A Practice Interview

I have always been a little apprehensive about conducting interviews, since I’ve never been in a position where I think the time I’m asking of someone else would be worth giving up for them. In this case, however, it was a good experience. We were assigned to conduct an interview to practice for ones we might be conducting while researching in Amsterdam, using Dr. Philip N. Howard’s in-depth research format.

I chose a few questions related to wayfinding that we might ask in Amsterdam, and found someone in the dorm where I live whom I didn’t know particularly well. This selection wasn’t aimed at someone particularly comfortable with wayfinding, as we will be interviewing students similar to ourselves in our research. I didn’t indicate my subject area of interest before the interview began.

Content wise, I started off with “have you ever” questions, and followed them up with “why?” in order to gain a better idea of the circumstances or intentions at play. This combination yielded two discoveries. First, the interviewee was very eager to share in both instances, and provided a lot of interesting details when asked to describe their experiences and/or intentions. Second, it gave me a clear idea of how long a simple interview could potentially last if not kept in control. As mentioned above, I want to keep interviews both interesting and useful to maximize what we can learn from them, while not wasting anyone’s time, if possible.

I didn’t record or take any notes of the conversation, as the questions were very straightforward and I don’t have a problem remembering the responses I received. Of course, this will not be the same in our research methods, as we’ll have to document and analyze numerous similar interviews.

Questions and answers that came up during the interview are not posted here in order to avoid confounding our research results, as everyone in our research group will likely read this post.