How to Write an Interview Paper
Journalists, employers and those conducting research often need the perspective of several individuals to come to conclusions about a specific topic.
The interview paper is exactly this. In short, it is an essay or a presentation of ideas that have been collated from the interviews with a select number of people.
These interviews give the person conducting the research a strong consensus on what the thoughts are surrounding their respective study. The questions the interviewer asks to the subjects taking part in the interview aim at achieving a consensus.
Understanding what the views and opinions are of a majority can help companies or journalists project their ideas and products better. Further, they help investors and entrepreneurs to gauge what would sit better with the general public.
They also help us understand what’s not popular. Getting ideas about what steps should not be taken are equally important.
Interview papers are different from scholarly texts or books in that the source material is different. Those conducting interview papers will prioritize the interviews as the main source of knowledge.
In contrast, those writing scholarly articles and texts will prioritize a range of source materials in order to construct their argument.
For instance, someone writing a history essay will choose from a range of primary source materials, such as biographical accounts, diaries, letters, public interviews and official government reports.
The interview paper is a consensus of ideas from the subjects alone. Other knowledge may be cited in order to consolidate an interviewer’s ideas, but the main focus is always on the answers to the questions received.
In this article, we will discuss what you need to prepare and how to create a good interview paper. We will also discuss some of the key points you need to keep in mind when approaching the interviews and writing process.
As with all projects conducted in study and in work, if you do not prepare properly, then your results will most likely be misdirected.
Having a strong plan in place will ultimately lead to better interviews and better results.
In addition to this, being well prepared will make the process less stressful. There will be less chance of mishaps during the writing and interview process.
Here are the best ways you can prepare for your interviews:
It is imperative that you have your questions set out before you enter any interview. If you do not have a strong sense of what you want to ask, then the interview will be poorly organized.
You may find that, during an interview, you want to ask questions relating to the subject’s answers or approach. This is acceptable and can prove to be beneficial, particularly to journalists.
However, you must think of extra questions as an opportunity. You do not get these chances if you do not have questions in the first place.
There are many different types of questions you can ask in an interview. Here are some of the ones you will most likely use:
- Open-ended questions: These are questions that can be answered in general terms and do not facilitate a restricted response. Questions that have the premise of feeling are open-ended. An example is: ‘How do you feel about the recent changes in the workplace?’
- Closed questions: These facilitate a strict response that is usually a yes or no. These questions are often used in surveys and data reports.
- Direct questions: These are simply used to gather information quickly and can relate to a person’s basic details or thoughts.
- Loaded and unloaded questions: These are to be used with caution, but they can be very useful in obtaining a subject’s feelings. A loaded question works on an assumption of feeling or action and forces the subject to work around this. An example is ‘Do you still dislike the changes made to the timetables?’
You should spend time practicing writing questions, even if you do not use them in advance. It is good to get an idea of how to phrase and create different types of questions and when to use them.
Before entering the interview, you need to have an idea of why you are doing it in the first place.
This might sound like a simple point, but it is often a neglected one.
Interviews with little purpose or direction are difficult to sustain. The subjects will most likely ask what you intend to do or find with the interview, and if you cannot answer this, then they will likely not take part.
Write out what the interviews are for, why you are conducting them and how they will be used. Understanding this will create a better interview.
Further, it is also a good idea to think about what you intend to find from the interviews. Having a starting point will keep you engaged and guide you.
This is known as a hypothesis. It is normal that hypotheses may be proven wrong once the data is collected, but this is a benefit as you can analyze the data you receive against your preconceptions.
Imagine entering a competition and being asked where you want to finish. Your initial ideas, whether that is finishing first or last, will automatically be measured against your actual finishing position. From this, you often reflect on performance, the process and what can be done next time around.
Having these two sets of data – the hypothesis and the actual proof from the results – will give you the opportunity to reflect and construct a much better interview paper. This will be discussed below.
The interview itself is only a small part of the whole process. The amount of paperwork you may require for your interview can be quite surprising.
If you are doing your interview in the style of a questionnaire or a survey, make sure that you have plenty of printed copies available.
Having a copy of the questions can be helpful for the interviewee as well. If you are not conducting a blind interview – where the subject will not know the questions – then you have something to hand to show the subject before asking them.
This gives them a moment to think of their answers and makes the subject feel at ease. A lack of paperwork makes the process sometimes look illegitimate.
Depending on the type of interview you are conducting, you may need an interview confidentiality statement or a declaration of participation.
Many interviews cover sensitive topics, and the subjects themselves should have the right to remain anonymous. Having these options available through the correct paperwork is the best way to remain professional.
The subject you interview may find your topic of great interest. If this is the case, you should be prepared beforehand to provide them with contact details.
You may also want to conduct further interviews in the future.
Having these contact details allows you to potentially build a relationship with willing participants down the line.
If you approach the interview with no regard for the subject, you will come across as rude.
Discussing the project beforehand and obtaining contact details is a way to show your genuine concern for them as a participant.
It is also good to keep in mind their timetable. You may have contacted at a particularly bad time, and they may not be available to participate. Having contact details and a professional relationship with potential participants will allow you to rearrange.
Arguably the most frustrating part of the interview process is the transcription. This is where you write out the recordings and jot up the data.
