Research Methods (1) Interviews

11. Conducting the interview (d) Using probes

Probes are used by researchers to support and encourage participants during interviews to reflect or speak in more detail on a particular issue.

Some examples of common probes used in conducting in-depth interviews include:

  • Silent probe: the researcher, or interviewer, remains silent but encourages the participant to continue by nodding or maintaining eye contact.
  • Echo probe: Repeat what the participant has said and ask them to continue or elaborate. For example, “So when you say, ‘xxxx’, what do you mean by that?”
  • Neutral affirming probe: Encourage a participant to continue their story by providing an affirmation such as “yes”, “uh-huh”, or “yes, I see”.
  • Leading the participant: A more explicit probe where you try to urge the participant to think about a particular issue. For example: “How did you feel about xxx?”, or “In what sense did you mean xxx?”

Reference:

Hesse-Biber, S. N. 2014. Feminist Approaches to In-Depth Interviewing. In: S. N. Hesse-Biber (ed), Feminist Research Practice: A Primer, Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Washington DC: Sage, p. 198.