Conducting Qualitative Interviews: Developing and Maintaining an Active and Engaged Posture

The main goal of this course is to position you to develop an active and engaged posture while executing qualitative data collection projects. To accomplish this goal, we will emphasize strategies to employ a posture of openness, flexibility, and responsiveness in your data collection practices.

Course content will direct interaction with three qualitative data collection strategies:

  • One-on-one Interviews
  • Dyadic Interviews
  • Focus Groups

Ten engagement strategies, listed here, will provide you with a checklist and action plan as you conduct fieldwork:

  • Understanding: How well do you understand the topic of and audience for your project? Are you familiar with the properties, dimensions, and dynamics of your topic and how further work in your field will affect audiences for your work?
  • Aligning: How do your data collection strategies and the questions in your interview/focus group guide assist you in achieving project goals?
  • Preparing: Who are your participants? How does your positionality and knowledge of the participants inform your data collection format and approach? How do you foster participant ownership in the data collection experience?
  • Opening: What are ways to open the interaction and conversation appropriately, comfortably and productively?
  • Asking: What do you ask participants when and why? What questions open conversation topics? When and how do you probe and ask for further detail and example? What do you note from the field? How do you develop your observation skills?
  • Following: How do you maintain a proper posture to discover, but not unduly influence, your participants’ experiences? How do you manage the conversation and observation in a way that allows you to follow your participants’ unfolding narratives while keeping them interested and involved in their own story telling?
  • Shifting/Adjusting: When and why do you make adjustments to data collection protocols and interview or focus group approaches? How can you shift your approach, language, and direction on the spot as you listen to and observe people’s unfolding narratives?
  • Closing: How can you naturally and affirmatively reach the conclusion of each data collection episode?
  • Processing: How do you track and understand the evolution of your interview/focus group guide and data collection protocols to process the meanings these changes have for your project?
  • Contextualizing: How are your practices directed by considerations of ethical, political, and social implications related to your study and your participants and their communities?

Employing these strategies through the life of your project will ensure you ask the right questions to the right people at the right time and in the right way. This practice will also help you to understand how the conversations and interactions occurring during data collection fit what is currently known about, and practiced in, your field.