Interviews vs. Conversations

Posted on October 8, 2012 by

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In the recent project that we have been working on in USHRS, my group has chosen (along with many others) to utilize people in our community through interviews. At first this concept was incredibly daunting task made everyone in the group nervous. What questions should we ask? What would happen if we ran out of questions? What would happen if the interviewee didn’t understand the question? In the preparation process, these are the many scenarios that ran through our head.

As we began the project, we were faced with the three essential questions. The broadest of the three was “What does it mean to be an American in 2012?” Of course, such a large question could never be answer completely or correctly, being that the answer varies for everyone. We started by reading a myriad of different Op. Ed. articles in order to gain some sort grasp on the incredibly large and daunting topic that we were dealing with. One article that especially stood out to me was a piece by Jose Antonio Vargas about being an undocumented alien in America. After reading a few of those articles, my group had a better idea on how to proceed.

As some members of my group prepared to interview a Gay rights advocate, I prepared to interview a different person. Of course, the task of interviewing someone was slightly nerve racking and I was not entirely sure that I would know what to say in a situation where I ran out of questions, but none the less, I continued on, determined to have the questions and insight into the subject prior to the interview date.

The scheduled date of the interview got closer and with more and more preparation I became more self assured of the content of my planned interview. The questions that I had had been looked over several times and edited for clarity and the equipment had been tested several times.

Going into this interview I decided that for the sake of myself and for the subject of my interview that I should approach it as more of a conversation, rather than a play by play interview. Because of the broad nature of the subject (Self-Defined American Identity), there would be no possible way to contain the information to a certain area of conversation. Because the environment felt more like a casual conversation and less like a staged and formalized interview, the information that was uncovered was much more compelling and sounds exponentially more sincere; less rehearsed. Because of my success with this method of interviewing, the skills that I learned and utilized during this process will come to be useful in projects to come.

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Posted in: Projects, Research