Tricia Vilkinas, in (Leadership & Organization Development Journal , vol. 26 no. 3), outline their findings according to categories, and then discuss their findings in the light of other studies.

Other studies also look at implications for practice and future research.