Interview Guide

An Interview Guide helps you set the scene clearly, not to forget essential things at the start and end, and provides a checklist of items you wanted to cover. Having a Guide helps you relax and participate in a smoothly flowing verbal exchange. (Smoothly flowing is a better adjective than natural, because one person asking another a series of questions is not a natural form of conversation.) What follows is an abbreviated example of an Interview Guide.

Sample guide

Introductory comments
As I mentioned by email, I’ve read your book on bungee jumping, but today I’d like to hear about your experiences taking the first steps (so to speak) as a bungee jumping instructor and how you went from there to end up running a whole school.

But first, there are some preliminaries:
  • We have 40 minutes, right? Is that still OK with you?
  • May I record this so I’m not distracted by note taking?
  • What kinds of restrictions do you want to place on my use of the recording?

  • A journalist-style release form might specify the options for the interviewee to choose amongst, then sign and date.
    a. No restrictions
    b. If a transcript of the recording is made, I wish to read the transcript and make corrections and emendations.
    c. My permission is required to quote or reproduce from the recording or corrected transcript (if applicable).
    d. Only if my paper is subsequently to be submitted for publication or used in the preparation of any manuscript intended for publication do I need to be consulted, in which case a new release form governing the use of the material must be provided and signed by me.
    e. Only if other scholars want access to the recording or corrected transcript (if applicable) do I need to be consulted, in which case a new release form governing the use of the material must be provided and signed by me.
    This constitutes our entire and complete understanding.
    (Consult advisors familiar with your institution's human subjects guidelines about whether your interview protocol needs to go through human subjects review.)

    Do you have a resume or c.v. that I can get from you before I leave so I don’t need to interrupt our conversation to check on those kind of details?

    Interview proper
    OK. Let's get going.
    When did you start teaching bungee jumping? What had you been doing before then?
    [Beginning an interview this way allows the interviewee to tell a chronological story of their process starting with the time of transition into the area of interest to you. You can ask for more details at any point or take them back to something that they skipped over, then continue the story where you had broken in. The story format works against your being fed the take-home lessons when you actually want to know about the process, including how the interviewees picked themselves up when down or got back on track when they had taken an unproductive turn. Sometimes the experience of being interviewed is valuable to the interviewees because they find themselves making sense of what they have done. Having both the interviewer and interviewee benefit is the ideal outcome.
    If a chronological format is not appropriate for your interview, make sure the order of questions allows the interviewee to build on previous answers and feel that they are making sense of their experience, not simply replying to what seems to be a scatter-shot of questions. (The order of the Sense-Making Contextualization is helpful for developing a logical sequence to the questions.)]

    Can I take a moment to review my notes and see if there are issues we haven’t covered?....
    [Here you refer to the items you have listed on your guide.]

    Looking back on the whole process of your personal and professional development, what lessons would you draw?

    Are there other key people you think I should talk with?

    Is then anything I didn't ask you about that I should have asked about?

    Much thanks for making the time to speak with me. Can I get a copy of that resume before I go?

    (See Phase F )