Example of using sporadic conversations as a research method

Great example of how to engage with the target group of your study by sporadic conversations. The original source is an article on Trump victory and the reality of rural areas in US. In it, the political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison  Kathy Cramer speakes about his last book The Politics of Resentment, where she traces the rise of conservative Governor Scott Walker and the political evolution of Wisconsin. What Cramer says she found is that a strong sense of rural identity in the communities she visited has become a key driver of political motivation in Wisconsin. And over time, that sense of rural identity has come to be largely defined as an us vs. them mentality, with the them being people who live in cities.

Here I paste the most relevant parts regarding the methodology applied:

…what I did was to sample a broad array of communities in Wisconsin. And I asked people who lived there, “Where in this community do people go to hang out with one another?”

What’s important to understand is that these were not one-on-one interviews, these were not focus groups of people I assembled. These were groups of people who, for the most part, meet with each other every day, and they’ve been doing so for years. So I was inviting myself into their existing relationships in the places they already meet. I think that’s part of the reason why I was able to get the local texture. It wasn’t like trying to invite them on to the university campus and then trying to glean what I could out of them. Obviously the conversation changed a bit because I was there and asking questions. But these were groups of folks who were really used to talking with one another about politics.

This group was all men, older, some on their way to work and some retirees—so kind of the Trump demographic. I said to them, “What do you hope that Trump changes? Like, five years from now, what differences do you expect to see?” And initially their response was well, nothing. Nothing that presidents do ever affects us here in this place.


“What is Qualitative Interviewing?” by Rosalind and Janet (2013)

What is Qualitative Interviewing? is an accessible and comprehensive ‘what is’ and ‘how to’ methods book. It is distinctive in emphasising the importance of good practice in understanding and undertaking qualitative interviews within the framework of a clear philosophical position. Rosalind Edwards and Janet Holland provide clear and succinct explanations of a range of philosophies and theories of how to know about the social world, and a thorough discussion of how to go about researching it using interviews. A series of short chapters explain and illustrate a range of interview types and practices. Drawing on their own and colleagues’ experiences Holland and Edwards provide real research examples as informative illustrations of qualitative interviewing in practice, and the use of a range of creative interview tools. They discuss the use of new technologies as well as tackling enduring issues around asking and listening and power dynamics in research. Written in a clear and accessible style the book concludes with a useful annotated bibliography of key texts and journals in the field. What is Qualitative Interviewing? provides a vital resource for both new and experienced social science researchers across a range of disciplines.

Top mistakes in conducting an interview (videos)

  1. Taking notes when the interview is being recorded. Taking notes makes sense without recorder, otherwise it may affect the quality of the data. Eyes contact is a top factor to express interest in what the interviewee is saying. It is probably the best way to encourage him or her to keep talking or deepen in certain moments of the interview. The greater the eyes contact, the greater the importance given to what the person is saying. In this interview to the sociologist Saskia Sassen, the interviwer seems to be more focus (in certain moments) on the papers than in what is being said. Also, her body language reflects certain nervousness that might affect the responses and motivation of the respondent.

Nowy obraz (41)

2. Showing nervousness by playing with a pen and alike. In the previous video, the interviewer´s body language is sometimes disconcerting, very jerky head movements or touching her neck as showing tiredness. In this other video, the inteviewer shows better listening skills. However, the person commits a mistake playing constantly with the pen, which may disturb respondent. It must be said that the location is appropiate. The place seems tranquile and with a minimalist design.

3. Choosing a wrong location… (in construction)

4. Inapropiate dressing… (in construction)

Any other coming to your mind?


Advantages of interview in pairs

I came accross this article on “want to improve your qualitative research? try using representative sampling and working in teams” and I found interesting the advantages authors highlight with regard to do interviews in pairs:

Teamwork was woven into all aspects of the project. For example, we often interviewed in pairs. This was partly for safety, but also because it was easier for one person to drive while the other navigated, to call a youth to let him know we were on our way, or to begin writing the field notes on the return trip home. But the primary reason is that it improved the quality of the data. We have all watched each other conduct interviews and given feedback on how the other person could have done it better, or what was missed. We debriefed as a team on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis, talking about the day’s interviews, what we noticed, what surprised us, and what patterns we were observing. Was there something in the interview guide that needed updating because of recent events? Did the team understand the terminology someone used when describing her sexual or romantic relationships?

