Resources for Research Interviewing

Textbooks, Guidebooks, and Handbooks

Online Resources, Communities, and Databases


Interviews as a Method for Qualitative Research (video)
This short video summarizes why interviews can serve as useful data in qualitative research.

Companion website to Bloomberg and Volpe's Completing Your Qualitative Dissertation: A Road Map from Beginning to End, 4th ed.
Provides helpful templates and appendices featured in the book, as well as links to other useful dissertation resources.

International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry
Annual conference hosted by the International Center for Qualitative Inquiry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which aims to facilitate the development of qualitative research methods across a wide variety of academic disciplines, among other initiatives.

METHODSPACE
​An online home of the research methods community, where practicing researchers share how to make research easier.

SAGE researchmethods
Researchers can explore methods concepts to help them design research projects, understand particular methods or identify a new method, conduct their research, and write up their findings. A "methods map" facilitates finding content on methods.

Formats


Structured:

Semi-Structured:

Unstructured:

Genres and Uses
 

Focus Groups:

In-Depth (typically One-on-One):

Oral Histories:


See the Oral History page of this guide for helpful resources on Oral History interviewing.

Surveys:


User Experience (UX) and Marketing:


See the "UX & Market Research Interviews" tab on this guide, above. May include Focus Groups, above.


Screening for Research Site Selection:


Research interviews are used not only to furnish research data for theoretical analysis in the social sciences, but also to plan other kinds of studies. For example, interviews may allow researchers to screen appropriate research sites to conduct empirical studies (such as randomized controlled trials) in a variety of fields, from medicine to law. In contrast to interviews conducted in the course of social research, such interviews do not typically serve as the data for final analysis and publication.

Research Ethics


Human Subjects (IRB)
The Committee on the Use of Human Subjects (CUHS) serves as the Institutional Review Board for the University area which includes the Cambridge and Allston campuses at Harvard. Find your IRB contact person, or learn about required ethics training. You may also find the IRB Lifecycle Guide helpful.

Ethics reports
From the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR)

Respect, Beneficence, and Justice: QDR General Guidance for Human Participants
If you are hoping to share your qualitative interview data in a repository after it has been collected, you will need to plan accordingly via informed consent, careful de-identification procedures, and data access controls. Consider consulting with the Qualitative Research Support Group at Harvard Library and consulting with Harvard's Dataverse contacts to help you think through all of the contingencies and processes.

Population Sampling


If you wish to assemble resources to aid in sampling, such as the USPS Delivery Sequence File, telephone books, or directories of organizations and listservs, please contact our data librarian or write to govdocs@fas.harvard.edu.

Research Randomizer 
A free web-based service that permits instant random sampling and random assignment. It also contains an interactive tutorial perfect for students taking courses in research methods.

Constructing Your Questions


Helpful Texts:

Let Theory Guide You:


Everything follows from your central research question, but on the way to writing "operationalized" interview questions, it's also helpful to draft broader, intermediate questions, couched in theory. Certain theories may also be useful in interpreting your data, depending on your methodology. If you'd like to supplement what you learned about relevant theories through your coursework and literature review, try these sources:

Annual Reviews 
Review articles sum up the latest research in many fields, including social sciences, biomedicine, life sciences, and physical sciences. These are timely collections of critical reviews written by leading scientists.

HOLLIS - search for resources on theories in your field 
Modify this example search by entering the name of your field in place of "your discipline," then hit search.

Oxford Bibliographies 
Written and reviewed by academic experts, every article in this database is an authoritative guide to the current scholarship in a variety of fields, containing original commentary and annotations.

ProQuest Dissertations & Theses (PQDT) 
Indexes dissertations and masters' theses from most North American graduate schools as well as some European universities. Provides full text for most indexed dissertations from 1990-present.

Very Short Introductions 
Launched by Oxford University Press in 1995, Very Short Introductions offer concise introductions to a diverse range of subjects from Climate to Consciousness, Game Theory to Ancient Warfare, Privacy to Islamic History, Economics to Literary Theory.

Recording


Equipment and Software:


Tech Loan:
Lamont Library loans microphones and podcast starter kits, which will allow you to capture audio (and you may record with software, such as Garage Band). 
Cabot Library loans digital recording devices, as well as USB microphones.

If you prefer to use your own device, you may purchase a small handheld audio recorder, or use your cell phone.

