Interview Interlude

I‘m conducting my first interview study, and it’s been a lot of learning in a short space of time. Coming from psychology my experience with collecting qualitative data is painfully limited, but in order to better understand my topic it’s a necessary skill to get to speed with.

After learning how to code data with a thematic analysis method, I began the new challenge of how to recruit participants for an interview study. Theoretically, it sounds simple. You ask people who fit your target demographic to take part, and you sit in a room for half an hour for a chat. However, finding people is hard.

How do you access them? If you need a specific sub-sample of people (e.g. players of open world games), then you need to be more specific in where to find them. I can target gaming student groups, but then I also have to find where they skulk online and humbly beg permission to post on their pages.

How do you motivate them to come along? I’m a stranger that can only offer the compensation of chocolate. Unless they’re really enthused about the topic (like I am!), it’s unlikely the promise of sugary goodness will be enough to move them from their cosy homes to my office.

The biggest conundrum so far though has been about rooms. To run an interview, I need somewhere nice and quiet for it to take place. To book a room, I need to have a time to put on the booking form. To have a time, I need to have a participant ready in that time. To have a participant, I need somewhere for them to be interviewed. So, what comes first – the room booking or the participant?

I don’t want to mass book somewhere and not have anyone turn up, because that isn’t great for anyone else who needs a room. And I can’t book a room later than 2 days in advance, so I have to do is ASAP. My current solution is to eyeball which rooms are free and offer that time to a participant, then when they agree rush to the booking form and hope it’s still available. It certainly isn’t ideal, but it’s holding up for now.

Luckily due to the nature of interview data, I don’t need too many participants. Once I finally manage to coordinate people through a room and record responses, the fun of analysis can begin. That part I am excited for, as coding responses has a nice rhythm to it that will keep me busy for a good while.

All in a day’s work as a PhD researcher.

Nathan Hughes
Nathan Hughes
Research Associate in HCI for Clinical AI

The experience of decision-making in HCI