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.
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