Step 3: Conduct the interviews and focus groups
This section provides a step-by-step guide to the different phases of an interview or focus group.
Before the interview
- Ensure participants, especially students, have provided appropriate permissions to be interviewed.
- Provide the respondents with an outline of the topics you would like to cover, highlighting anything that you would like them to think about or prepare in advance.
- Prepare a method of data recording, for example, written notes, audio/video recording. Check that your recording equipment is working. Pack fresh batteries just in case.
- Choose a suitable location, away from school noise and interruptions. Ensure that seating arrangements put participants at an even status with each other and the interviewer or facilitator.
- Confirm the agreed time and place with participants (including start and finish time).
- Arrange suitable catering, as appropriate.
- Dress appropriately (not too formal).
At the beginning of the interview
- Do suitable introductions.
- Explain the purpose of the interview and allow respondent/s to clarify any queries about the process.
- Indicate the anticipated length of the session.
- Outline terms of confidentiality. Use of audio/video recording devices requires active consent, so confirm that participants agree to this up front and have that interaction on record.
- Explain the participants’ rights - that they can stop the interview at any time, skip any question they don’t want to answer, and withdraw consent post-interview.
- Supply interviewer’s contact details.
During the interview
- If using audio/visual equipment, periodically check that it is still working correctly.
- Ask follow-up questions or probe to discover more or explanatory information, as the need arises, for example, “Please explain further…”, “Can you give me an example?”, “Tell me more about...”
- If a participant uses jargon or technical language, clarify these terms to ensure clear understanding and accurate interpretation.
- Do more listening than talking.
- Maintain neutral, open body language.
- Keep the discussion on track, without shutting down useful tangents.
- Take notes, ensuring that the focus does not shift from the respondent/s to information recording.
- In group interviews, ensure all participants have an opportunity to participate.
- The final question should allow respondent/s to provide additional information, for example, "Is there anything further you would like to add to what you have already said?"
After the interview
- Advise participants that anything still needing to be said can be relayed via email. Leave contact details for this purpose.
- Immediately record initial notes about impressions, ideas and questions needing follow-up.
- Transcribe or summarise interviews to prepare texts for analysis.
- Whenever possible, provide respondents with the opportunity to review the transcript or notes, to ensure they are happy with the content and initial interpretations of their ideas and perceptions.