What is it like when interviews go well?

I thought this was a lovely description on pg 8 of Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming the Conversation:

When things go right, the social scientist’s interview becomes an open, easy exchange. This often happens after trust has been established, when the researcher’s notebook has been closed, when people who only a few minutes earlier had been “participants” in “your study” realize that there is something in this for them. Your question becomes their question as well. A conversation begins.

How would you describe the feeling when interviews go well? Tell us in the comments box and we’ll compile them into another post.

Categories: Committing Sociology

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3 replies »

  1. When the conversation hits a rhythm and the words just flow like poetry rather than the response to an interrogation. When I don’t need to ask the questions because they understand my topic so well that they answer everything naturally and somehow through their telling they cover everything comprehensively. When I create a space for them to be the true storytellers and where they can take control of the research and really delve into the layers of their own knowledge. As researchers, one of the best things we can do is to let go and see where the interview takes us, rather than trying to control the process.

  2. Well, having just completed the lonely task of transcribing some interviews, can we really say that they ever go well? The feeling of accomplishment first of all is one great thing about interviews. But then there is also that feeling that you encounter half way through transcription, when you realise “Oh No! This is so not going well”; that point where your interviewee rephrases your entire research question and you wonder whether your previous interviews went well at all. The question that I think we should ask is, what happens when the interview that you thought went well actually didn’t go well. What do you do? Do you painfully extract the answer that you are looking for in that interview (if it’s your only one) or do you carry on searching with modifications here and there in the next interviews.

    In all honesty however, when an interview goes well, I relax and tentatively look forward to the transcription phase, as I am personally only ever present in the interview at that stage.

  3. I’m a sociology major, and one of my required courses was Research Methods in Sociology. For an assignment, I had to go out and find someone to interview as part of a fake research study, in order to practice interviewing and data coding skills.

    So I’m talking to this girl – let’s call her Andrea – and initially it was all awkward introductions and stumbling follow-up questions to her abrupt responses (a mistake on my part because I was asking the wrong sort of questions). And then we found that magical question – you know, the kind that makes people pause; maybe wonder precisely what that question means to THEM, not just what it means. The kind of question that, when they find their answer, they they get so excited about it they start going off on tangents. And THAT’S when you discover the true depth and meaning of the lived human experience, which was very much an embodied experience in this particular instance because my questions were about nutrition and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Mine and Andrea’s Q&A gradually took on the attributes of a typical conversation between friends. She chattered animatedly at times, while at others she would stop, think a little, talk again but slower. And our silences weren’t at all awkward. They were comfortable silences, where neither of us felt any need to fill it with incessant chatter, but really used it to momentarily retreat within our own thoughts, thinking more deeply, more critically about our own lives. I started sharing my own experiences with food and eating healthy, and she’d comment on something I said, or vice versa. Or I’d say something and she’d go, “Oh my god yes! That’s so true…” and off she went to explain in more detail. I forgot I was supposed to be one critically analyzing her responses as a student researcher. My phone was recording her words (with permission), so I felt no need to take notes. I also put away my interview guide after some time because I no longer needed it. That was euphoric. I felt accomplished, like I’d done something right as a human being, to have been able to connected with this complete stranger on such a personal level that she and I were conversing passionately on the topic of scrutiny, without any probing or prompting on my part. Even when she went off on tangents, or I went off on tangents because I’d quickly adopted her style of speech, they were still somehow related. This I only realized retrospectively, since at the time I wasn’t paying any more attention to the assignment, but rather to the highly intriguing conversation. Alas, she had to soon return to her work, and I too, had to leave. I thanked her and left.

    Suffice to say I received full points on that assignment. But I learned so much about myself that day. Not as a researcher; rather, as just one human being connecting to another. Simply because we’re human, and due to that commonality I was able to develop such a conversational and open relationship in such a short amount of time.

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