Qualitative Research Interviews for Novice Researchers


Qualitative Research Interviews for Novice Researchers
Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy

1/28/2020

Many researchers, especially in scientific fields, regularly employ quantitative research methods in their work. Generally, quantitative research in these fields is needed because it provides numerical data and subject measurements that can be converted into statistics.

However, while quantitative research is robust and structured such that it provides valuable statistical answers, it does not answer certain questions. Those questions and any missing data are covered by qualitative research. 

Qualitative research answers questions like “why” and “how”. On the other hand, quantitative research answers questions like “what” and “how much”.

Most academic transcription projects include individual or group interviews that provide in-depth views, opinions, or realities that are subjective. Such interviews are examples of qualitative research.

Complementary Research Approach

Quantitative research focuses on numerical variables to test theories. The research method is specifically structured to come up with measured findings. Often, this data lacks opinions, feelings, and responses from the perspective of the participants. 

On the other hand, qualitative research does not have a specific structure, is generally exploratory, and focuses on the human aspect. The research method provides a more extensive understanding of a problem and seeks to interpret behavioral experiences. Qualitative research does not collide with quantitative research. Both research methods complement one another.

According to Stacy Caprio, Founder of Growth Marketing

 

“When doing research or any type of business experiment, it is important to make clear notes of where you are starting out before you start the research. Even when the research is more qualitative than quantitative, you still need to decide what you will be measuring, and what the starting points are, so you will be able to measure differences and come to a conclusion when the research is over.”

Understanding Qualitative Research Interview

Interviews are vital in the collection of qualitative data because they are generally in-depth and do not necessarily seek to extract information from participants. Instead, interviews engage participants in learning and help them express their views in a given context.

When preparing to conduct a qualitative research interview, you need to:

  • Thoroughly understand things that happen in your field
  • Create suitable research methodologies
  • Design open-ended and flexible research questions
  • Create the minute specifics of your research, such as data collection and analysis 
  • Use a transcription services company to accurately capture video or audio data 
  • Engage and manage research participants

Tips for Conducting Compelling Qualitative Research Interviews

While preparations on paper are vital, the tricky part in a qualitative research interview is the human aspect. You need to learn skills such as active listening, empathy, non-leading questioning, rapport, etc. 

Here are some tips to help prepare and conduct effective qualitative research interviews:

i) Come Up with the Right Questions

In a qualitative research interview, there are right and wrong questions. However, there are no right or wrong answers since that is not the objective of the interview. 

When creating your interview questions, remember that your questions should elicit comprehensive and thoughtful responses that touch into the personal experiences of the participants. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  1. Ask open-ended questions
  2. Be empathetic in your approach
  3. Ask non-leading questions
  4. Encourage participants to provide details
  5. Ask non-interrogative questions
Margaret J. King, Ph.D., Director of The Center for Cultural Studies & Analysis, recommends

 

“It totally depends on what the research goals might be. For example, don’t ask leading questions that assume an answer.  Keep questions open-ended, without “yes or no” answers.”

ii) Rehearse the Full Interview

Unless you are a seasoned qualitative researcher, it's not advisable to jump straight into the actual interview without test-running it first. Rehearsing your interview with a friend will help you determine questions that elicit better and detailed responses. You can experiment with different questioning techniques to figure out which ones will be ideal for the research.

Practicing also helps you gauge yourself as an interviewer. Are you participating actively in ways that encourage elaboration? Are you keeping your biased opinions in check?
 
iii) Clarify Your Intentions

As the interviewer, you need to understand the intentions behind your questions so that you can best convey them to the participant. 

When you already know what a question demands, you can determine whether an interviewee’s answer satisfies it. If the answers are not detailed enough, you can follow up with similar questions to assist in elaboration.

Handpicked Related Content: Tips to Transcribe an Interview

iv) Avoid Power Dynamics

The way you frame your questions and interact in discussions can consciously or unconsciously make interviewees respond with what they think you want to hear rather than their independent input. According to one study, when power dynamics sneak into interviews, an interviewee may have a hard time providing honest responses.

v) Post-Interview Analysis

When you conclude the interview, go through the data immediately. Doing that helps to bring out new ideas that can be invaluable later on. You can also evaluate reactions as well as questions that did not seem to perform well. 

While the interview is still fresh in your mind, making use of these practices can provide better data.

Carolynn R. Johnson, Ph.D., Manager, Human Factors and User Research at Daedalus, Inc

 

Our guiding philosophy is to truly understand the user—how experiences affect lives and what users want and need to accomplish when interacting with any piece of technology. We regularly conduct qualitative research, and view mapping, understanding, and testing the experiences of our users as a pathway to enriching and satisfying their interactions with our designs.
 
When planning for qualitative research, the researcher must have a clear understanding of the goals of the project. Is the company looking to improve an existing product or looking to create a new product that will fill an existing gap? The researcher will need to establish a series of well-thought-out research objectives to ensure those goals are met.

Key Takeaways

Qualitative research mainly focuses on obtaining data through open-ended and conversational communication so it needs to be very precise, scientific, and result-driven. 

Jessica L. Parker, EdD, Owner & Dissertation Coach at Dissertation by Design offers some key items to consider when conducting qualitative research: 

 

“There are a number of factors to consider when preparing to conduct a qualitative research interview. These factors depend on the research methodology, research questions (RQs), the sensitivity of the research topic, and participants' positionality. 

The general factors to consider include:
  1. The interview procedures
  2. The purpose of each interview. 
    The purpose together with the RQs should drive the content of the questions.
  3. The type of information you want.
    Avoid yes/no questions or one-word answers—the point of an interview is to get the participants talking.
  4. Organization of the interview questions.
    Start with questions of low risk to ease participants into the interview and build to questions of increasing risk.
  5. Interview fatigue.
    Plan for a time range of 45-60 minutes, depending on the participants and their capacity for attention.

Conducting a qualitative research interview can be tedious and extensive. To make your work easier, you can get the interview transcribed. Market research transcription companies can help you extract the recordings to text content and convert them into searchable documents.
 

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Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy is the President of GMR Transcription Services, Inc an Orange County, California based company that has been providing accurate and affordable transcription services since 2004. She has enjoyed success at GMR for almost ten years now and has helped the company grow. Within two years of Beth managing GMR Transcription, it had doubled in sales and was named one of the OC Business Journal’s fastest-growing private companies. Outside of work, she likes spending time with her husband and two kids.