The Interview Write-Up: Guidelines

The Interview Write-Up: Guidelines

Who and What

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  • The interview is a two-step process: (1) conducting the interview with the subject/interviewee and (2) writing up the interview into a well-structured paper.
  • You are encouraged to, but not required, to connect your interview with your field site. For instance, if your field site is a homeless shelter, you may choose to begin your work by interviewing a staff member or a guest there. However, you may choose to interview someone unrelated to your eventual field site.

Purpose and Research Question

  • The interview should have a clear sense of purpose guided by overarching question(s).
  • For instance, I might interview a professor or student who was on a given university campus during the 1980s during the movement to divest from apartheid South Africa. My overarching question would be: What happened during the divestment movement? My related interview questions would be: Who was involved in the divestment movement? Was the movement done in solidarity with or independent from activists in South Africa? Was the movement in dialogue with activists from other schools? What actions, strategies, and tactics did they take? Etc.

Interview Questions

  • The interview will be a blend of prepared questions and spontaneous ones. It’s essential to bring questions into the interview in order to accomplish your research purpose, yet it’s also essential to be open and spontaneous to hear unexpected things during your interview and respond to them.
  • Interview questions will be a strategic blend of closed questions (such as yes/no questions) and open-ended ones (such as “What happened during…?” Or “How did you feel about…?” Note that the questions can ask for both objective (what happened?) and subjective (how did you feel/interpret?) questions. Take notes or, if it’s all right with your interviewee, record the interview and transcribe it later.
  • The substance of the interview will include both the interviewee’s answers to the questions and your observations on other details: What was the physical context of the interview? (Location, room, relevant details about location.) How would you describe the interviewee’s body language, etc.? Take notes/record: these additional observations will provide context for the question-and-answer material of your paper, bringing the interview to life for the reader.

Length/Number of Questions

  • Make the questions thorough! The write-up should be at least 750 words.
  • No fewer than five major questions.

Structure and Organization

  • Use examples from the textbook that we read in class as inspiration for how to structure and write the interview. For example, pp. 244-48, “An Anthropologist on Mars.”
  • However, you may prefer a more formal structure. For instance, the interview might announce its research question and purpose at the beginning, detail the interview in the body of the paper, and say why it’s significant or important in conclusion, returning to the research question in the end.
  • The interview should not be a list of questions and answers but should (a) tell a story or (b) make an “argument” or a series of points about what the interviewee was saying.
  • The interview write-up should be a blend of the interviewee’s words and the context and description that you supply in your own writing.

Due date

  • Write a rough draft of the interview write-up by 10/10
  • Final draft of interview write-up due by 10/15


  • Clear and concise
  • Use of “I” is appropriate, but I recommend you place yourself in the background and the interviewee/subject in the foreground. Their feelings about the interview are more important than yours.
  • Avoid jargon (specialized, technical language), or, when it’s unavoidable, define it.

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