|Dr. Kristi Siegel
Mount Mary College
|...Yes, I know--another pointless animal picture.|
For your research paper you will need to get at least one interview from a person who relates to your leadership topic. You may interview someone in person or by phone. If you were writing about women's leadership in interior design you might interview a local interior designer or one of the interior design teachers at Mount Mary College, such as Dr. Pamm Steffan, the program's chairperson. Make sure to thank the person you interview.
1. Avoid yes/no questions.
2. Have a number of questions prepared in advance.
3. Don't just read the questions one after anther without listening to your subject's response;
many times his/her answer will your direct your next question.
4. Don't try to take down every word. Just write down a few good quotes. Use your memory
for the rest, but be sure to write down everything that you can possibly remember as soon as
the interview is over. Ask your "interviewee" if he/she would mind calling back if you've
forgotten something or an item clarified. You might offer to send the person you interview
your completed paper. If you interview a person you don't know, it would be polite to send
him/her a thank-you card.
5. An interview/essay includes some description/introduction of the person you're interviewing
as well as necessary transitional commentary and concluding remarks. You are not just
recording someone's answers, but shaping the results of your interview into a crafted essay
that makes a point and (hopefully!) is engaging as well.
6. Keep in mind that you're not Barbara Walters. You're after information, not to get a "rise"
out of your interviewee. Make sure to keep your questions polite and non-invasive.
Incorporating an Interview into your Paper
Whenever you paraphrase or quote from your interviewee make sure to cite the interview (and the method differs depending on whether you're using MLA or APA format). Do not put in your questions; a reader should be able to figure out what you asked from your writing. For example, do not quote from your interview like this:
Me: What was the hardest part about getting into medical school?
Interviewee: The wait. After sending out a ton of applications, trying to keep my grades up for four years, and studying for the MCAT, waiting to see if anyone would accept me was really hard.
Me: Did you ever think you wouldn't get into a medical school?
Interviewee: No. Not at first. But after awhile you start to believe anything.
Rather than a question/answer "bit" like that above, weave in quotes or paraphrased comments where they serve to illustrate a point, back up claims, or simply add interest. For example, you might write something like the following:
After four years of pre-med training, some people are never accepted into medical school. Dr. Robert Burns commented that the hardest part of his pre-med experience was the "wait" to find out if a medical school would accept him. Initially, Dr. Burns felt pretty confident, but commented that "after awhile you start to believe anything."
In the example above, it's clear what questions have been asked, and the writer includes only the portions of the dialogue that serve to advance her ideas.