Podcast, Research Methods

Research Interviews and Asking Good Questions

I have been thinking about interviews and how to ask better questions/interview for a while. Research questions unpack what is going on with the world around us. As an early career scholar, I want to unpack experiences, thoughts, and situations people are dealing with in the workplace (e.g.  networked professional lives, open online learning, mentoring relationships) to learn more about a particular phenomenon. I know good research comes from solid research preparation.

Last summer  I spent a couple of months, with my co-investigator Paul, digging into the empirical literature, academic findings, theoretical frameworks and debates around concepts and issues we want to unpack in our study. I appreciate his willingness to work and put the time up-front to prepare for our research interviews.

“Research designs begins with questions researchers and their partners want to answer about a particular problem, population, process, project, or topic they want to explore” (LeCompte & Schensul, 2010, p. 130).

We framed our research questions around issues addressed in other academic papers — you know, building on the shoulders of giants — and to unpack what is happening in the online and offline realm for higher education professionals. For our semi-structured interviews, we have a set of structured questions to guide open-ended discussions on relevant topics related to the themes, issues, and concepts we want to discuss (Kvale, 2007). By using the intensive interview techniques shared in Charmaz’s (2014) constructing grounded theory text, most of our questions are open-ended. This method was designed to encourage participants to reflect and share experiences, by starting questions with: “Tell me about…”, “Could you describe… or ” Can you walk me through… ”  Asking research questions to solicit for a comprehensive and an open response is everything.

This research design thinking not only developed our interview protocols, research questions, and data management plan, it also allows us to be fully immersed in our conversations while we conduct the interview now.  I think conducting a quality research interview is a skill. A skill that gets developed, honed and enhanced as you go. I always learn how to improve upon this each time I talk with a research participant. While being immersed in the interviews, I have kept this sage advice George (thanks!) offered when we were conducting interviews with a large number of open, online learners:

  • Give wait time to think before answering and tell them that you are doing that.

  • Listen to their replies and ask probing questions that aren’t listed below but go toward the issues we are trying to explore.

Now that we’re 60+ interviews deep with our project, I continue to think about this advice and understand what we are learning so far. I am also thinking about what we are asking, how we are approaching topics, and identifying where we might need to go as our questions reach a certain saturation point. If you have already graciously volunteered your time and shared for our study: THANK YOU SO MUCH!  If you are a higher education professional who would like to contribute and be interviewed for our research, we are still accepting participants for our study here: http://bit.ly/networkedself

Recently, I started listening to Jesse Thorn’s  The Turnaround podcast (that partners with the Columbia Journalism Review -thanks for the transcripts!) This podcast flips the script and interviews people who typically interview others. His interviews unpack the art form of an interview and how to best investigate a story. Thorn asks how to best interview and also demonstrates how to summarize ideas and follow with an open-ended question for a response. Although most of these interviewers are producing interviews for public consumption and listening, there are some great takeaways from this 1:1 series of interviews I am thinking more about for my anonymous/private research interviews:

  • The American Life’s Ira Glass always wants to know what is that story or idea: “Think about what the other person is feeling… an active act of imagination and empathy.”
  • Jesse and Ira both gush Terry Gross, the host of Fresh Air, who is a skilled interviewer. Terry puts herself inside her interviewee’s head to ask for follow-up responses by asking: “Can you give me an example?” #ToRead: All I Did Was Ask
  • Author Susan Orlean says to treat this like an authentic conversation and be a good listener, that is, be okay with awkward silences), be in the moment, and take notes by hand+record [She uses Livescribe smartpen & Neo smartpen.]
  • NPR’s Audie Cornish tries to focus on the story/investigation first, not herself or her feelings: “It’s not about me.”
  • Comedian and podcaster, Marc Maron, invites his guests into his “space” (actual physical home) to encourage openness in sharing an intimate conversation with him.
  • Documentarian/Filmmaker Errol Morris said to shut up and let people talk, you will learn more.

