Hello, my name is ___________________ and I’m calling on behalf of an organization by the name of JustJax. We’re a group that’s interviewing Jacksonville residents to try to get a clearer picture of the criminal justice and public safety issues that exist. (YOU CAN EXPAND ON THIS) Because of Covid, we’re conducting our interviews of what will eventually be about 100 people via phone.
(IF APPROPRIATE) Your name was given to us by __________________ as a person who has important information and insights to share. Do you remember talking to him/her about the fact that I might call?
(IF YES): Great
(IF NO): Well, she/he has been working with us on coming up with a list of names of people we might want to talk with for the project. We’re interested in collecting information about your experiences to try to come up with ways of addressing some of the problems that exist in Jacksonville. Really importantly, we want to get comments from all residents from those who’ve experienced crime in their own lives to people within the court system itself. Would you be willing to help us in gathering this information?
(IF YES): Great
(IF NO): Would you prefer that _________________ call you first so she/he can explain more completely who I am and why I’m calling?
(IF SO – MAKE NOTE OF NAME AND CONTACT NUMBER AND CONTACT TEAM WITH INFORMATION)
(IF APPROPRIATE) We’ve selected you as part of our list of possible sources because of your knowledge of public safety and criminal justice in Jacksonville. Would you be willing to help us in gathering information?
(AGAIN, ALL RESPONDENTS)
The information you give us will be recorded and used at the end of this study to arrive at a series of recommendations on how the city can move forward to address the problems. Are you OK with that?
(IF YES): Great
(IF NO): If you’re uncomfortable with having your name known, I can offer you confidentiality so that only I and the other JustJax team members will know your name. Your name will not be known to anyone outside our small team. Is that acceptable to you?
(AGAIN, ALL RESPONDENTS)
Before I begin, do you have any questions I can answer?
This interview should take an hour or less. Is this a good time to talk or would you rather schedule a time to talk?
(IF NO – arrange a time can make a note to call back then.)
(IF YES): Wonderful. Then let me turn on the recorder so I can tape this conversation and let me begin by asking a few questions on tape.
OK, my name is ___________ and the date is ____________. I am interviewing _________ as part of the information collection project for JustJax.
This interview is being conducted by telephone. (IF APPROPRIATE: We are joined by __________________, who is ____________________ (a part of the JustJax team).
_________________, do I have your permission to tape this interview?
Thank you. As you know, the goal of JustJax is to discover how criminal justice and public safety is occurring in Jacksonville. In particular, we want to find out things that might help improve public safety on city streets as well as things that are impediments to public safety.
To start, let me ask you a bit about yourself.
(GET PERSON’S BACKGROUND AND HIS/HER CONNECTION TO THE ISSUES.)
(END OF INTERVIEW)
Would you like to receive the final report and recommendations we turn in at the end of this study?
(IF YES – record person’s email address or other way of submitting report to her/him.)
(MAKE SURE TO THANK YOUR INFORMANT AT THE END OF THE INTERVIEW)
Things to keep in mind
- If you’ve made an appointment, verify your appointment by text or email a day or two before the interview.
- Listen actively and intently.
- Speak one at a time.
- Allow silence. Give the interviewee time to think. Silence will work for you.
- Ask one question at a time.
- Follow up your current question thoroughly before moving to the next. You may need to ask follow-up questions to clarify.
- Usually ask questions open enough to get “essay” answers unless you are looking for specific short-answer “facts.”
- Start with less probing questions.
- Ask more probing questions later in the interview.
- Wrap up the interview with lighter talk. Do not drop the interviewee abruptly after an intense interview.
- Be aware of and sensitive to the psychological forces at work during the interview.
- Label and number all recordings immediately.
- After the interview, make field notes about the interview.
- Have a system to label and file everything. Do it.
- Analyze the interview. Verify facts. Compare your results with your research design. Did you get what you need? What further questions do the interview results suggest? What improvements in your method do the interview results suggest?
- Go back for another interview if necessary.
How do I ask the questions?
- You may want to have a start-up list of questions to get your interviewee and yourself comfortable before you change to your topic list. Get people comfortable talking with you.
- Before you begin, have in mind a format the interview will take – what issues/questions will be tackled first, which ones next, and so on.
- Plan the topic and form of your first substantial question after the “settling down” phase. Ask a question that will prompt a long answer and “get the subject going.”
- Ask easy questions first, such as brief biographical queries. Ask very personal or emotionally demanding questions after a rapport has developed. End as you began, not with bombshells, but gently with lighter questions.
- Ask questions one at a time.
- Allow silence to work for you. Wait.
- Be a good listener. You may use verbal cues to tell the person you’re listening and interested such as “This is wonderful information!” or “How interesting!” Be careful, however, not to pepper the interview with verbal encouragement such as “uh-huh,” said at the same time that the interviewee is speaking.
- Ask for specific examples if the interviewee makes a general statement and you need to know more. Or you might say, “I don’t understand. Could you explain that in more detail?”
- Ask for definitions and explanations of words that the interviewee uses and that have critical meaning for the interview. This could include explanations of legal or law enforcement jargon or on-the-street terms.
- Rephrase and re-ask an important question several times, if you must, to get the full amount of information the interviewee knows.
- Phrase your questions so that they can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” Don’t ask, “Were you ever a victim of crime in Jacksonville?” Ask instead, “If you’ve been a victim of crime, can you tell me about that experience?” Ask “essay” questions that prompt long answers whenever you can. Find out not only what the person did, but also what she thought and felt about what she did.
- Ask follow-up questions and then ask some more.
- Be flexible. Watch for and pick up on promising topics introduced by the interviewee, even if the topics are not on your interview guide sheet.
- Very soon after the interview, the interviewer should sit down and make notes in an organized fashion, before time dulls the details. The notes are something like the anthropologist’s field notes. The interviewer’s notes tell who, what, when, and where. They add anything that will help other team members understand the interview. These notes should also contain your personal reflections on the interview.
2. Fill out a more formal Interview Form. The form needs to contain information that will help the JustJax team interpret the interview. Aside from interviewee’s name, address, telephone number, and email (unless the person requested anonymity), the form should also contain subject’s birthdate as well as areas of Jacksonville in which she/he has lived. It could ask for listings of special skills or the exact connection to this project and for memberships in organizations. Finally, it should include notes on answers to all of the topics/issues previously identified as pertinent to the project. For example, if we identified “Experience of Public Safety” as an important topic, the interviewer needs to jot down what the person said that addressed this topic.
3. If the person requested anonymity, she/he should be assigned a number. That number should appear on all interview-related forms or recorded conversations. The number should be attached to the person’s name and contact information to be stored in a separate file.