If you are in your first or second year at university, depending on the course you are studying, a number of your tutors may have mentioned something called a dissertation. A dissertation is essentially a form of assessment that you work on and submit in your final year. And what sets the dissertation apart from all your other academic essays, with the exception of a higher word count, is that it is entirely your work. Basically, this time you take up the role of a researcher and go out there to find out more about something that makes you curious. There are different ways you can conduct your research. Some students go for a quantitative approach which usually involves creating and sending out online surveys or questionnaires. Other students go for a qualitative approach which involves more face-to-face contact. This approach usually uses methods such as focus groups or interviews. The approach you choose will highly depend on the nature and aims of your study.
I have around three more interviews to conduct before I begin transcribing them to work on my data analysis and discussion. Since I am almost done with my interviews I thought this would be the ideal time to give you some handy tips to make sure your interviews go as smooth as possible when it is time for you to do your dissertation. These are tiny details that we tend to overlook sometimes but make a massive difference to the quality of your interviews. So here it goes:
a) The location
Picking the right location to conduct your interviews is crucial. Make sure to pick a place that is quiet and offers privacy. Avoid noisy public places such as restaurants or parks. If you are researching professionals working in organisations or universities you can always use their office or meeting rooms. Ofcourse, make sure to ask your participants if they are alright with it. If you are interviewing students you can always book study rooms at the library or vacant seminar rooms.
b) The apparatus
You will most likely be tape recording your interviews. Firstly, it is essential that you gain ethical approval for this as well as gain permission from participants for doing so. Some people are not comfortable with their conversation being recorded and that is absolutely fine. Secondly, make sure that you use the right equipment to tape the interviews. Most of you will be using your phones. I did too. Test out the audio recording app on your phones for quality and length well in advance before the interview. You want to avoid any technical glitches during the interview or worse, after it is done.
c) The interviewee
Remember that the participants are doing you a favour by giving you time from their busy schedules. Always be polite and make sure that the location, date and time of the interviews are of convenience to them. Provide them with enough information about your research prior to the interview. Assure them that their identities and opinions will be protected with anonymity and that they are free to withdraw from the research if they wish to. Also, sometimes students get too excited and do more of the talking during the interview or interrupt the participant while they are talking. Let the interviewee talk and avoid jumping in with questions.
I hope these were of help and prove useful to you when you do your dissertations or already in the process of conducting interviews. All the best!