CHPR Blog April 2019 – Ruth Cross
I recently facilitated a session about interviewing with our MSc students here at Leeds Beckett University. Interestingly, some of the students did not turn up to the session because they had assumed that it was about preparing for job interviews but in fact we were talking about interviewing as a research method. This is the time of year when students are about to start their dissertation projects and each of them has produced a research proposal in preparation for this. As part of the research proposal they have to consider what research methods are most appropriate to what they are trying to achieve. Many of them have chosen to interview people as part of their research projects.
We use often use interviews in the qualitative research that we conduct for the Centre for Health Promotion Research. Interviews lend themselves to obtaining rich, detailed and in-depth data and have many advantages over more objective methods of data collection, particularly for research where lived experience is being explored. We carry out a range of different types of interviews depending on the specific project that we are doing and what the aims are. They can be short, long, face-to-face, over the telephone or by Skype. One of the things we try to instil in our students is the importance of building a rapport and this can be a challenge. Interviewing for research is a skill and to be a successful interviewer you have to have a range of good communication skills, from being able to listen to being able to keep a conversation on a desired track in order to gain the information from it that you have set out to find.
Elsewhere members of the Centre of Health Promotion Research are due to publish information about creative methods of data collection which will help others to generate ideas about how to enhance a research interview and how to enable participants to get more out of the process. For example, using vignettes, photo elicitation and video diaries. Such publications draw on the wealth of expertise that is generated through real-life research and data collection. We use this experience to enhance our teaching and to add value for our students. Reflecting on my own experiences whilst working with the students also adds value for me, as a teacher, a researcher and a learner myself.