Sharan and a colleague were collecting data for a study of older adult learning in Malaysia. As the headman of a rural village escorted us to the home of an elderly woman who had agreed to talk with us, a crowd of villagers gathered around us, and one young man asked, “Are you from CNN? We want to be interviewed too.”
Interviewing has so pervaded popular media that we have become “the ‘interview society,’ where everyone gets interviewed and gets a moment in the sun” (Fontana & Frey, 2005, p. 695). Talk shows, social media, 24-hour news cycles, and print media rely on interviews, verbal or written, to construct their story. But unlike “the spontaneous exchange of views in everyday conversations,” a research interview “is a conversation that has a structure and a purpose” (Brinkmann & Kvale, 2015, p. 5). Interviewing for research purposes is a systematic activity that you can learn to do well. Its popularity as a data collection technique is attested to by dozens of books on interviewing, including Fielding's (2008) four-volume series and a recent handbook (Gubrium, Holstein, Marvasti, & McKinney, 2012). In this chapter we explore interviewing as a data collection technique in qualitative research. We discuss several types of interviews as well as related topics: asking good questions, beginning the interview, recording and evaluating interview data, and the nature of the interaction between interviewer and respondent.