Reasons for using interviews
Interviews are a useful method to:
- investigate issues in an in depth way
- discover how individuals think and feel about a topic and why they hold certain opinions
- investigate the use, effectiveness and usefulness of particular library collections and services
- inform decision making, strategic planning and resource allocation
- sensitive topics which people may feel uncomfortable discussing in a focus group
- add a human dimension to impersonal data
- deepen understanding and explain statistical data.
Advantages of interviews
The main advantages of interviews are:
- they are useful to obtain detailed information about personal feelings, perceptions and opinions
- they allow more detailed questions to be asked
- they usually achieve a high response rate
- respondents' own words are recorded
- ambiguities can be clarified and incomplete answers followed up
- precise wording can be tailored to respondent and precise meaning of questions clarified (eg for students with English as a Second Language)
- interviewees are not influenced by others in the group
- some interviewees may be less self-conscious in a one-to-one situation.
Disadvantages of interviews
The main disadvantages of interviews are:
- they can be very time-consuming: setting up, interviewing, transcribing, analysing, feedback, reporting
- they can be costly
- different interviewers may understand and transcribe interviews in different ways.
Stage 1: Determine what information is required. What do you want to find out?
Stage 2: Decide on the method of data collection and the audience for the interviews eg students, library staff, academics.
Interviews can be conducted face-to-face, by telephone or using chat messaging.
Interviewees might be contacted by email, posters or flyers or, if particular individuals are to be targeted, by individual invitations sent by post or email. Tutors may be useful to help to recruit students. Invitations should describe:
- the purpose of the interview
- the participants' role and what is expected of them
- how long the interview will last
- any rewards which will be provided.
Stage 3: Draft the interview schedule, considering content, wording, format, structure and layout
Issues to consider
- Can the question be easily understood?
- Is the question biased?
- Is the question necessary to the evaluation?
- Will interviewees be willing to provide the information?
- Is the question applicable to all interviewees?
- Does the question allow interviewees to offer their opinions/expand on basic answers?
- Are follow up questions likely to be required?
- Will it be straightforward to analyse?
Stage 4: Pilot/test the interview schedule with colleagues or a sample of potential interviewees and revise as necessary
Stage 5: Conduct the interviews
In the introduction, the evaluator should:
- confirm that anonymity will be preserved
- describe the ground rules
- reiterate the purpose of the research.
- Record interviews if possible to allow greater interaction between the interviewer and respondent
- Conducting interviews by telephone can reduce the costs and time involved
- Preplanning is important: know who you are going to interview, when and where.
- Keep to time
- Advise interviewees that their confidentiality/anonymity will be respected
- Advise interviewees how you intend to use and make available the results.