Best Practices for Interviews
Here are some rules for conducting interviews for data collection within research projects.
These rules contain important recommendations for conducting interviews and the processing of interview results. However, they are not comprehensive. Specific situations may demand additional considerations. Moreover, these rules do not replace relevant legal regulations in any way.
1. Make sure your respondents know their rights
The researcher conducting the interview has to make sure that all respondents will know that they have the right and make sure that they can exercise the right:
- To stop participation at any moment (meaning that research participants know right from the first contact that participation is voluntary)
- To be asked for informed consent (meaning that research participants must at all times be fully informed about the research process and purposes, and must give consent to their participation in the research).
- To ask questions and receive understandable answers before making a decision
- To know the degree of risk and burden involved in participation
- To withdraw themselves and their data from the project at any time
- To know how their data will be collected and stored,
- To know of any potential commercial exploitation of the research, which implies that human respondents will not be subjected to any acts of deception or betrayal in the research process or its published outcomes.
The researcher conducting the interview has to make sure that all demands by respondents concerning anonymity will be met. This includes the careful handling of any information which may reveal the identity of respondents. Respective documents or files (including audio files with a recognizable voice) are to be stored separately from transcripts and should not be available at any time via the internet (neither through email communication nor through storage on a server or a cloud).
3. Do not reveal any information the respondent does not want to reveal
Excerpts from interviews are only presented and published in a form which has been clarified with the respective respondent. The researcher has to make sure that the presentation of interview results does not reveal any information, which the respondent does not want to reveal. Requests per email are not permissible if they involve sensitive issues as it cannot be assumed that email communication will remain confidential.
4. Let an ethics commission prove correctness
If the correctness of a quote from an interview has to be proven to outside examiners or colleagues, an ethics commission should conduct or commission a respective check of the original interview documents.
5. Use informed consent
The respondent’s consent has to be documented in a written form. A sample version of an informed consent form you can find here. It is meant to give some guidance to researchers conducting interviews. It is important that the sample has to be adjusted to the specific needs of individual research projects.
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