go home

Select a Professional Development Module:
Key Topics Strategy Scenario Case Study References

Developing Interviews: Preparing an Interview Protocol
By Alexis Mitman Colker, Ph.D.

An interview is an excellent tool for research situations in which rich detail about the perspectives of participants is desired. For example, ethnographers often immerse themselves in unfamiliar subcultures and rely heavily on interviews with different members of those subcultures. In this context, questions are not preplanned but evolve in response to trying to understand the socially constructed meanings of individuals.

For researchers trying to understand a particular topic (e.g., a historical event or people's reaction to a certain experience or consumer product), some predetermined interview focus is warranted. OERL is concerned with project evaluations, which call for topic-focused instrumentation. Thus, this module assumes that some degree of structure needs to be built into the interview. When an evaluator wants to ask very few questions or only closed-ended questions (e.g., when possible responses can be anticipated), then a questionnaire may be a more appropriate tool (see Determining If Questionnaires Should Be Used).

The objectives of this module are for you to understand:

  1. The appropriate level of structure, given the purpose of the interview

  2. How to write questions for an interview

  3. How to ask questions that further explore an interview response

  4. How to order questions in an interview

  5. How to write the script for the interviewer

  6. A reasonable length for an interview

  7. How to pilot-test an interview protocol