17 November 2010

Interview Questions

I've just been revising my group's interview questions so that I can send them to Norbu and I realized that I wrote really awful ones!  My questions were good avenues for inquiry based research but not something I would pose to Norbu.  

I've learned from my Skype conversations that I must be careful when speaking to Norbu.  He is not a native English speaking college student like me and my peers.  We are dealing with language barriers and cultural barriers.  Mike put up a great post about cross cultural communication addressing this issue.  As I read through and simplified our questions, I realized that we have some basic themes that will be the core of our interview.  Here are the 21 revised questions that I've sent to Norbu for review:

Tell us about yourself.  What is your name and what do you do for work?
Tell us about the Tibetan culture. What is it?
How long have Tibetans been in India? 
How have computers and the Internet changed your culture?  Do they create problems?
How do students learn in your community?  How do they learn with computers? 
How has the computer changed the way students learn? 
Are books or computers better for teaching students?
What do you think about your native land, Tibet?
How do you use your computer? 
How do you use your computer to talk with other Tibetans?
Do you use your computer every day? 
Do students use computers every day?
Do teachers use computers or electronic tools in their classrooms?
How many Tibetans have computers?  How many of those computers are connected to the internet?
How do you think your experience in India would be different without computers?
Why are computers important to you? 
How can computers help Tibetans?
If you could tell the world one thing about the Tibetan people, what would you say?

Will these questions transcend the barriers?  What other revisions and questions would be particularly effective?


  1. 2:12 am! Aiyoo!

    Some good questions here. In general, I think you'll want to be aware of questions that are closed-ended (that could be answered with a yes/no answer) or that are too open-ended, meaning that it's not clear for the interviewee what information you're trying to get at. And Mike brings up an important concern: even when not crossing cultures and languages specific words can be understood in very different ways.

    How to deal with it all? Mainly I think you should try to be ready with a follow-up question if your interviewee is not very talkative or starts taking things in a different direction than you intended.

    Aside from that, a lot of interview challenges are going to be very specific to the people you're talking to, and figuring out which questions about your subject matter are most effective with Tibetans in McLeod will be a process of trial and error. Which is why it's so good to be interviewing before you even go to the field yourself. Make sure, among everything else you're doing with this interview, that you're able to take note of which questions end up working out or not working out for for you. I don't know if you've settled on the live or prerecorded interview for your class presentation, but having it recorded will be valuable in either case for the purpose of evaluating and improving on your interview technique.

    Last thing (sorry for being so long here): establishing rapport is a big part of interviewing. I think you'll want to spend a decent amount of time at the beginning of your interview on the "tell us about yourself" question and follow-up questions. Then be willing to tell about yourselves, too! Especially when you're not meeting face-to-face, and your interviewee is already a little nervous about the interview, you'll want to make sure you all feel comfortable talking with each other before launching into hardcore research questions.

  2. Jay, you're great. Thanks so much for your input. I really appreciate your expertise