Research Methods (1) Interviews

7. Preparing for the interview

Here is a list of steps to follow in preparing for an interview:

  1. Arrange a time for the interview.
  2. Arrange a place for the interview. Make sure it is not too noisy and that you will not be interrupted. It has to be a place where the participant feels comfortable
  3. Let someone know where you are going. Be safety conscious. Do not interview people you do not feel comfortable with or meet people in places where you feel vulnerable.
  4. Make sure your digital recorder has batteries in it. Take spare batteries to the interview with you. Try to have as good a quality recorder and microphone as you can.
  5. Take the consent forms with you.
  6. Dress appropriately.
  7. Are you going to pay people for their time? If yes, then is it the same amount for everyone or is it determined by the length of the interview. Don’t forget to take money with you.
  8. Do you need ID? If yes take it with you.
  9. Do you need to provide food and drinks? (Peake 2018).

Why does location matter?

  • Where the interview is conducted is important because “the interview site itself produces “micro-geographies” of spatial relations and meaning, where multiple scales of social relations intersect in the research interview” (Elwood and Martin, 2000, 649).
  • Sin (2003) notes that “the space in which an interview takes place can yield important information regarding the way respondents construct their identities” (307).
  • Examples of the spatial factors that can affect the content of the interview and the interview-participant interaction include:
    • whether or not the interview is conducted in person, in writing, or over the phone/video-conferencing;
    • whether it is a private space (e.g. a home or office) or public (library, cafeteria);
    • the surrounding noise levels; and,
    • the presence of other people.

In walking/go-along interviews, the route and setting provide important context to the interview, and can be the source of prompts and probes.

Case Study:

In reflecting on the role of medical centers and medical tourism agents as gatekeepers to women participants in their study on artificial reproductive technologies and commercial surrogacy in India, Sarojini Nadimpally and Anindita Majumdar reflect on the way in which location impacted on their in-depth interviews with women.

When gatekeepers insisted that interviews be conducted in hospitals or under the supervision of an agent they found that in such settings it was

“…difficult to explore in depth questions about the surrogates relationships with other actors such as doctors, agents and commissioning parents in this setting, or to probe further into their narratives […] There was a considerable difference in the quality of interviews where the first-time interaction took place in doctors’ clinics or at agents’ homes. When interviews were conducted at the surrogates’ own residences, they were far more comfortable and candid. During the interviews, we were able to explore and discuss some more themes with each surrogate, taking up a particular line of inquiry in more detail depending on both the time we were able to have with the surrogate and her willingness to engage” (2017, p. 302).


  • Elwood, S.A. and Martin, D.G., 2000. “Placing” interviews: location and scales of power in qualitative research. The professional geographer, 52(4), pp.649-657.
  • Nadimpillay, S. and Majumdar, A. 2017. Researching assisted conception from a feminist lens. In: Kannabiran and P. Swaminathan eds. Re-Presenting Feminist Methodologies: Interdisciplinary Explorations. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 297 – 312.
  • Peake, L. 2018. Presentation at the ‘Workshop in Urban Feminist Research: Ethnographic Research Tools’, Ramallah, Palestine, July 2018.
  • Sin, C.H., 2003. Interviewing in ‘place’: the socio‐spatial construction of interview data. Area, 35(3), pp. 305-312.