An additional advantage to team research is that it’s much harder to make a mistake when others who read and comment on your work have all been in the same neighborhoods, interviewed others from the same family, and have read the same transcripts. Often, during the course of analyzing and writing, we were challenged by colleagues who questioned whether a given conclusion is warranted. That kind of feedback sent us back to the drawing board more than a few times.

Mobile apps for online qualitative research

Today I stumbled across this innovative application for online qualitative research. It powers a range of ‘conversation & observation’ activities such one to ones, auto ethnography and group discussions, among others. The application is run by Liveminds and offers a demo request.


Difficult interview participants and possible solutions

1. Participants are willing just to give monosyllabic answer, “yes”, “no”, “maybe”. Formulate questions as open as possible or use long pauses in silence to let them know you want hear more.

2. Participant become upset or start to cry. Explain that the question does not have to be answered. Avoid finalize the interview in this precise moment and just move on a different topic. It could make him/her feel guilty and cause greater damage.

3. They provide long answer and digress from the guide. Impose your direction discretly, without cause offence. For example, refering back to an earlier relevant point.

4. Participants starts interviewing you. You need to stress that you are interested in their opinion and that yours maybe provided at the end.


Lewis, Philip, Mark NK Saunders, and Adrian Thornhill. Research methods for business students. Pearson, 2009.

7 qualitative interview standard stages

1. Ice breaking part. “Have you got some problems to find this place

2. Gratefulness. “Thanks you for having agreed to the meeting

3. Research purpose: “This interview is part of a greater research project on…

4. Inform about confidentiality: “Nothing said by the participant will be attributed to them

5. Request to record the interview. “If you´ll excuse me I would like to record the interview to avoid taking notes all the time

6. Guide questions

7. Thanks again. “Thanks you for having agreed to the meeting

9-step checklist to conduct an in-depth interview

1. Encourage participants to provide further details when talking on crucial topics and bringing them to the interview guide when digressing.

2. Measure carefully when and in which sequence you ask certain questions. It mainly applies to the centered question. What is a centered question? Among all possible questions, a number of them are usually crucial for the research. You could actually ask these questions right away and make interviews shorter. However, it would be at the expense of reliability. In other terms, going to the point at the beginning of the discussion may inform about the sponsorship and, in consequence, affect the spontaneity and data credibility. This is actually the most common mistake.

3. For this reason it is recommendable moving from opening and more general questions like “could you please tell me about your favorite brand” up to the centered one: “what´s your opinion about brand “A”.

4. Furthermore, you can also ask comparative questions, i.e. about more brands, not only yours. Thus, you avoid the problem spontaneity and also obtain key information in comparison with competitors: “Now I would like to know your opinion on a number of brands…” 

5. After having follow all those steps it is commonly useful asking specific questions about your brand toward the end of the interview “what comes spontaneously to your mind when you see this logo?”

6. Whenever participants appears willing only to give monosyllabic answer, these being little more than “yes” or “no” try to formulate depth-provoking questions like “what do you mean by?” or, something that usually works, use long pauses to signify that you want to hear more. In other words, the silence is also a way of enquiring.

7. The most relevant information normally comes after confrontational questions. Whenever there is some contradiction on responses, a good interviewer should confront respondent. You can also use statistic or whatever material that contradict the responses and confront the participant with another point of view.

8. Toward the end of the interview it is common to formulate both confirmatory like “are you saying that…?” and summarizing questions like “Summarizing your opinion, you would be willing to buy this product if…”. Both provide final results with more consistent and also let interviewer give further explanation in case of misunderstanding.

9. Apart from the questions included on the guide in advance, you might, as long as you consider convenient and fruitful, include ad hoc question.


Lewis, Philip, Mark NK Saunders, and Adrian Thornhill. Research methods for business students. Pearson, 2009.

Silverman, D. (2011). Interpreting qualitative data. Sage Publications Limited.

What is a market research interview?

