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Last updated on 10/3/22

Document Experiences Accurately

Documentation allows you to get as much as possible out of each interview. This means writing down anything from notes and observations to direct quotes or terms the interviewee says. A simple notebook and pen are all you need to start!

Whenever possible, work in teams when conducting interviews. It helps divide the workload. Also, having multiple perspectives when reflecting on and analyzing data benefits your research. Every person involved will notice and observe different details, which will help make the data you collect richer.

Examining an Interview Through Documentation

As mentioned, it's ideal to have two researchers present during an interview. One person leads the questioning, while the second acts as a scribe who takes notes allowing the interviewer to focus on the topic rather than multi-tasking.

It's a good idea to introduce yourselves at the start and explain your roles during the interview.

Try to write down direct quotes as they are more powerful than paraphrasing. Quotes are an excellent storytelling device that helps bring the problem to life. They are also another way to exemplify the idea of "show, don't tell."

Another option is to write super quick notes – or keywords – while interviewing. You can expand on these as soon as the informant leaves.

If you don't have the luxury of having two people conducting an interview, make sure you block off time to write notes immediately afterward. If not, you risk confusing what you've learned in one interview with another.

If I'm the note-taker during interviews and observations, I like to add small symbols like stars or use a different color pen as I go. These visual cues indicate that I may want to come back to this idea.

Creating a Record

Beyond hand-written notes, you also want to think about creating additional documentation. During an interview, you may miss things the first time around. For example, you may be too focused on your next question, or you may accidentally zone out for a second and are too embarrassed to ask the informant to repeat what they said. Therefore, consider making an audio or video recording of your interview. Thankfully, both techniques are much more affordable these days!

To create an audio recording, all you need is a smartphone or a pocket-sized recording device. You do not need expensive professional equipment or a sound studio.

In an ideal world, you'd create a transcript (a typed text record) of each interview. Unfortunately, this is not always possible due to time constraints. However, when working on professional jobs, there are transcription services that can do this for you. You can then mark up and highlight a transcript to denote insights and takeaways from what you've learned.

Not every interview will need a video recording, but you may find it very helpful for certain subject matters. You also can edit it to create a highlights reel to share with your team. The benefit of a video recording is that you can see the emotional and behavioral response to a question, which can help unlock additional insights.

Finally, you'll want to snap a few photos of the setting and the interviewee. (More photography tips are in the course Communicating Ideas Through Storytelling and Design.) Photos will not only help spark your memory, but they're also beneficial for sharing and giving context to team members who were not present at the interview. Always ask permission beforehand, or include it in the waiver that participants sign.

Most importantly, take the time to interpret your research. Analyze the data and findings, then share a document or presentation with key stakeholders. We'll cover how to go about this in part 3 of this course!

Let's recap! 

  • Documentation is critical to get as much as possible out of each interview you’ll lead.

  • Ideally for focus, two researchers will be present during an interview. One person will lead the questioning, while the second will act as a notetaker.

  • Beyond note-taking, recording the actual interviews (audio or video) serves as a helpful tool to be able to revisit the interview.

In this part, we focused on how to recruit participants and organize research! Let’s see what you’ve understood by answering a few questions in the next quiz. In the next part, we’ll focus on using the data gathered to improve our project! 

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