Getting permission for interviews for your dissertation can be tough, depending on your topic.
I have been lucky enough to have positive answers from most of the academics I have contacted, all virtually. But of course, the reference interview needs to be recorded for checks required by your supervisor (or else who would believe what your wrote)?!
I have conducted three interviews in person and two via phone thus far for my research. Oh boy! It can be difficult to transcribe if the conversation goes over 10 minutes long.
Transcribing is so cringe-worthy the first few times! I hate hearing my voice on a recording and I have a nervous laugh which seems to be amplified by having a professional academic setting.
Here are the times it has taken me to transcribe my interviews:
First Interview – In Person – Time of Recording 22mins – Writing time 1hr 20mins
Second Interview – In Person – Time of Recording 15mins – Writing time 1hr 5mins
Third Interview – In Person – Time of Recording 26 mins – Writing time 1hr 45mins
Fourth Interview – Via Telephone – Time of Recording 18mins – Writing time 1hr 15mins
Five Interview – Via Telephone – Time of Recording 19 mins – Writing time 1hr 30mins
Shocked? Well if you haven’t conducted research before, and are about to, you are probably freaking out!
Here are my tips for getting through those first few interviews:
Be early, this is obvious but when you are meeting someone for the first time for help with your research, you should really be early. They are taking time out of their working day to help you out. Showing up late is perceived as you really do not care about their opinion and do not respect them.
Plan it in advanced. Do not turn up to the place you are trying to catch people for and expect them to drop everything for you.
Confirm it with an email, yes the answered the phone and said they would, you need that email in your appendix.
Record it, if you have their permission. Always ask their permission at the beginning, so it can be recorded proof they said okay.
Check your equipment! Make sure you have a test run, ask a friend or co worker to pretend they are being interviewed for a few minutes to let you check you can record whats going on. It can be nerve wrecking enough without the recording not coming out!
Ring at the time you should you would, no earlier or no later! Imagine if you are the person being interviewed. (Showing up too early for an interview in person it great, too early on a phone…. you are going to eat into their work time and annoy them).
Smile when you are talking to them, people can hear that.
This is a difficult, you have to test this too. I have to use a laptop for the Skype application itself and my iPhone to record it. (I find it best to rest it on the keyboard, that way you can see it and you won’t start typing and annoying people).
WEAR PROFESSIONAL CLOTHING! (Yes, all the way down to your feet). It will make you feel more confident and you can take on the world!
Guys – gel or style your hair.
Girls – tie your hair back, you will play with it otherwise.
CHECK THE BACKGROUND! You don’t want a professor you admire seeing your posters above your bed or that weird stain on the wall behind you. Ensure it looks okay.
Do you live with people? Give them advance notice you are going to do this. You will need them to be quiet, or just ask them to go get some coffee?! (PAY FOR THE COFFEE)!
I am going to be conducting Skype interviews to some people from the States, so do the math and check the time zones. If it is 6am for you and it is their lunch break, get up at 5am so you know what you are going to say. Nothing it worse that yawning when someone is talking, it looks like you don’t care.
For all of these interviews:
Phones and digital devices on do not disturb, not silent, believe me I have done this and it did not go down well.
You are not grilling anyone, you are just asking their opinion on a topic, so be friendly and like them speak at length at about what they want to talk about.
Treat it like a normal conversation, do not be too strict with your questions.
Oh yeah, write your questions down! I use this great app called MicNote (http://bit.ly/165Qumt) it’s free and it records the conversations perfectly.
It is free up to 10 recordings, and it only records for 10 mintues, so be careful and keep an eye on this. (I am going to buy the professional version when my trial runs out, its only £5.99).
Most importantly when it comes to research for dissertation, thesis, PhD, whatever level you are at…… Keep in contact with your supervisor. You need to have the channel of communication open. In the worst case, you need to have proof you attempted to keep that channel open. I am lucky to have an ace supervisor who answers my questions with yes or no and will elaborate if asked, and even meet up in person.
You are earning a piece of paper which shows how much hard work you did to achieve it, you are showing an employer that you used all of the skills mentioned above to reach the end-goal…… GRADUATION AND A PARTY!