If your interview is free-flowing and based around open-ended questions, a transcription is imperative.
Ensure that you have the right equipment beforehand. A recorder of some sort or an app on your phone should be sufficient. It is important that you set time aside to write up the responses, as it is a long process.
If your questions are closed, and you are conducting survey-based interviews, ensure that you have software or a system to tally up the responses.
This is also time-consuming, and if you are permitted to, then it might be worth co-operating with someone else to achieve faster results.
Have these things in place before you enter the interview, otherwise you will struggle for time.
Once you have prepared for the interview, all that is left to do is to sit down with a participant and begin the process.
It is nerve-wracking, and the first time you do it may be uncomfortable. However, remember that the participant will also be nervous.
There are certain behaviors to avoid and practices to adopt during the interview process. Keep an eye on these matters while interviewing.
Once you have conducted a couple of interviews, you will have an idea of how long each one will take.
Set a timeframe to work within and try your best to stick to it. This gives a fair framework for everyone to answer the questions in.
However, do not push participants to answer quickly, as this will come across as rude. Be patient, but try to maintain the structure you have set out with the questions and the time allotted to each question.
Your attitude and your body language are some of the most important things during an interview.
Come across as inquisitive, patient and enthusiastic. Take interest in the answers that the participant responds with and be considerate regarding the time they have given to you.
If you are sluggish and unresponsive, the answers you will receive will reflect that.
Do not mock any of the answers, either. You may receive answers that you do not expect, and it is important to remain professional.
Conversation is good, but limit it during the interview.
Have a chat with the participant beforehand about the interview and remain cordial throughout. If you have the time to do this, it will help build a better relationship with the participant.
However, once the interview begins, you must maintain your composure no matter how interested you are in the answers.
Listening is harder than it sounds during an interview, particularly if it is interesting. You must not respond to the answers with your opinions, and you must not divert away from the questioning process.
You may also want to speak, and even make small gestures, during the participants’ answers. These must also be limited, as they interrupt the flow.
Silence and patience are the best policies to follow. If you need to encourage the participant to continue their line of thought, then nod and ensure you maintain eye contact.
Honest answers are created when participants are not being framed within an opinion or agenda. Try your best to keep yours out of it during their answers.
Depending on the interview, some questions will potentially cause an emotional response.
If that happens, you must remain professional and considerate. Give the participant time to answer the question.
If the question is too much for them, then you should give them the option of pausing and stopping the interview.
This circumstance may not be the best situation for your results, but the mental wellbeing of a subject is one of your responsibilities.
Having the questions to hand can prepare the subject for this scenario. If you are aware of certain questions that might evoke an emotional response, then discuss beforehand with the participant if they want to answer them.
You do not know what to fully expect until the interview process begins, but there are ways in which you can prepare yourself for sensitive situations.
After you have your data collated and transcribed, you now have the source material ready to write paper.
Depending on the type of the interviews you have collected, the paper will look different. However, as with all academic and professional essays and papers, there are basic rules to follow.
Your introduction should outline what your project is and why you opted to use interviews in order to ascertain a hypothesis.
State why you have chosen to conduct the interviews and what your hypothesis is. Do not discuss the results yet, as this will come much later in the paper.
Finally, highlight what work has been done before, if there has been any, and why your project is unique in that regard. Your methods are as important as the results gathered.
You may have chosen interviews because human participants have not been used in a certain study. On the other hand, your interviews may consolidate or disprove the conclusions of another paper.
Once you have outlined pre-existing studies, it is a good idea to discuss the structure of the paper briefly. State in what order the data will be discussed and the aims of each section.
This will be the largest part of your paper, but it should also be the most straightforward if you have conducted the interviews correctly.
In the main body, you will discuss your actual findings and results, relating them back to the purpose you have outlined in the introduction.
Depending on the type of data you have collected, your paper will either be statistical or empirical.
If it is surveys you have collected, then your findings will more likely be statistical. In this case you need to compile and analyze the results. These papers are more scientific in their outlook.
On the other hand, if your interviews have taken an open-ended route, you will likely be breaking down your findings from conversations with participants.
In this case, your findings will be more down to your own interpretations and knowledge. These papers are more subjective, but it is important to reiterate sections from the conversations you have had in quotes and gobbets.
With both types of papers, you will need to compare and contrast your results. You will also need to analyze in reference to any prior studies.
The conclusion should be the final discussion of your results. This is where your hypothesis is an essential part of writing a paper.
Having the opportunity to reflect on the hypothesis you approached the interview process with will show intelligence and contemplation to readers.
Further, it will give you the benefit of structure in your paper. Without the hypothesis, the paper will look void of direction.
As well as discussing your results in relation to your hypothesis, it is important to reflect on the results during the conclusion.
With the data you have received, state what your findings mean for the direction of a certain working project or for future studies in the same area.
Remember to always give yourself time to edit and proofread, especially in the case of interview papers. If you fail to do this, you will not only make mistakes on your behalf, but you may misrepresent a participant, giving no justice to their actual answers.
Each interview is unique in that you will be presented with a different personality and a varying set of responses.
With the right structure and the correct preparation, you should be able to factor the results received from most participants into your study.
Once you get to writing the interview paper, your conscientiousness will show in the ease in which you find writing up the results.