What does first spontaneously come to your mind when listen the word “interview”? May be a conversation between a journalist and a relevant personage on television? May be a job interview? Although an interview for market research may have many things in common with a job interview, there are a number of particularities to bear in mind. A market reserch interview is a purposeful discussion between two or more people (Kahn and Cannel, 1957) Bellow you can see what are the essentials of an interview.

1. Open-ended questions. Unlike in a questionnaire, the interviewee is not forced to choose among a set of options like bellow:

  1. Strongly disagree
  2. Disagree
  3. Neither agree nor disagree
  4. Agree
  5. Strongly agree

On the contrary, the interviewee has absolute freedom to answer and does not need to stick to any preset categories. Actually, this is the essence and advantage of such technique, i.e. the possibility to obtain a spontaneous and non-conditioned answer. Some of examples are:

  • “Tell me about your relationship with your supervisor”
  • “How do you see your future?”
  • “What is the purpose of government?”
  • “Why did you choose that answer?”

3. Representation. When doing a research on trainers shoes consumptions, you must interview young people, adults and elder, or whatever other relevant categorization. It is going to assure a correct representation of the phenomena. Take into account that representation does not imply representativeness. When applying interviews in your research, the sample is usually low, 15 or 20 cases is enough. But these figures are insufficient to do inferences. On the contrary, other techniques like survey are precisely designed for reliable inferences.

4. Interaction. As well as other qualitative techniques as focus group, interaction is both the main advantage and handicap. On the one hand, the direct and close interaction interviewer-interviewee allows a deeper understanding. However, the way interviewer behaves may affect the answers. How do should behave? This question will be answer in future posts, but here is enough to say that a good interviewer must be neutral and refrain from giving his or her personal opinion.


Kahn, R. L., & Cannell, C. F. (1957). The dynamics of interviewing: theorie, technique, and cases. Cited in Philip, Mark NK Saunders, and Adrian Thornhill. Research methods for business students. Pearson, 2009
Martínez, P., & Rodríguez, P. M. (2008). Cualitativa-mente. ESIC Editorial.
VALLES, M. (2002). Entrevistas Cualitativas, CIS, Cuadernos Metodológicos nº 32S, Madrid. Trabajo personal de lectura y comprensión Trabajo personal para obtener informaciones de diversas fuentes Trabajo personal de análisis y síntesis.

Type of interviews (Draft)

After having answered the question “what is a market research interview” it is worth covering the different types of interviews. They may be highly formalized and structured, using standardized questions for each respondent, or they may be informal and unstructured conversations. Sanders et al (2011) distinguish three categories:

  1. Structured interviews
  2. Semi-structured interviews
  3. Unstructured or in-depth interviews

Another typology (Healey 1991) differentiates between: standardized interviews and non-standardized interviews. The standard ones are usually applied for questionnaires while non-standardized for more qualitative researches. At the same time, non-standardized interviews may be divided into “one to one” and “one to many” One to one may be divided into “face to face”, “telephone interviews” and “Internet and intranet-mediated (electronic) interviews. Market research interviews are generally referred to one-to-one interviews (one to many refereed to focus group). The most common are face-to-face although internet mediated´s importance is growing and growing.

Finally, interviews may be classified as to the sort of people interviewed (so called interviewee). The interest of market research interviews is normally the everyday activities. Whereby, people is recruited depending of social variables like age, gender of profession. However, as Meuser and Nagel (2002) suggests, it exists the so called expert interviews. Here the interviews are of less interest as a (whole) person than their capacities of being an expert for a certain field of activity. In any case, the attention in this blog and in following post will be put on non-experts interviewee.


Flick, U. (2009). An introduction to qualitative research. Sage Publications Limited

Craig J. Calhoun, Donald Light, Suzanne Infeld Keller. Sociology. McGraw-Hill, 2000.
Meuser, M., & Nagel, U. (2004). ExpertInneninterview: Zur Rekonstruktion spezialisierten Sonderwissens. In Handbuch Frauen-und Geschlechterforschung (pp. 326-329). VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften. Referred in Flick, U. (2009). An introduction to qualitative research. Sage Publications Limited
Healey, M. J. (1991). Obtaining information from businesses. Economic activity and land use, 193-251. Referred in Craig J. Calhoun, Donald Light, Suzanne Infeld Keller. Sociology. McGraw-Hill, 2000.