University of Michigan

      National Center for Postsecondary Improvement

        Project 5.3 on Student Learning and Assessment

                Tips on Interviewing and Hallmarks of an Interview
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1.      Identify yourself and set the respondent at ease

 2.      The respondent’s reaction often mirrors that of the interviewer. The respondent will know if you are uncertain and uneasy. Your pleasant,          positive, well-informed approach will be reflected in the interviewees readiness to respond.

 3.      If you want longer and detailed responses, reinforce those kinds of answers—say, “Yes,” “Okay,” or “I see,” or nod. Using similar reinforcers for unresponsive answers gives the wrong signal; save them for responsive answers.

 4.      To teach and motivate the respondent, use feedback expressions like these: “Thanks, this is the sort of information we’re looking for in this research.” “it’s important to us to get this information.” “These details are helpful.” “It’s useful to get your ideas (your opinion) on this.” “I see; that’s useful information.” “Let me get that down.”

 5.      Master the probe: repeat the question; give an expectant pause (an expectant look or nod of the head); possibly repeat, summarize, or reflect the feeling tone of the reply. Say: “Anything else?” “How do you mean?” “Could you tell me more about it?” “I’m not sure I know what you mean by that (bewildered look).” “Could you tell me a little bit more?” However, don’t overuse these, or the respondent will think you can’t recognize a valid answer.

 6.      Where probing recall, use probes that give memory cues of items likely to be forgotten. For example, if probing hospitalization, say, “Well, people quite frequently forget; it is more difficult to remember just an overnight hospitalization, for instance. Was there any chance you had something like this?”

 7.      When overtly interviewing, sit in a comfortable spot where you can record the responses verbatim, using abbreviations to get them down. Record abbreviations, probes, and interviewer comment in parentheses. Write as the respondent talks.

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