Piloting Your Interview Research

The best advice I ever received as a researcher was to do a pilot of my proposed study. The dictionary (Gove, 1971) definition of the verb pi­lot is “to guide along strange paths or through dangerous places” (p. 1716).

Although it may not seem ahead of time that the world of interviewing research takes one along strange paths or through dangerous places, the unanticipated twists and turns of the interviewing process and the com­plexities of the interviewing relationship deserve exploration before the researchers plunge headlong into the thick of their projects.

I urge all interviewing researchers to build into their proposal a pi­lot venture in which they try out their interviewing design with a small number of participants. They will learn whether their research structure is appropriate for the study they envision. They will come to grips with some of the practical aspects of establishing access, making contact, and conducting the interview. The pilot can alert them to elements of their own interview techniques that support the objectives of the study and to those that detract from those objectives. After completing the pilot, researchers can step back, reflect on their experience, discuss it with their doctoral committee, and revise their research approach based on what they have learned from their pilot experience. (See Locke et al., 2000, pp. 80-82; Maxwell, 1996, for further discussion of pilot studies.)

Source: Seidman Irving (2006), Interviewing As Qualitative Research: A Guide for Researchers in Education And the Social Sciences, Teachers College Press; 3rd edition.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *