Qualitative Interviews. Conducting interviews as a means of qualitative study. Main types of interviews

Term Paper, 2016

43 Pages, Grade: 1,7



1. Introduction
1.1. The Aim of this Term Paper
1.2. Structure

2. Theory
2.1. Conducting Interviews as a Means of Qualitative Study
2.2. Types of Interviews
2.3. Advantages and Disadvantages of Interviews
2.4. Recording Interviews

3. Developing the Interview Procedure
3.1. Preparation
3.1.1. Auxiliaries
3.1.2. Premises
3.2. Conduct
3.3. Evaluation

4. Practice
4.1. Briefing
4.2. Interviewing
4.3. Transcription
4.4. Evaluation
4.4.1. Summary
4.4.2. Analysis

5. Conclusion
5.1. Evidence
5.2. Reflection of the Practice

6. Outlook




Die Namen der interviewten Schüler und des interviewten Lehrers wurden anonymisiert und durch willkürlich gewählte Namen ersetzt.

1. Introduction

1.1. The Aim of this Term Paper

With regard to educational income and school development technological progress offers increasing possibilities in the fields of knowledge transfer and classroom management. This is especially reflected in so called ‘iPad classes’ that were initiated at the ‘Realschule’. Those classes are part of a pilot experiment in the Bavarian mainstream system. According to the school’s website the desired advantages are, amongst others, fast availability in group work periods, reinforcing medial competence, individual learning and quick access to educational contents from the internet.[1] I came to visit such classes during my first student internship in 2013. Now that a couple of years have passed I aim to find out in how far teachers and pupils think that it had been a good choice for them to take part in this project. Therefore, I am going to conduct interviews with both a participating teacher and two students. The interviews will cover advantages and disadvantages that come to the interviewees’ minds concerning the daily use of tablet computers at school as well as ideas the respondents have to keep improving the educational contact with innovative learning tools such as iPads. This research will be prepared, conducted and evaluated on a qualitative level.

1.2. Structure

At first, the theoretical part on qualitative interviews shall be presented. Main types of interviews will be introduced and the procedure of conducting interviews as a means of qualitative study will be displayed. Following this, the preparation, the conduct together with the needed auxiliaries and the evaluation method will be exposed. Then, the practical part shall give an accurate overview of the interviews held. Those will be conducted with two pupils – a girl and a boy - from an eight class of the school referred to, as well as with a teacher from that class. The analysis will be performed by means of appropriate literature. In my conclusion I will constitute things that surprised me most, things I had expected from the interviews, as well as things that possibly did not work out as I had hoped for. Finally, an outlook on the connection of new technologies, especially the use of tablets, in cooperation with class management shall be covered.

2. Theory

2.1. Conducting Interviews as a Means of Qualitative Study

Conducting qualitative interviews is a widely recognized approach to gathering information about an individual’s circumstances and thought patterns. “By using interviews, the researcher can reach areas of reality that would otherwise remain inaccessible […]”[2] such as the respondents’ opinions and knowledge. Interviews on a qualitative level can reveal the “invisibility of everyday life”.[3] In his article on different varieties, planning, conducting and evaluating of qualitative interviews Matthias Trautmann states that there are various procedures regarding data collection. What these procedures should have in common is that individuals are to undergo oral surveys concerning a certain object of research. The indicated surveys must be subject to certain quality criteria in order to be classified as scientific. Usually, interviews are labelled ‘qualitative’ when the involved scientists seek to reconstruct subjective views, everyday processes or latent social patterns. It is furthermore essential for the interviewees to be accessible and sincere and for the interviewers to be as unbiased as possible and reflexive in terms of their own presumptions.[4]

Interviewers aim to “[…] carry on a guided conversation and to elicit rich, detailed materials that can be used in qualitative analysis”.[5] However, the manner in which interviews are being conducted contributes “[…] to some extent to the ‘depth’ of response sought”.[6] Whether one chooses to take advantage of a structured, semi-structured or unstructured interview form, the decision engenders which type of information may be spotted. Colin Robson points out that the question focus is essential for the interviewees’ respective answers. One needs to be clear about whether wanting to concern facts, behavior or beliefs and attitudes. As for this term paper, beliefs and attitudes seem most interesting, yet challenging to ascertain, as mindsets are complex and manifold.[7]

2.2. Types of Interviews

As interviews are most likely - yet not exclusively - to result in the evaluation of qualitative data (as opposed to quantitative data), Mackey and Gass state that there are basically three main types of interviews: the structured, the semi-structured and the unstructured interview.

