While conducting any kind of research, both qualitative or quantitative, one needs to kick start with a research interview. Now the question arises which is the most important task when preparing for conducting a research interview?
The most important step for conducting an interview is devising the questions for the questionnaire or an interview schedule. That is to say, we need to formulate as well as filter the questions that we want to ask during the interview to get our desired results. Since it involves understanding people’s perspectives and a part of their lifestyle and thinking, ethical considerations need to be taken into account.
What is a Questionnaire?
It is a research instrument consisting of a series of questions that are to be asked to the respondents for gathering information while conducting research. It is the key for any researcher to collect information and data for the successful completion of the research.
What is an interview schedule?
In the words of Goode& Hatt, an interview schedule is “a set of questions which are asked by an interviewer and filled in on the spot in a face to face to face interaction with another person.”
Although both questionnaires and interview schedules are similar tools, the main difference between both of them is that questionnaires are filled by the respondents while an interview schedule is filled by the enumerator or researchers.
Steps in the development of questions
While devising the questions for the questionnaire or the interview schedule although there are no hard and fast rules or steps to be followed, there are still some steps that should be ideally taken care of when formulating the questions. A list for the same is given below:
Deciding the kind of information to be extracted
While formulating the question it is important to not even start vague. Every question to be asked should have a direct bearing on the kind of information you want to learn during the study. Hence, a lot of literature should be reviewed to understand the existing knowledge and the gaps to be filled while fulfilling the research objectives.
Decide the respondents
The researcher must then decide the target respondents. That is to say that for instance, if your area of study is on ‘Urban Pollution’, asking the questions to a group of rural settlers would not bring out the desired results. Hence, while choosing the target respondents, several variables such as age, area of residence, gender, educational qualification, etc should be taken care of.
Decide on the content
Before formulating the questions on the questionnaire or the interview schedule the researcher himself or herself must ask if the question is really needed. Here, comes the need for critical observation and evaluation. Anything that may seemingly sound redundant, should be dropped.
Develop the appropriate wording
The questions might be structured or unstructured, open or close-ended: which will be discussed in detail in a while. Nevertheless, the questions should be framed in such a manner that it is straightforward, less time taking for the respondents to analyze them, and most importantly, have simple words and short sentences.
Organize the questions
Usually, the questions should be first generic and eventually specific. For instance, if researching about ‘Urban Pollution’, the initial questions should deal with say, how urban pollution is affecting the world. By the end, how it affects the individual’s lifestyle should be dealt with.
Length of the questionnaire or the interview schedule
The questionnaires or the interview schedule mustn’t be too long. Lengthy ones are usually returned incompleted. The respondents also get bored if they are too lengthy and lose interest in answering the last questions.
While stepping out on the field, make sure to conduct a pre-interview on a comparatively smaller sample. This would facilitate understanding the lackings and the drawbacks that the questions might help and rectify the mistakes.
Develop the final form
After going through all the key points to be remembered, develop the final questionnaire, interview schedule, or survey form.
Types of Questions
Broadly speaking, the types of questions asked in a research interview are:
- Open-ended: these questions give the freedom to the respondents to express their views freely. It cannot be answered in a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. finally, it is highly subjective in nature
|easy to express thoughts and opinions
|limited control on the length of answers
|inspire self-expression and creativity
|illiterate people might face difficulties answering
- Close-ended: these questions have a limited set of answers. The answers can be either in the format of “Yes or No’, ‘A, B, C, D’, ‘All of the above or None of the Above’ and so on.
|easy and quick to answer
|bound to answer within the limited options
|confusing if many options are offered
|more likely to answer
|have to sometimes give simple responses to complex issues
|erasing redundant answer
|the distinction between ideas and opinion might go unnoticed
|easily comparable through graphical representation
Apart from that, however, there are other kinds of questions too, which can be overlapping with open and close-ended questions at times too:
- Rating questions: the questions display a scale of answers from which the respondents choose within the given range.
For eg: How likely is it that you would recommend the product to your friends.
Not likely Extremely likely
- Likert scales: most commonly seen in commercial surveys, the answers to these consist of ‘Highly Disagree, Slightly Disagree, Slightly Agree, Highly Agree’ etc
- Ranking questions: As the name suggests, this gives the respondents an opportunity to rank the answer choices according to their preferences. The advantage of such questions is that it helps to understand the relative popularity of all the given choices
Steps to be followed during the research interview
- First, preferably choose a setting devoid of loud noises, lights, etc, in which the respondents might feel comfortable.
- It is a research ethic to always inform the respondent of the purpose of the interview and where would the results be used.
- Likewise, while doing so, the researcher should ask if the respondents have any problem in revealing their identity. In such cases, the researcher should respect the confidentiality of the respondents.
- The respondents are not always benefitted from the research. Hence, they should be informed beforehand about the time that would be taken for completing the interview.
- Ask for their permission to record the interview to not miss out on any information later. Such recordings can then be transcribed verbatim.
During the interview, it is also an extremely important task of the researcher to observe the surroundings. This, called the observation method, involves studying the spontaneous behavior and reactions of the participants or anyone related to them in the surroundings. A lot can be comprehended using body language, facial expressions, etc. Sometimes these convey a lot more meaning than words can ever do.
Steps to be followed right after the iinterview
- Express gratitude to the respondents for giving their valuable time.
- Verify the recordings once.
- Fair out the rough scribbles of field notes as soon as possible so that it is easy to understand what had been observed during the interview.
Given below is a sample of questions that can be asked to the flood-affected population.
Topic: Impacts of Floods on the Population of Western USA
Marital status: ________________
Place of Birth:___________________
Place of Residence:________________
Reason behind displacement a) Flood b) Other
Q1. What do you think is the underlying cause of the vulnerabilities caused by floods?
Q2. How do you stay prepared since the onset of the flood?
Q3. What are the main strategies that you use to cope with floods?
Q4. What are the greatest needs for you and your family during the entire flooding day?
Q5. What are the problems faced by the mothers of the family?
Q6. Do you receive any kinds of governmental aid?
Yes No Sometimes
Q7. How do floods affect your livelihood/source of income?
Q9. Who are the first flood aid beneficiaries?
A. Households B. Pregnant/Lactating women C. Males (Head of the family) D. Women
Q10. What kinds of assistance do you receive from relief camps?
Q12. What kinds of problems do you face in the relief camps?
Q13. What coping mechanisms would you suggest mitigating the effects of flood?
Hence, being prepared to conduct the research interview after having in-depth knowledge about the previous work done on the field is the key to a successful interview. Conduct the interview methodically using the set of questions that you have prepared. Remember that the ideal set of questions should be easy for both the interviewer and the interviewee to complete so that accurate and complete information can be collected.