Developing interview questions and schedules

Developing questions for interviewing and observation codes

Here are a few distinctions and steps to follow that may help you in developing questions for interviewing or for coding observations in the field. After you read through these guidelines, it might be good idea to look at some samples and illustrations of interview questions and schedules from my own work.

Remember to keep in mind these two key distinctions:

    • Questions you want answered versus Indicators of what you want to study
    • Questions you want answered versus Questions that are good to ask people in interviews

For developing interview questions and observation codes:

    1. Brainstorm a list of potential questions

    2. Cluster the questions into groups

    3. Identify a general topic for each group

    4. Turn each topic into a master question

    5. Review/edit master questions:

    • To cover full range of topics
    • To reduce duplication
    • To simplify and focus

    6. Edit questions within each cluster:

    • To cover the topic
    • To reduce duplication
    • To simplify and focus
    • And to shift from "what you want to answer" to "what it makes sense to ask someone", to cover a topic, to reduce duplication, etc.

    7. Order the questions within clusters.

    8. Order the clusters.

    9. Try out the completed interview schedule/script with people and see how well it works. Take a look at some samples of questions and interview schedules.

How to develop observation codes

Same as above, EXCEPT, instead of editing towards "what it makes sense to ask", shift to "what it makes sense to observe." This involves the following additional steps:

    1. Brainstorm list of things that you could observe or otherwise collect information about.

    2. Identify things you can observe or collect that will help answer the master question for each cluster (i.e., What could you look at to learn more about what you are studying? What could you look at that is an indicator of what you focus on in the master question?)

    3. Identify variations in the indicators you have chosen that correspond to individual questions within each cluster (i.e., What specific details will you look for within the general indicators that you are looking at?)

    4. Make a list of the key variations you want to look for within each indicator.

    5. Prepare a matrix of all your questions and the indicators and variations you will be looking at.

    6. Check the matrix to ensure that you have indicators listed for all the questions you really want to answer (Note: some indicators may be useful in answering more than one question).

    7. Review the overall plan and edit towards simplifying and clarifying and making this project feasible.

    8. Develop a coding sheet that lists each variation you will be looking for with each indicator.

    9. Try out the completed coding scheme to see how well it works.

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