How to run the data collection?


Preparations for the interview

Preparations for the interview encompass the recruitment of participants and the making of appointments, becoming knowledgeable about the research topic, including learning the interview guide by heart, anticipating questions of participants regarding the research project, access to a physical space where the interviews can take place and preparation of the recording equipment (Mack,2005). Well functioning of the recorders is crucial, so batteries, tapes and microphones should be carefully checked. It could be practical to foresee a second recorder as back-up. Finally also a notebook, a pen, and of course the topic list or interview guide you prepared for the interview should not be forgotten.

Box 2: What to take to the interview?


  • digital tape recorder (plus 1 extra, if available)
  • Spare batteries
  • Field notebook and pens

Interview packet

  • 1 interview guide (in the appropriate language)
  • informed consent forms (2 per participants: 1 for interviewer, 1 for each participant, in the appropriate language)
  • Participant reimbursement (if applicable)

Source: Adapted from Mack, 2005

Running the interview

Informed consent should be obtained from each participant before starting the interview. Also permission should be asked to record the interview. Also it should be explained how the tapes will be used and stored.

The research aims should be briefly repeated. Probably the research aims were already explained during the first contact with the respondent in order to convince him of participating. Next, all the topics or questions on the checklist or questionnaire need to be addressed. Participants are probed for elaboration of their responses in order to learn everything they want to share about the research topic54. Mobile phones should be switched off during the interview so as not to imply that the participant’s testimony is of secondary importance.

During the interview back-up notes could be taken, the interviewee’s behaviors and contextual aspects of the interview should be observed and documented as part of the field notes. Field notes are expanded as soon as possible after each interview, preferably within 24 hours, while the memory is still fresh (Mack,2005).

To get deeper or redirect the discussion, probing techniques can be used:

  • Repeat the question but in a different wording.
  • Summarise the anwer the relevant aspects of the interviewee’s answer, in an interrogative way. For example: “In sum, you say that…?”
  • Probe explicitly, for example: “What do you mean?” or “Could you give me a second example?”
  • Purposive probing, for example: “Why was it that you?” or “What happened then?”
  • Repeat the last couple of words in an interrogative way. For example: “R: (…) I think it is dangerous and I don’t trust doctors”. I: ”You don’t trust doctors?”
  • Introduce a short silence.
  • Verbalise emotions, for example: “I can see that thinking of that discussion makes you very angry.”

The interview is closed by thanking the participant(s).