The structured (or standardized) interview is characterized by a prefabricated set of questions in a pre-set order and can hardly be expanded during the interview process itself. It is the only research method on the basis of survey research to be used in terms of quantitative assessment. Thus, it would be useful to apply this type of interview when planning on gathering information, attitudes and opinions about one and the same issue by consulting several interviewees. The analysis of the collected data is comparatively simple and researchers should have no trouble evaluating and comparing the answers of different participants. Yet, when it comes to evaluating qualitative data, structured interviews are less suitable.

The semi-structured interview is being led more openly than the structured interview. The interviewer has a framework of ideas that are supposed to be discussed and has the opportunity of drawing back to formulated questions during the interview process. However, new ideas might emerge depending on what the interviewee delivers. This procedure is being conducted less rigid. Still, the same content is concealed with each contributor which is advantageous when it comes to compiling the data. Further topics that might arise from the answers the respondent has given are not pursued though.

The unstructured interview is more like a natural, partly completely informal, conversation and goals or aims of the interview are not quite clear beforehand. No questions are being prepared during the interview itself. “The interviewer has a general area of interest and concern but lets the conversation develop within this area”.[8] In fact, questions rather come forward during the course of the conversation. Unstructured interviews are intended to target the interviewees’ expressions in their own terms and words. The act of responding between the interviewee and the interviewer can have positive effects on arising topics that had not been in the interviewer’s mind beforehand. However, unstructured interviews tend to be time-consuming when it comes to analyzing the gathered data.[9]

There are a few more interview types, such as non-directive interviews, focused interviews, telephone interviews or internet-based interviews.[10] However, it is not being reacted to those types since it would go beyond the scope of this term paper.

2.3. Advantages and Disadvantages of Interviews

As interviews are a flexible method of gathering data by analyzing the spoken word it cuts both ways. Interviews can hardly be standardized and thus raise “[…] concern about reliability”.[11] It requires a certain degree of professionalism to minimize biases and the preparation (“[…] making arrangements to visit; securing necessary permissions, […] confirming arrangements […]”[12] ) and evaluation (the transcription of a tape-recorded interview alone already takes “[…] something like a factor of ten […]”[13] ) of interview information is time-consuming. Still, interviewing serves information purposes that hardly any other form of research can provide.

2.4. Recording Interviews

The recording of interviews can be accomplished in two ways: tape-recording and note-taking. “The advantage of tape-recording an interview is that this preserves the actual language that is used, providing an objective record of what was said that can later be analyzed.”[14] The disadvantage of the tape-recording method is that it might contribute to the interviewee’s nervousness and “[…] transcribing the recording can be quite tedious and result in a great deal of data […]”.[15]

Note-taking is the other method proposed by McKay. “Central facts and issues […]”[16] can be documented, which might give a better overview of the covered topics afterwards. The problem that novices might face is that note-taking can be quite demanding and “[…] that a researcher does not have an objective word-for-word record of what was said.”[17] Thus, it seems useful to record an interview with a tape-recorder and take notes at the same time in order to ensure which topics have already been covered and which need to be taken care of yet.[18]

3. Developing the Interview Procedure

3.1. Preparation

3.1.1. Auxiliaries

As for the interviews’ recording process my smartphone will be applied as a tape-recorder. McKay draws attention to checking the equipment beforehand and placing the device in a central position[19], which will be ensured. During the interview, a notepad shall serve in order to tick the already discussed questions and issues and to note central statements.

3.1.2. Premises

The interviews themselves will be conducted in an empty classroom provided by the middle school mentioned.

3.2. Conduct

During the interview process it is crucial to keep in mind not to pose “[…] questions in such a way as to communicate what you believe to be a preferable answer”.[20] One should be sure to ask “[…] open-ended questions that allow the participants to respond on their own terms”.[21] The questions should be held as simple and as straightforward as possible. Instead of trying to pack several question strands into one sentence it would rather be advantageous to ask more and shorter questions. As the interviewer’s “[…] own behavior has a major influence on their [the interviewees’] willingness […]”[22] to speak freely, it is essential to let the interviewee speak far more than the interviewer him- or herself. At the same time and no matter in which direction the interview develops, the interviewer should avoid making the impression of being indifferent. Sensitivity to the respondent’s age and gender, as well as his or her ethnic origin are vital. Key questions should neither be asked in the beginning nor in the end of the interview to evade an interviewee’s potential initial nervousness or tiredness by the end. Rather it is preferable to place such questions in the middle. Once the respondent has nothing more to say on a question it might be beneficial not to proceed to the next question right away, but to bide for a moment in order to encourage the opponent to elaborate on his or her answer.[23] [24]

3.3. Evaluation

Initially, the tape-recorded data will be transcribed. There is basically no limit concerning the accuracy of transcribing spoken data. Features like the respondents’ dialects, intonations, volume, speaking rate or even swallowing syllables, laughing, sighing and nearby sounds contribute to the transcription’s precision. In this context Trautmann points to the so-called GAT-system, which is being used in linguistic conversation analyses and is known for its complexity and high accuracy. In this term paper, the what is far more relevant than the how.[25] Therefore, only the spoken word will be transcribed discounting any additional breathing sounds, hemming or whatsoever.

