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?