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Conversations and interviews
Conversations and interviews

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1.2.1 The four stages of an interview

An interview is likely to go through four stages:

1.IntroductionIn this stage you need to explain what the topic of the interview is and possibly why you are conducting the interview with that particular person. You have to be careful at this stage that your introduction doesn’t give too much of a steer to your respondent. Imagine starting off an interview with the sentence, ‘I want to find out what’s going wrong with the students and how badly the books are affecting them.’ Well, that introduction has probably stopped a series of other topics from being discussed. So your introduction has to be carefully thought about. It needs to be clear enough to interest your respondent but be careful that it does not become leading, in suggesting the kind of answers that you want.
2.The scheduleAll interviews will have some sort of schedule of questions. As I suggest below, there are differences in how detailed that schedule will be. Sometimes you’ll have a carefully worded list of questions. On other occasions you’ll have only a list of general topics you want to discuss.
3.A summaryIt’s often a good idea at the end of the interview to summarise what you have learned from it; indeed, you might do this on a couple of occasions during the interview as well. At such points you outline what you have understood to have been said. This will give your respondent the opportunity to correct any misunderstandings.
4.The endThis may sound trivial, but do end by thanking your respondent for giving you their time, and do make sure that you end on time. If you have said that the interview will only take fifteen minutes or half an hour, then be ready to end at that time. I have often found that once they get onto a topic, people will give you more time, even when they are very busy; but you must never presume upon that and you must be sensitive to the need to end an interview at the convenience of your respondent.