How to conduct interviews

An interview is perhaps the most common research method aside from observation. There are whole books written about how to conduct an interview, but a simple, semi-structured interview will be enough for starters. Semi-structured means that you prepared questions which you try to ask in all interviews; at the same time, however, you’re free to ask other questions and react to the situation along with the person being interviewed.  

Below, we’ve listed several tips on how to work your way up to a successful and high-quality interview, and it’s probably good to know them before you start your first interviews. But, it’s also impossible to manage everything 100%, so don’t worry if you realize in hindsight that you’ve forgotten to shake the interviewers hand or your question was structured awkwardly. 

Beginning of the interview 


At the beginning of the interview, it’s good to pay attention to breaking down barriers. This means not jumping on the respondent instantly with a ton of questions, but politely setting the mood. It’s necessary to introduce yourself and your project – even if you’re conducting an interview with your grandmother, explain to her what you’re doing first 

Consent to record 

It’s necessary to acquire someone’s consent to be recorded. You can either have the respondent sign this on paper or ask him or her to say “I agree to the interview being recorded”. Please don’t record someone without their consent.  

Preparing the interview 

On a piece of paper, write down the goal of your research and roughly ten questions that could lead to achieving or answering it. What do you want to find out? Then sort and modify the questions. Try to create a meaningful succession of questions. Also, be careful of the following:  

Open vs. closed questions 

If you want a respondent to start talking, focus on asking open questions, i.e. ones that can’t be answered by a simple “yes, no, maybe”. For comparison: “Do you search for sources on the internet to prepare for your lessons?” x “How do you prepare for your lessons?” … “Can you describe how you use sources from the internet?” Only ask closed questions when you know that you want a closed answer. 

The how and why 

Try to formulate questions more as “How?” rather than “Why?”. Why is a very difficult question that requires reflection. If we ask the question “How?”, we’ll receive a description, a testimony of something, which is more valuable for us.  

Hypothetical questions 

Compare: “Can you imagine using mobile applications for learning” x “When did you last use a mobile application for learning?” The question about the future brings with it a hypothetical possibility. The fact that we can imagine something doesn’t mean that we’ll do it. This is similar to New Year’s resolutions. It’s different when we intentionally ascertain plans.  

Answering for someone else and asking “big questions” 

In a similar manner, you shouldn’t have a respondent respond to something they can’t know, for example: “What do your colleagues think about the new coffee machine?” or “What could be improved in the education system?”  

Course of the interview 


A pleasant and positive atmosphere and your preparation and self-confidence is fundamental for gaining a respondent and his or her willingness to give responses.  


Ask simple and coherent questions. They should be rather short, as the respondent can forget long and extensive questions or understand them in a completely different way than you’d planned. 😊  

Work with the respondent’s answers 

Adapt to the respondent if he or she wants to talk about a certain issue, even though it doesn’t correspond to your order of questions. In the same way, you can ask the respondent to specify something if you didn’t understand it, or ask him or her to go into more detail. “Can you elaborate on that? Is there anything that comes to mind? Did I understand correctly that…? I’m not sure I understood correctly…”. Go ahead and repeat a question or formulate it in a different way if you haven’t received a response.   

Don’t be afraid of short moments of silence. It’s not necessary for someone to speak without pause. A moment of silence can mean a moment for the respondent to think and can provide valuable information. Do not respond for the respondent. Give him or her time to finish what they need to say.  

Ending the interview 

At the end of the interview, announce that you are turning off the recording and turn off your device. At that moment, however, don’t start packing your bags – give the respondent some appreciation for his or her time.  

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