Recording Online Interviews:
Getting Started with Podcasting/Audio: Guidelines from Harvard Library's Virtual Media Lab for preparing your interviewee for a web-based recording (e.g., podcast, interview)
Camtasia Screen Recorder and Video Editor
Zoom: Video Conferencing, Web Conferencing

Need Help?
Try the virtual office hours offered by the Lamont Multimedia Lab!

Books and Articles:

Videos:

Transcription

Before embarking on a transcription project, it's worthwhile to invest in the time and effort necessary to capture good audio, which will make the transcription process much easier. If you haven't already done so, check out the audio capture guidelines from Harvard Library's Virtual Media Lab, or contact a media staff member for customized recommendations. First and foremost, be mindful of common pitfalls by watching this short video that identifies the most common errors to avoid!

Software:


Otter provides a new way to capture, store, search and share voice conversations, lectures, presentations, meetings, and interviews. The startup is based in Silicon Valley with a team of experienced Ph.Ds and engineers from Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Nuance (à la Dragon). Free accounts available. This is the software that Zoom uses to generate automated transcripts, so if you have access to a Zoom subscription, you have access to Otter transcriptions with it. As with any automated approach, be prepared to correct any errors after the fact, by hand.

Panopto is available to Harvard affiliates and generates ASR (automated speech recognition) captions. You may upload compatible audio files into it. As with any automatically generated transcription, you will need to make manual revisions.

REV.Com allows you to record and transcribe any calls on the iPhone, both outgoing and incoming. It may be useful for recording phone interviews.

Scribie Audio/Video Transcription provides automated or manual transcriptions for a small fee. As with any transcription service, some revisions will be necessary after the fact, particularly for its automated transcripts.

Equipment:


[Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the library's media equipment currently is unavailable. Sign up for Harvard Library Restart Updates to learn when it will be available again for borrowing and on-site use. For immediate assistance in the interim, visit http://bit.ly/lamontzoom.]

Transcription pedals are in circulation and available to borrow from the Circulation desk at Lamont, or use at Lamont Library's Media Lab on level B. For hand-transcribing your interviews, they work in conjunction with software such as Express Scribe, which is loaded on Media Lab computers, or you may download for free on your own machine (Mac or PC versions; scroll down the downloads page for the latter). The pedals are plug-and-play USB, allow a wide range of playback speeds, and have 3 programmable buttons, which are typically set to rewind/play/fast-forward. Instructions are included in the bag that covers installation and set-up of the software, and basic use of the pedals.

Need Help?
 

Try the virtual office hours offered by the Lamont Multimedia Lab! 
If you're creating podcasts, login to Canvas and check out the Podcasting/Audio guide

Helpful Texts:

Coding and Themeing


Software and Other Resources:

Testing or Generating Theories:


A theory should reveal rather than color your discoveries. Try different ones on for size, and allow your data to guide you to what's most suitable. More experienced researchers may develop their own theory where current theories fail to provide insight. This guide on Theoretical Models from Alfaisal University Library provides a helpful overview on using theory. If you'd like to supplement what you learned about relevant theories through your coursework and literature review, try these sources:

Annual Reviews 
Review articles sum up the latest research in many fields, including social sciences, biomedicine, life sciences, and physical sciences. These are timely collections of critical reviews written by leading scientists.

HOLLIS - search for resources on theories in your field 
Modify this example search by entering the name of your field in place of "your discipline," then hit search.

Oxford Bibliographies 
Written and reviewed by academic experts, every article in this database is an authoritative guide to the current scholarship in a variety of fields, containing original commentary and annotations.

ProQuest Dissertations & Theses (PQDT) 
Indexes dissertations and masters' theses from most North American graduate schools as well as some European universities. Provides full text for most indexed dissertations from 1990-present.

Very Short Introductions 
Launched by Oxford University Press in 1995, Very Short Introductions offer concise introductions to a diverse range of subjects from Climate to Consciousness, Game Theory to Ancient Warfare, Privacy to Islamic History, Economics to Literary Theory.

Finding Extant Interview Data


Finding Journalistic Interviews:


Academic Search Premier
This all-purpose database is great for finding articles from magazines and newspapers. In the Advanced Search, it allows you to specify "Document Type": Interview.

Guide to Newspapers and Newspaper Indexes
Use this guide created to Harvard Librarians to identify newspapers collections you'd like to search. To locate interviews, try adding the term "interview" to your search, or explore a database's search interface for options to limit your search to interviews. Nexis Uni and Factiva are the two main databases for current news. 

