Preparing to Conduct an Interview
In any historical situation or development, key personalities
have a major influence on how events unfold. This is
true in the developments leading up to the entry of Newfoundland
and Labrador into confederation with Canada. In this
activity, Preparing to Conduct an Interview, you will assume the role of
an interviewer (e.g., a journalist) who is exploring the
experiences of people who lived during the confederation process.
The following exercises will suggest how to work
on this task:
Exercises and Suggestions:
- Identify someone who lived during the 1940s; this
may be a relative, or someone who is referred to you by someone else.
- Contact this person and arrange a place and time for an interview.
Advise the individual ahead of time what you wish to talk about.
- Before you conduct your interview, you will need to
prepare your questions carefully. As you do this, keep in
mind that there are three categories of questions you
- The easiest questions are those that
seek factual information; for example, the who,
what, when, and where kinds. These questions,
although important, will give you basic
- Another type of question gets at how one piece of
information is connected with another; how one event
led to another; how one situation had an impact on
another; how what someone said caused
another person to say or do something. These
kinds of questions explore reasons, cause and
effect, comparisons, contrasts, and explanations.
They sometimes use such phrases as
Why...?, How...?, How differently ...?, How alike ...?, but
other key words may be used.
- Finally, the third category explores opinions and
positions taken. Phrases used could
include Do you think that...?; In your opinion, why
did this happen this way ...?; How would you have
done it differently ...?; What do you think will
happen next ...? Again, these are only suggestions
for you to consider; the actual way you frame your
questions will depend upon the person
you interview, the situation, and his or her reactions.
- After you have prepared your questions, you are
ready to conduct your interview. Remember that
the give-and-take of the interview may tell you
that some of the prepared questions can be
omitted; for example, you would not ask a
question if it has been already.
- You may wish to record the
interview with a tape-recorder or video-camera (you should do this only with
the permission of the person you are interviewing). This
technique would be very useful if you wish to evaluate
later how well the interview went. For example, could you have
asked a question differently to make it more clear? Did you allow enough
time for the person to respond before you followed it up with another question?