I carried out my first research interview today. The first thing to state quite clearly I am not a professional interviewer and indeed I doubt sometimes my ability to be a student. But what I did was try and prepare so that I was able to get what I wanted but also that the interviewee was not bored or to think they were talking to an idiot.
The interview represents your data gathering. In my case, I am examing Article 117 of the Medical Device Regulation which is buried towards the end of the regulations. It is only 2 short paragraphs buts its implications for pharmaceutical companies is possibly massive. When you are doing a dissertation it is very easy or even normal to not see the wood for the trees as you get buried into your Literature Research or map out your discussion. But if you do step back you can see how the parts of a dissertation intertwined and how one aspect depends on the other.
So once you have identified your basic area of research you do the Literature Research to identify if anyone has looked at this area before and is there any gaps in that research or areas which there may be divergent views. I am still progressing at the Literature Review but I have been focusing on what I have identified as the core aspect which is the impact of Article 117 on Inhalers.. what I did find that doing the Literature Review that I was able to distil what was in my head into an actual research question.
And why is this important … well, you cannot conduct a research interview without knowing what your research is. This may seem obvious however I would contend there is a danger of winging it or hoping the interviewee will know what to say. This would be a mistake and waste of everyone’s effort. For my research, I am hoping to get high calibre interviewees who are key influencers in this field. These people are busy and getting 30 to 45 minutes with them is difficult and so focus is required.
For me, I broke down my research question into 4 main categories and then developed 2 -3 questions for each category. This created a map of where I wanted to go. It allowed for diversions but prevented them from becoming tangents. It also provided a checklist to ensure I was covering areas which were relevant yo my research. I also tried to be careful that my questions were not leading which becomes more difficult to maintain if the interviewee is engaging which this one was.
As my interviewee was in Europe we used MS Teams. Unfortunately, my work laptop is slowly crawling to the laptop graveyard and I had to switch to my phone. This meant I was unable to record As a person who now very rarely writes with a pen it meant I had to conduct the interview and take physical notes. So what i found important was immediately after the interview to use the interview plan and my notes to construct the critical parts of the interview.
My interviewee was very nice and helpful and indicated that I had done well. I found it great to talk with someone obviously knowledgable but also with distinct views which are helpful for research purposes.
What I learnt was technology is always going to be a challenge and it is probably good to have a back up especially if you are wishing to record. Having a semi-structured approach allowed a free-flowing discussion but which remained in the area of my interest. Not saying that I am anyway an expert but I think a high degree of preparation on the subject matter so that you are ‘speaking the same language” with the interviewee helps with engagement and also if you sense that interviewee is giving a unique perspective to be able to recognise that and go off script to explore.
So thanks to my new friend in Switzerland who gave me my first proper research interview and was able to undertsand a fast talking Irishman.