Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Preparing for Interview Research: The Interview Protocol Refinement Framework

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Preparing for Interview Research: The Interview Protocol Refinement Framework

Article excerpt

Interviews provide researchers with rich and detailed qualitative data for understanding participants' experiences, how they describe those experiences, and the meaning they make of those experiences (Rubin & Rubin, 2012). Given the centrality of interviews for qualitative research, books and articles on conducting research interviews abound. These existing resources typically focus on: the conditions fostering quality interviews, such as gaining access to and selecting participants (Rubin & Rubin, 2012; Seidman, 2013; Weiss, 1994); building trust (Rubin & Rubin, 2012); the location and length of time of the interview (Weiss, 1994); the order, quality, and clarity of questions (Patton, 2015; Rubin & Rubin, 2012); and the overall process of conducting an interview (Brinkmann & Kvale, 2015; Patton, 2015).

Existing resources on conducting research interviews individually offer valuable guidance but do not come together to offer a systematic framework for developing and refining interview protocols. In this article, I present the interview protocol refinement (IPR) framework--a four-phase process to develop and fine-tune interview protocols. IPR's four-phases include ensuring interview questions align with the study's research questions, organizing an interview protocol to create an inquiry-based conversation, having the protocol reviewed by others, and piloting it.

Qualitative researchers can strengthen the reliability of their interview protocols as instruments by refining them through the IPR framework presented here. By enhancing the reliability of interview protocols, researchers can increase the quality of data they obtain from research interviews. Furthermore, the IPR framework can provide qualitative researchers with a shared language for indicating the rigorous steps taken to develop interview protocols and ensure their congruency with the study at hand (Jones, Torres, & Arminio, 2014).

IPR framework is most suitable for refining structured or semi-structured interviews. The IPR framework, however, may also support development of non-structured interview guides, which have topics for discussions or a small set of broad questions to facilitate the conversation. For instance, from a grounded theory perspective, piloting interview protocols/guides are unnecessary because each interview is designed to build from information learned in prior interviews (Corbin & Strauss, 2015). Yet, given the important role the first interview plays in setting the foundation for all the interviews that follow, having an initial interview protocol vetted through the recursive process I outline here may strengthen the quality of data obtained throughout the entire study. As such, I frame the IPR framework as a viable approach to developing a strong initial interview protocol so the researcher is likely to elicit rich, focused, meaningful data that captures, to the extent possible, the experiences of participants.

The Four-Phase Process to Interview Protocol Refinement (IPR)

The interview protocol framework is comprised of four-phases:

Phase 1: Ensuring interview questions align with research questions,

Phase 2: Constructing an inquiry-based conversation,

Phase 3: Receiving feedback on interview protocols

Phase 4: Piloting the interview protocol.

Each phase helps the researcher take one step further toward developing a research instrument appropriate for their participants and congruent with the aims of the research (Jones et al., 2014). Congruency means the researchers' interviews are anchored in the purpose of the study and the research questions. Combined, these four phases offer a systematic framework for developing a well-vetted interview protocol that can help a researcher obtain robust and detailed interview data necessary to address research questions.

Phase 1: Ensuring Interview Questions Align With Research Questions

The first phase focuses on the alignment between interview questions and research questions. …

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