Interviewing: What Am I Getting Out of This?

What’s the probably the best part of being a sociologist? Anyone guess it? It’s talking to other people! Although that may not excite many… A lot of our research consists of observations and looking for important information in books, yet a HUGE chunk our work is also made up of interviews. Interviewing is one of the best ways to interact and learn from people whom you are interested in helping. In order to get down to the main source of the problem, we sociologist (and this can include everyone and anyone as well) need to step out into the field and talk to people. This is so that we, as the interviewers, can collect all the information and data necessary in order to piece together what issues people are facing on a daily basis.


Having that said, before we begin interviewing people, here are some tips and suggestions to keep in mind:

    1. Create an order of questions & ideas to ask your interviewee(s). (Organizational purposes & helps keep you focused!)
    2. Use words and phrases that are easy to understand & hear. (That way it is easier to answer rather than give a full explanation that could take away from meaning/purpose of the question.)
    3. No leading questions. (Leading questions: question that prompts or encourages the desired answer, takes focus away from the facts.)
    4. Ask about your interviewee’s “factsheets.” (Basic information like name, age, workplace, etc.)
    5. Familiarize yourself with the environment, work, and lifestyle of your interviewees. (Don’t go into an interview blindly, know your facts!)
    6. Be prepared to answer some questions about your motives. (Just like you, people will be curious to know why you are asking/interviewing.)
    7. Have a good-quality recording device. (Will be helpful in the future when trying to remember certain details!)
    8. Pick a private, quiet area to conduct your interview. (Helps keep interviewer & interviewee stay focused.)
    9. Be a good, active listener. (Make sure you’re paying attention! Ask or rephrase something if you are confused and or lost.)
    10. Be prepared for the unexpected. (Depending on the interview, some questions may trigger an unexpected emotional response.)

Is one-on-one interviewing the only way to collect information for interested research topic?

No! Another beauty about conducting interviews is that the interviewer can use what’s called a “focus group” as a strategy to learn more about others. Focus groups are consisted of 2 or more people who are willing to be interviewed at the same time. The purposes of this is not only for the interviewer to collect more information; it also helps them get a chance to look at how others socially interact with others, what the reactions and emotions towards other’s answers appear to be at those moments, and also gives the interviewees a chance to challenge each other and their answers (this is where tip #10 comes in!)

Example: Jada Pickett-Smith’s Red Table Talk show that is featured on Facebook. Jada, along with her daughter and mother, all get together on a big, red round table to discuss social issues that have been recently going on or have had happened. Jada is the main facilitator of the conversation or interview during an episode but she is a great example of how interviews should be conducted. She follows the tips I have previously suggested above, whether it’s during a one-on-one or focus group type of interview. Highly recommend watching it just to get a better picture of how interviews are done!


Aside from interviews, there are many other ways to collect and analyze the information given. For example, conversation analysis, it can be considered as an informal interview or a naturally occurring social situation. This type of analysis is more natural, easy flowing conversation with others that make it less tense for everyone. These types of interactions that can be considered as conversation analysis may come from a simple conversation in the break-room, classroom, lobby, etc. The issue with this is when you have to separate the facts and opinions that were collected from that conversation. 


Remember, no matter how you collect information whether its through one-on-one interviewing, focus groups, or conversation analysis, always look back at the tips suggested. This may help you keep you on track with what your research question or interests are and find the facts necessary to answer your questions.



What helps you prepare when conducting an interview or just to have a general conversation with people?

Do you find the tips beneficial for interviewing purposes?

What do you think is a difficult task when conducting an interview?

Wrapping Up Our Project

We have conducted several interviews from community members during our clean up days. We have data that will need to be analyzed in order for future classes to continue research with the Washington Park community. On another note, we as a class are putting together a paper and two panel presentations to present at the Midwest Sociological Society conference that will take place in Omaha Nebraska this spring. With this in mind, I thought chapter 28 would be the most beneficial for this blog post!

