Building friendships through interviews


This week’s reading emphasizes mainly on “interviewing”, one of the several methods of field research as discussed in our previous blogs.

We also discussed in our blogs earlier about how building rapport with interviewees helps interviewers acquire more and accurate data. However, the text points out that emotional attachment with stories that respondents shared during an interview may influence data interpretation and analysis, and so the text suggests that it is important for interviewers to stay emotionally detached in order to acquire correct data and to demonstrate the real picture. But as sociologists, interviewing is not just a part of our job or academic research. We dive into a particular research because we care about the people involved in the particular issue and are interested in their culture and to become a voice for their concerns. We make sure that we have a good understanding of the history of the particular community by reading available literature, talking to as many experts as possible and going for observations in the community before we start off with our interviews. So a little bit of emotional influence may be natural and it may even help us see aspects from different perspectives. Sometimes, interviewers may feel that they already know what the interviewees want to convey. But going to the interviews with open eyes and ears may be more effective for getting the real picture. This may also help to identify flaws in assumptions made earlier during the research.

As suggested in the reading, there are ways to prevent biased interpretation and analysis of the interviews- “collaborative operations” can be used during research. One such approach is focus groups; instead of interviewing respondents separately, meeting with them in groups and asking for their perspectives may make the interviewees more aware of what information they are delivering. Also, it has been studied that interviewees tend to respond differently with different interviewers so having research groups for interviewing the same respondents may help in narrowing down the collected data correctly.

After all the questioning and answering is done, a “cool down” session is essential for successful completion of the interview. This may include asking if the respondents have anything additional to say, or if they have any question regarding the interviewer’s research, project or affiliated institution. Thanking the respondents for their time and insights is definitely polite and professional. And finally, asking them for their contact details for further follow-up if needed is also helpful in case if you missed out on important information. Afterall, is it not better to make a quick friendly call while you are in confusions than to get the wrong name printed alongside a person’s photograph?


Questions to consider:

What is your opinion regarding emotional attachments/detachments with interviewees?

In what other ways do you think we can make our interviews in the community more effective?


  • Arieanna Morris

    Maybe we bring or prepare questionnaires and surveys the next time we interview. The questionnaires and surveys will get the people thinking about what they want and what they already have. Also, questionnaires and surveys are short ended questions and people won’t be able to express their emotions in the answers as much. This way when we do the interviews at the end or the middle of the day, people will have given the project and their needs a thought.

  • Nikolle

    Honestly, it is hard to determine whether you should be emotionally attached or not when conducting an interview. I become emotionally invested when I am working on a project with people but I typically do research projects that don’t have human contact. I could see how being emotionally invested could help you interpret your interviewing better; however, at the same time, you could be biased.

  • Breanne Burton

    That is a difficult question. I think emotions are behind research, obviously you care about what/who you’re interviewing, but I think there is a time and a place for being emotionally attached. I think you should try to remove it from conducting research because you’ll be burned out after a while.

  • Rachel Green

    I think that during the interview it is important to have an emotional attachment. I think that it would help the interviewer to better understand the feelings of the interviewees. However, I think that after the interview is over and you are analyzing, or when you are interviewing another individual, it is important that you let go of that emotional attachment to help keep your data accurate and unbiased. We want that good understanding, while avoiding bias due to emotion or inaccurate interpretation of other data.

  • Amy Yates

    Being emotional attached to respondents can have pros and cons. I think having some connection is important because the interviewee may feel more comfortable with answering honestly and more detailed. However, having a connection could also sway the respondent if the interviewer is displaying a negative emotional reaction. I think having an emotional attachment could be beneficial as long as the interviewer is able to keep their emotional displays in check while around respondents.

  • Hayley Winker

    I also think that being emotionally attached can have pros and cons. I think that being attached to the project to a point where you care about the research that you are conducting but you do not want to become overly attached to the project. When you become too emotionally invested you could start to let your various biases show in interviews that could influences peoples responses. Having well thought out and prepared questions will help make interviews more effective.

  • Danielle Kulina

    I think it may be important to have emotional attachment during this project when it comes to interviews. I think it would flow more like a conversation rather than an interview, which may result in better information gained from the person. I think with this being said though, there should be a level of attachment that does not get exceeded. I also agree with Rachel, when she said when analyzing the information we want to remain unbiased and unemotional to ensure we are interpreting the information as ethically and correctly as we can.

  • Razan Mansour M

    I think other ways to make interviews more affective besides preparing our questions, is by doing some behavioral-based interviews. Behavioral-based interviews will help us compare past behaviors and possible future behaviors in the community. Asking questions to let the community members describe their experience in the garden, giving future suggestions, etc.

  • liaguir

    To answer your question: “What is your opinion regarding emotional attachments/detachments with interviewees?”
    Always be considerate of people and their emotions towards certain topics, ideas and opinions. One may never know how passionate the interviewee really is about a topic; this is why the interviewer has to be prepared for the unexpected. There are times that emotions will be important when collecting information or data. This can help the researcher look into other areas of the topic that could potentially lead to important yet unexpected findings that can help the research.
    As for the interviewer, show some sympathy and understanding towards the interviewee if needed when speaking about a touchy subject. This will help the interviewee become comfortable to speak to them. If the interviewer were to show no emotion or facial expressions towards what they believe is important, the interviewee may possibly stop sharing their stories and knowledge that could potentially benefit their research. Its okay to show emotion, just be careful to not show your bias/opinions about the topic because it may influence the interviewee and drift away from their knowledge.