In addition to listening to podcasts or reading scholarly books about interviews, I thank and credit the @BreakDrink podcast production for providing me with the skills to conduct effective research. My “study” in podcasting (and research interviews) began just over 7 years when I received a DM from Jeff Jackson to see if I’d like to co-host a podcast. Although I was just starting my Ph.D. program, I think some of my early lessons for qualitative research actually came from the episodes where we invited brilliant people onto the Campus Tech Connection (#CTCX) podcast for an interview. Both my experience with podcast production and research interviews, have offered me a few insights for being a more effective interviewer:

  • Pre-Interview survey: Ask your podcast guest or interview participant a few questions about the topic in advance. For podcasts, we would have them complete a brief bio and see a few of the questions we might ask ahead of time. For interviews, we might have a pre-questionnaire or interview sign-up with requests for demographic information, topics about the research, or their role for the study research.
  • Organize and prepare: Do you work in advance! Create a shared doc (if on a collaborative team) or prep notes for each show production or segment of your research interviews. This would include the potential protocols, research questions, interview topics/issues, and information you would need for each recording. Review the pre-interview survey data and see how they might relate to your research questions.
  • Play with the technology to figure out what works for you: Technical tools have changed over the past 7 years of my podcasting/researching. I continue to learn as I go and as I collaborate with others. I now record with Audio Hijack+Skype/web conference/phone, edit in GarageBand/Audacity by splicing clips either for public consumption or to minimize for transcription costs, and find a secure cloud storage space for your audio files and notes.
  • Speaking of notes… ALWAYS TAKE NOTES: Besides recording the audio, I often scribe notes during a conversation or interview. These notes could include a quote, key point, idea, or issue. For the podcast, this might include a URLs and resources we would share with the show notes with the episode. For research, this ensured I was listening and noting what participants were saying and often it would spark a follow-up question or explore another aspect of our study I wanted to know about.  Pro-Tip: I use “analog” journals to write my research notes with pen and paper. I often return to my notes to make an annotation, highlight a concept, find another research question, and to review how the series of interviews are progressing.
  • Make time for reflection: After each episode of the podcast, I often would have a follow-up blog post with information and ideas shared. This practice I still do when I conduct a research interview, but often it’s a private act scribed in my journal or shared with my co-collaborators on a project.  This habit has me process what I am exploring, learning, and sorting out in my head.
  • Manage and archive your files: Be sure you create a system to label and itemize your digital files and notes. I am meticulous for organizing my life and projects (as I live in the digital) in particular ways. Set your own system so you can track where items are and code how these files/interviews are relevant to your project (or podcast). This will help you later when you go to code transcripts or you are interested in a particular issue/trend in your study.

 

References:

Charmaz, K. (2014). Constructing grounded theory.Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Kvale, S. (2007). Doing interviews. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

LeCompte, M. D., & Schensul, J. J. (1999). Designing and conducting ethnographic research (Vol. 1), 2nd Edition. Plymouth, UK: Altamira Press.

StudentAffairs

A.M.A. (For Real) on the @SAreddit Series

Not sure completely why, but I was asked to join the new @SAReddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) Reddit Series…so I thought, why not?

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As a frequent reader of Reddit threads, I figured it might be just the time to play in the “r” sandbox. There are a few lively and talkative communities sharing links, comments, and ideas in this space. If you have never used Reddit, have I got the “HOW TO” guide (or two) for you.

As for AMA, these Q & A discussions are often set up for celebrities, politicians, deans,  and the like.  Since I don’t fall into any of these categories, I will just assume this Q & A will take on my “ASK AN ADVISOR” role to discuss my varied experiences with academic advising, career counseling, doctoral/dissertation life, learning technologies, higher ed, organization/community research, and so on. Want to know more about my rogue experiences in student affairs? Interested in getting connected to the field of advising? Considering a PhD for yourself? Want to know how to balance school, work, and play in higher ed? I might have a few answers for you on the AMA Laura Pasquini thread on Monday, June 9, 2014. Post a QUESTION here:

AMA
Click here to ask questions, comment, or add snark: http://redd.it/27hehe

Want to know more? Follow the conversation on the studentaffairs Reddit. Subscribe to  /r/studentaffairs to ask questions, share resources, or just talk and socialize with other SA professionals! Please grow the community by sharing with your friends & colleagues.

Here’s the AMA studentaffairs Series line up for future dates with more to come from the moderators Nate, @JennaMagnuski, and Dan:

June 9 – Laura Pasquini, Academic Advisor, NACADA board member, and EdTech Champion

June 16 – Kasandrea Sereno, college success counselor and academic advisor, with past work in admissions, orientation, housing, greek life, and first year experience

June 23 –

June 30 – Jenna & Nate Magnuski, Live-in student affairs parents

July 7 – Stacy Oliver, Associate Director of ResLife at Lake Forest College & GLACUHO president

July 14 – Tom Krieglstein, Mastermind of Swiftkick & Founder of various digital communities (including #sachat)

July 21 –

July 28 – Leah Westcott, Editor-in-Chief of Cronk News

August 4 –

August 11 – John Wesley Lowery, scholar in student conduct/higher education law & history of higher education, chair of IUP’s SAHE program

Who do you want to participate in an AMA? Let @SAreddit and @JennaMagnuski know! Or post a comment below. 🙂

 

EdTech, Higher Education, Social Media, StudentAffairs

#SXSWedu Panel: Social Media in Higher Ed – Where Are We Going? #smHE

Are you attending the SXSW Edu (#SXSWedu) conference in Austin this week? Why not drop into our panel just after the opening of #SXSWedu? Join our session on Monday, March 4th from 1:30-2:30 pm in the Austin Convention Center Room #15. Here is the skinny on our panel:

Panel: Social Media in Higher Ed – Where Are We Going?