Listen Notes
Search for podcast episodes at this podcast aggregator, and look for podcasts that include interviews. Make sure to vet the podcaster for accuracy and quality! (Listen Notes does not do much vetting.)

NPR and ProPublica are two sites that offer high-quality long-form reporting, including journalistic interviews, for free.

Finding Oral History and Social Research Interviews:


To find oral histories, see the Oral History page of this guide for helpful resources on Oral History interviewing.

Repositories for Qualitative Data
It has not been a customary practice among qualitative researchers in the social sciences to share raw interview data, but some have made this data available in repositories, such as the ones listed on the page linked above. You may find published data from structured interview surveys (e.g., questionnaire-based computer-assisted telephone interview data), as well as some semi-structured and unstructured interviews.

*If you are merely interested in studies interpreting data collected using interviews, rather than finding raw interview data, try databases like PsycInfo, Sociological Abstracts, or Anthropology Plus, among others. 

Finding Interviews in Archival Collections at Harvard Library:


In addition to the databases and search strategies mentioned under the "Finding Oral History and Social Research Interviews" category above, you may search for interviews and oral histories (whether in textual or audiovisual formats) held in archival collections at Harvard Library. HOLLIS searches all documented collections at Harvard, whereas HOLLIS for Archival Discovery searches only those with finding aids. Although HOLLIS for Archival Discovery covers less material, you may find it easier to parse your search results, especially when you wish to view results at the item level (within collections). Try these approaches:

Search in HOLLIS:
 
  1. To retrieve items available online, do an Advanced Search for interview* OR "oral histor*" (in Subject), with Resource Type "Archives/Manuscripts," then refine your search by selecting "Online" under "Show Only" on the right of your initial result list. Revise the search above by adding your topic in the Keywords or Subject field (for example: African Americans) and resubmitting the search.
     
  2.  To enlarge your results set, you may also leave out the "Online" refinement; if you'd like to limit your search to a specific repository, try the technique of searching for Code: Library + Collection on the "Advanced Search" page.  

Search in HOLLIS for Archival Discovery:
 
  1. To retrieve items available online, search for interview* OR "oral histor*" limited to digital materials.
    Revise the search above by adding your topic (for example: artist*) in the second search box (if you don't see the box, click +).
     
  2. To preview results by collection, search for interview* OR "oral histor*" limited to collectionsRevise the search above by adding your topic (for example: artist*) in the second search box (if you don't see the box, click +). Although this method does not allow you to isolate digitized content, you may find the refinement options on the right side of the screen (refine by repository, subject or names) helpful. Once your select a given collection, you may search within it (e.g., for your topic or the term interview).

Managing Your Elicited Interview Data
 

Help with Securing, Storing, and Sharing It:

Harvard Information Security Collaboration Tools Matrix
This resource for members of the Harvard community reveals the level of security that can be relied upon for a large number of technological tools and platforms used at Harvard to conduct business, such as email, Slack, Accellion Kiteworks, OneDrive/SharePoint, etc.

Harvard Data Classification Table
This resource provided by Harvard Data Security helps you determine what level of access is appropriate for your data. Determine whether it should be made available for public use, limited to the Harvard community, or be protected as either "confidential and sensitive," "high risk," or "extremely sensitive."

Harvard Information Security Quick Reference Guide
Storage guidelines, based on the data's security classification level (according to its IRB classification) is displayed on page 2, under "handling."

Repositories for Qualitative Data
If you have cleared this intention with your IRB, secured consent from participants, and properly de-identified your data, consider sharing your interviews in one of the data repositories included in the link above. Depending on the nature of your research and the level of risk it may present to participants, sharing your interview data may not be appropriate. If there is any chance that sharing such data will be desirable, you will be much better off if you build this expectation into your plans from the beginning.

Research Data Management at Harvard
A reference guide with information and resources to help you manage your research data.

UX at Harvard Library


User Experience and Market Research interviews can inform the design of tangible products and services through responsive, outcome-driven insights. The User Research Center at Harvard Library specializes in this kind of user-centered design, digital accessibility, and testing. They also offer guidance and resources to members of the Harvard Community who are interested in learning more about UX methods. Contact Amy Deschenes for more information about their work.

Websites


User Interviews: The Beginner’s Guide (Chris Mears)

Interviewing Users (Jakob Nielsen)

Books

Videos

Slideshows from Instructional Presentations on Interview Skills