Identifying who you want to interview.

Post your interview questions and subjects here.

Your questions and the name of the person (or persons) you plan to interview, including their credentials and an explanation of why you think they would make a good interview subject, must be submitted in advance. These questions should present a rough idea of the type of information that you are trying to gather through the interview process. These questions are your notes for the interview. You should submit a minimum of five questions, and a maximum of twenty. Please don’t feel confined to asking only the questions that you turn in. An effective interview is usually more like a conversation that is focused around a topic (your questions), rather than an interrogation.

When considering interview subjects, you should think about what kind of people will be the most fruitful subjects of an interview. What sorts of information will make your final paper more interesting? What kinds of things would you like to know more about, and who could tell you about them? What kind of people have legitimate authority to speak on a subject? For example, if you’re writing a paper on nuclear energy, you most likely wouldn’t interview an auto mechanic. But who knows? Maybe the mechanic has a PhD in nuclear physics. You are only required to conduct one interview, but you may conduct as many as three, if you find this sort of research useful.

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Associated Files


Research Project Instructions: Interview Project Overview: 


For this component of the research paper, you will be collecting primary research through interviews. Interviews can provide widely varied types of information. There is also a distinction between surveys and interviews. Interviews tend to be more in-depth, and conducted with people who have some sort of authority to speak on the subject; surveys tend to be conducted without regard to expertise in order to discover the generally held opinions of a specific population or demographic. Depending on your topic, interviews will likely produce more potentially cite-able material, while surveys will likely generate only one or two statistics. For this reason I’m requiring that you perform interviews as opposed to surveys.

There are two things that seem to cause students difficulty when completing this assignment:

  1. Identifying who they want to interview. It can be hard to think of people who might have the sort of expertise that will make your research paper better. We’re lucky to live in Seattle, where there are experts on a wide variety of topics. Look around, investigate, brainstorm with friends. You’d be surprised at what you might come up with. One of my students once tried to interview the head of the KKK. He wasn’t successful in landing the interview, but it was an interesting process.
  2. Asking for the interview. Don’t wait to ask for an interview with someone who you think would be an excellent resource. I know it can be intimidating to approach someone you don’t know. The worst that could happen is that they’ll tell you no. Well, they might also be a horrible person and insult you for even asking for their time. This has never happened to one of my students. Another good rule: be ready to conduct the interview immediately, when you ask. On several occasions in the past, students have told stories of asking for an interview, and the expert replied with something like, “I have 15 minutes right now. Let’s do it.”
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