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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Developing interview questions

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Preparing the questions to ask.

Finally it is time to get our interview questions together. The following ideas will help you determine the type of questions to ask and how to arrange them to find out what you require for your research project.

Before you start to design your interview questions and process, clearly articulate to yourself what need is to be addressed using the information to be gathered by the interviews. This helps you keep clear focus on the intent of each question.

Most importantly the interview questions must draw out what you need to find out to answer your research topic.

Types of questions

Mostly design open-ended questions are asked during interviews. Avoid closed questions. These are questions that ask for a limited response eg. “Is this a good computer?” A response to a closed question has only two possible responses: 'yes' or 'no'. Neither answer will help you much, because you won't know how the interviewee is deciding on his or her answer. Does a 'yes' mean that the computer is good value for money, or best for games or terrific for a boat anchor or ... Such questions start with words like “Is, did or are”

Another point in relation to open questions is that such questions do not have any restrictions. eg. “What are the advantages and disadvantages of this sort of computer”? Such questions allow an interviewee to make a complete response which expresses their opinion honestly and in detail giving you access to large amounts of information. Open questions usually start with words like “How, what, when, where, why”

There are thought to be six kinds of questions. One can ask questions about:
1. Behaviors - about what a person has done or is doing in relation to your research 2. Opinions/values - about what a person thinks about a topic
3. Feelings - note that respondents sometimes respond with "I think ..." so be careful to note that you're looking for feelings
4. Knowledge - to get facts about a topic
5. Sensory - about what people have seen, touched, heard, tasted or smelled in relation to a topic
6. Background/demographics - standard background questions, such as age, education, ethnicity etc.

Sequence of Questions

1. Get the respondents involved in the interview as soon as possible.
2. Before asking about controversial matters (such as feelings and conclusions), first ask about some facts. With this approach, respondents can more easily engage in the interview before warming up to more personal matters.
3. Intersperse fact-based questions throughout the interview to avoid long lists of fact-based questions, which tends to leave respondents disengaged.
4. Ask questions about the present before questions about the past or future. It's usually easier for them to talk about the present and then work into the past or future.
5. The last questions might be to allow respondents to provide any other information they prefer to add and their impressions of the interview.

Wording of Questions

1. Wording should be open-ended. Interviewees’ should be able to choose their own terms when answering questions.
2. Questions should be as neutral as possible. Avoid wording that might influence answers, e.g., evocative, judgmental wording.
3. Questions should be asked one at a time.
4. Questions should be worded clearly. This includes knowing any terms particular to the program or the interviewees’ culture.
5. Be careful asking "why" questions. This type of question infers a cause-effect relationship that may not truly exist. These questions may also cause respondents to feel defensive, e.g., that they have to justify their response, which may inhibit their responses to this and future questions.
6. Ask questions which allow the interviewee to do at least 70% of the talking. For the most part, avoid questions that can be answered "yes" or "no." The best questions are ones in which the interviewee has the opportunity to provided detail through elaboration i.e. goes on to explain why and what they think.
7. Phrase your questions so that the desired or "right" answer is not apparent to the applicant. Don’t ask leading questions, like, “don’t you think?”
8. Ask the easy questions first so as to make the interviewee feel comfortable.
9. Alternate between easy, non-threatening questions and more difficult, pointed ones.

Linking interview questions to research focus questions.

Finally, the interview questions developed must have a direct relation to the focus questions you developed for your research. If the question cannot be seen as linked to the focus questions, then don't ask it, unless just a "getting to know you" introduction type question.

Use the attached interview questions template to design your questions.

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