Social Media Propoganda

Image c/o Justonescarf

100% of Colleges and Universities are now adopting “social media” tools to engage students. While strategies and tactics vary per institution there has been little analysis into the effectiveness of these networks both from the student and institutional perspective. Social Media Managers have been hired, consultants have been giving “best practices” on how to use “free tools” but is all this network chasing really getting us anywhere? In this panel we’ll showcase examples of good and bad social media implementation, and use these as a framework to discuss what a meaningful social media strategy and guidance looks like.

Intended Audience: Higher Education; Student Affairs; Academic Affairs; Faculty; Ed Tech Start Ups

Join the dialogue with Tanya (@tjoosten), Brandon (@bcroke), Brad (@bradpopilolek), and myself (@laurapasquini) as we chat about these three central questions proposed by our panel:


1. What does a failed social media strategy look like?
How do we know social media failed OR was successful? Do we need social media strategy, guidance, or policy on our campus?

2. What does a successful social media strategy look like? What are three pillars every social media initiative should have? What works really well with using social media? What initiatives have you seen?

3. What role should institutions play in engaging students with social media? How should institutions engage  social media? Why should we use social media? How can the different players on campus (faculty, administrators, students, developers, industry, & start ups) work together and collaborate for purposeful social media use?

If you have a question and you want to chime in during the session (near or far), I’ll be tracking the conversation with the hashtag #smHE to collect your questions, thoughts, and contributions before and during our panel session. What questions do you have about social media in higher education? Let me know.

UPDATED: Slide Deck & #smHE Tweets Collected. Enjoy. 

#SXSWed Panel: Social Media in Higher Ed – Where Are We Going?#smHE (with images, tweets) · laurapasquini · Storify or http://bit.ly/Z422Pw

EdTech

Ed Tech Career (#EdTechCareers) Forum: Questions, Discussions & Advice at #et4online

In preparing for the upcoming Emerging Technology for Online Learning (#et4online) conference this Spring, the planning committee discussed how to augment the Career Forum to better support graduate students and junior faculty who are job searching. The Career Forum will post jobs,  offer on-site interviews, and also host a series of  career development roundtable discussions with experienced scholars, researchers, and instructors in the educational technology field.
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Last week, Dr. Kevin Grazino and I began brainstorming potential roundtable discussions to host at the upcoming #et4online conference. These panels will provide a space for emerging scholars to meet and gain career insights from experienced professionals/faculty.
CAREER FORUM ROUNDTABLES (#EdTechCareers)
Career Forum Roundtable – EdTech Career Tracks

Tuesday, April 9 – 2:30pm-3:20pm

There are a number of career directions and opportunities to apply for with your graduate degree. Join this roundtable to ask career questions and gain advice on which path is right for you:

  • Higher Education Faculty/Instructor – teaching vs. research institutions
  • Industry Research & Development
  • Consulting/Other
Career Forum Roundtable – Career Skills
Wednesday, April 10 – 10:10am-11:00am
In developing career skills for the educational technology field, it is critical to get involved and connected to both professional affiliations and peers. Come learn about how to build your CV and also showcase your experiences, as we talk about:
  • Professional Networking
  • Getting Involved in Professional Organizations
  • Scholarship Development – teaching, publishing, service
  • Interview Advice
Career Forum Roundtable – Career Applications

 Thursday, April 11 –  10:10am-11:00am 

Applying to your first faculty position? Looking for industry positions? Perhaps you should consider how you present yourself via your job application. Join us as we talk about things to consider when developing your career materials, including:

  • CV & Resume Writing
  • ePortfolio Development
  • References

If you are attending the Emerging Technology for Online Learning (#et4online) conference, and you are able to share your career experience with graduate students and junior scholars, PLEASE consider donating 50 minutes of your time for one of the following roundtables. 

For graduate students attending #et4online, please consider attending at least one of these Career Forum Roundtables to ask questions and seek out career advice. Do you have questions or things you want to learn from this? Let me know.

SIGN UP HERE!