The easiest way to collect interesting, usable data from a research effort is to blend into the background of the subject’s life. Media journalists know this – that’s why they’re embedded in the presidential campaigns and in the military actions.
To give honest unselfconscious, response, subject’s need to be comfortable with researchers – as peers, as collegues, as one of them.
The need to commit time to really see into someone’s life is echoed in Tod Maffin’s the Art of the 10-Hour Interview.
The projects here at Working Pathways move much more quickly than those in either of the articles. We are often charged with capturing usable data with less than hour per respondant. With that in mind, here are 5 tips we use for “becoming invisible” in under an hour.
- Make Good Small Talk.
The weather, the traffic, a recent news item, the goal is to find common ground quickly. You probably share a handful of similarities -find a a couple. Share the joy of meeting someone new is this small world.
- They’re the Expert.
Whatever you’re talking about, they know more than you. Chances are their situation and challenges in whatever you’re talking about are unique. Use the little you know on the subject to probe and show them you can speak the lingo, not that you could take over their job.
- Pay Attention.
Everything is a conscious decision – body language, intonation, language, word selection, wardrobe, facial expressions, everything. Each movement betrays their personality and honest, unguarded emotions. Picking up and following up on these cues is where the good data lives.
- Always Be Curious.
There’s nothing worse than an interviewer uninterested in the respondant. If you don’t need or want another interview, cancel it. Otherwise you’re wasting everyone’s time and money.
- Keep the recording devices out of hand and sight.
This is not to be sneaky or misleading. As an ethical researcher, all participants should be aware and give concent to recording. Have an assistant be responsible for the recording equipment. This recommendation is so;
- You can focus all your attention on the conversation and not recording.
- Your respondant can focus on the conversation, not being recorded. Thereby reducing the chance of them being self-conscious or saying what they think ther researcher wants to hear.