Finally, the answers from both the teacher and the students will be compared in order to depict similarities and differences concerning the respective answers.

4. Practice

4.1. Briefing

In the run-up talks were being held with Mr. Frank Bauer, who came forward to be interviewed. He was the one to pick two pupils from his eighth class (economic sector). He was also responsible for the appropriate declarations of consent signed by the pupils’ parents. Mr. Bauer and me considered it the best solution to interview not only one pupil and one teacher, but two pupils and a teacher instead. As a result, one can compare not only accordance and dissensions between teacher and pupil, but also among the pupils themselves. During the preliminary discussion Mr. Bauer declared himself against interviews in English. Thus, the interviews will be held in German instead.

4.2. Interviewing

The interviews were conducted on the 12th of May during the second lesson. Both students were excused from their respective class. I asked each participant for a one-on-one conversation in order to reduce peer pressure in the way of answering my questions. Mr. Bauer took us to an empty classroom and both pupils were being interviewed consecutively. I expected each interview process to take about 15 minutes. However, my assessment turned out to be wrong. The interview held with the male pupil took 18 minutes, the one with the female pupil took 28 minutes. Since the second lesson had been over already without Mr. Bauer having been interviewed yet, things had to be rescheduled. Thus, we moved to the classroom which Mr. Bauer was supposed teach in during the third lesson. Luckily he could send his students to the school hall for them to prepare for their final exams so we could talk undisturbedly. The interview that was being held with Mr. Bauer even took 38 minutes.


[1] “Die iPad-Klassen – unsere Idee für modernes Lernen.“iPad-Klassen: Realschule. Web. 28 Apr. 2016. <http://www.real-euro.de/iPad-Klassen.510.0.html#c1682>

[2] Anssi Peräkylä and Johanna Ruusuvuori, „Analyzing Talk and Text,” The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research, ed. Norman K. Denzin and Yvonna S. Lincoln (Thousand Oaks: SAGE, 2011), 529.

[3] Frederick Erickson, Qualitative Methods: Research in teaching and learning, (New York: Macmillan, 1970), 83.

[4] Matthias Trautmann, „Grundlagenbeitrag,“Fremdsprachenunterricht empirisch erforschen: Grundlagen – Methoden – Anwendung, ed. Sabine Doff (Tübingen: Narr Verlag, 2012), 218ff.

[5] John Lofland, Analyzing Social Settings, (Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1971), 76.

[6] Colin Robson, Real World Research: A Resource for Users of Social Research Methods in Applied Settings, 3rd ed. (Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley, 2011), 278.

[7] Robson, Real World Research, 280.

[8] Robson, Real World Research, 280.

[9] Alison Mackey and Susan M. Gass, Second Language Research: Methodology and Design, 2nd ed. (New York: Routledge, 2016), 225.

[10] Robson, Real World Research, 289-291.

[11] Robson, Real World Research, 281.

[12] Robson, Real World Research, 281.

[13] Robson, Real World Research, 281.

[14] Sandra Lee McKay, Researching Second Language Classrooms, (New Jersey: ESL & Applied Linguistics Professional Series, 2006), 55ff.

[15] McKay, Researching Second Language Classrooms, 56.

[16] McKay, Researching Second Language Classrooms, 56.

[17] McKay, Researching Second Language Classrooms, 56.

[18] McKay, Researching Second Language Classrooms, 56.

[19] McKay, Researching Second Language Classrooms, 56.

[20] Lofland, Analyzing Social Settings, 85.

[21] McKay, Researching Second Language Classrooms, 52.

[22] Robson, Real World Research, 281.

[23] Mackey and Gass, Second Language Research, 226.

[24] Robson, Real World Research, 282.

[25] Trautmann, „Grundlagenbeitrag,“ 226ff.

Excerpt out of 43 pages


Qualitative Interviews. Conducting interviews as a means of qualitative study. Main types of interviews
Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg
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Quote paper
Leo Decher (Author), 2016, Qualitative Interviews. Conducting interviews as a means of qualitative study. Main types of interviews, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/379170


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