Writing Up for Social Research: 

Although some of us have written research papers in the past, writing for research you have conducted on your own may come with some difficulty. I know I am personally going to start writing my thesis this spring, so I found this chapter very helpful!  I think learning about the different section of scientific research writings could also benefits those outside of this class. It could help people navigate the journals and writings in a quick and easy way to get the most out of it.

The main sections of the writing consist of

Abstract: A brief summary of your writings as a whole

Introduction: Explanation of what you’re writing about and its importance. This should make readers aware of topics that will be discussed throughout paper.

Literature Review: Includes current knowledge from other research publications on your topic. Will pull from multiple sources and publications.

Research Methods: The steps you took to complete your research. Although you are explaining the steps your take, you should not list it as a step-by-step process.

Results: a presentation of your findings. Although don’t mistake this for the place where you explain reasons for these results.

Discussion: Go into detail on results in this section. This does not mean you need to include ALL your results, but the ones that support your research questions. This is where you will interpret and explain your results.

Conclusion: Relate your findings to the research questions you have!

Appendices:Any additional materials you may need to include (questionnaire, letters, etc.)

ReferencesInclude all your publications that you have cited in your text here in this section.


Although this video does not have all the components discussed in this chapter it is quick and informative on the parts it does cover!



Is there a part of your own research paper that intimidates you the most?

What is a part of your own writing process that you’d like to share with other writers?


Wrap Up:

Over the course of the semester we have done a lot of work in helping Derissa prepare for the community garden. We completed two clean up days, and I’ll admit after the first one, I was worried we wouldn’t get done in time. After the second clean up, my perspective completely changed. So much amazing progress was made during the second clean up, that I think with the continuance of these successful clean up days the garden will be ready for planting by late spring 2020! I think we have made a lot of good connections with the community so far, and  we want to continue to build this relationship to ensure the completion of the garden and the research that comes with it. We want to prepare the next set of students to ensure their success for next semester.

Check out our Facebook page to see the progress made during the two cleanups!



What do you think is the most important thing we can leave for the future students?

What is one personal piece of advice would you give to the next set of students?

What is something you would like to see done by the end of next semester May 2020?

What is something you would like to help with in the future of the garden?

Documents as Forms of Data for Social Researchers

This week’s readings focused on documents as sources of data. Documents can include:


There are two types of official documents. The first is official documents from the state. This comprises of official reports or findings from the government or state and can provide great statistics for those looking for official documents. Though these reports are usually deemed credible, we must remember that these reports could be biased as research is not always objective, so being aware of where these reports originate is important. The second type of official document comes from private sources. This includes documents in the public domain, such as newsletters for various organizations and companies, organizational charts, etc. Though some of these are public domain, some of these materials are not accessible to the public, so researchers interested in these documents may have to request permission or only rely on public domain documents available.

Mass-media outputs are another form of documentation for data, and are more common. These include newspapers, movies, tv shows, magazines, etc. The way in which to interpret these forms of media for data would be to search for themes, or patterns, that emerge from these documents and then analyze your findings.

Virtual documents are just what it sounds like, documents that are virtual. They include:

Interpreting these various forms of documents for data can include qualitative content analysis and semiotics. Qualitative content analysis is simply finding patterns or themes that emerge from analyzing specific documents and using those patterns or themes to use as data. Once you find your emerging themes, the next step is to interpret those findings and then conclude your findings. Semiotics comprises of analyzing symbols in the social world, or your every day life, and then taking your analysis and trying to find the underlying (hidden) meaning to the specific symbols being analyzed.

This week’s readings really highlighted the various ways in which documents can provide data and how social researchers can use these documents to further enhance their research.

Questions to consider:

  1. How can we use visual objects as data in relation to our collaboration with Washington Park?
  2. In your opinion, what source of documents (virtual data included) would you prefer to use and why?
  3. What do we as social researchers have to be cautious of when looking to social media as a source of data?