Immersive interviews

In the previous blog post I had shared my experience of recruiting participants via Twitter. In this blog post I am sharing my experience of conducting online interviews via Zoom/ Microsoft Teams and the transcription process. I interviewed each participant four times, each interview was approximately one hour long. The interviews followed a timeline, beginning with early childhood and schooling experiences, followed by university and teacher education experiences, seeking employment, and teaching experiences, ending with suggestions for the future.


I planned initial meetings with the prospective participants, specifically for two reasons. One, to answer all the questions prospective participants might have and secondly to create initial rapport with participants. I think this helped because before the participant signed the consent form, it gave me the opportunity to explain what exactly participating in the study would entail, what is the time limit for withdrawing from the study, how interviews will be conducted. Initial meetings I feel are essential when data collection is online, especially when participant and researcher have never met before. It helps set the stage for official interviews, helps connect with each other informally because these weren’t recorded. It provides the opportunity for the participant to get to know you as the researcher and clarify any doubts they might have. All the initial meetings went well, and every prospective participant did agree to participate in the study, so I consider this a great win.

To be honest, I was very nervous about interviewing participants. I had conducted interviews before but somehow this felt different because they were online, and this was for my PhD. I was anxious whether I would be able to ask the right questions, use appropriate probes, not miss cues, how would participants respond to the questions, what data will the interviews generate, will it help answer my research questions? Just so many questions, I was jittery, and my heart was just racing as I waited for my first participant to arrive on Zoom.  The interview began slowly, the participant gave measured responses, which made me more nervous. I felt that because I was nervous my body language was a bit tensed and measured. But as we progressed into the interview, I could feel myself settling in which reflected in my body language. I feel in turn this helped the participant relax a bit, their responses got a bit longer, more detailed, which also helped me be at ease. They smiled and body language appeared more at ease, I say that because when the interview began, the participant was distant from the screen, more rigid, measured in their response, but after a couple of questions, they leaned closer, smiled more often, and answered at length. By the time the interview came to an end, I felt there was better rapport and ease between me the researcher and the participant.

When the interview was complete, after I had thanked the participant and set the date for the next interview, I just cannot explain the adrenaline rush I felt. It was just this huge relief mixed with euphoria of achievement. I know it was just one interview!  But that’s how I felt…the subsequent interviews were the same, especially all the first ones. Each participant was different, some were very talkative from the get-go, very animated in their responses, used many gestures, while some were reserved and measured. Some just gave me lengthy responses trying to add as much information to answer each question, needed less probes from me. While some participants needed lots of probes.  

Critical incident form

I kept a gap of a week between each interview unless participant requested otherwise. This was intentional, so that I could correct the transcript and send it to the participant for approval before the next interview. I also created Critical Incident forms online on Qualtrics. This was done so that if participants recalled any detail they had missed in the interviews and recalled specific details while reading the transcript. They could include these narratives by completing the Critical incident report online. I planned to use critical incident report because of personal experience, I often when I think back after an interview, I recollect some details I wished I could have mentioned. I felt this is a good way to not lose any important aspect of participants narrative. This was very useful, coz few participants did use this to include further details to what they had shared during interviews. I felt this strategy worked well, since couple of participants did make use of the forms


I used Otter for transcribing the interviews along with Zoom inbuilt transcription services. I had used Otter before while part of a conference organizing team and found it easy to use. 

When I read the transcript of the first interview, there were so many errors in the transcription, I listened to the recording repeatedly to correct the errors. It was tedious, and at times very irritating, but I eventually realized that because I had to listen to the interview’s multiple times rectifying transcripts, I became very familiar with the narratives. Which was beneficial in the end during analysis, because I could almost recall incident details verbatim. The transcription process at times was also hilarious, when the transcription service replaced a word, the participant has said, entirely changed the meaning at times to comic effect. For example, a participant said, “I enjoyed PE in school” which the transcription service changed to “I enjoyed PEEING in school”. Admit it was a very time-consuming process correcting the transcripts, but I did get a good laugh from time to time. It was also important for me that I share transcripts with my participant for their approval. I did this for all the interviews.

It turned out that I enjoyed interviewing, I got immersed in participant narratives. More so when I listened to the interviews repeatedly. The most intriguing part of watching the videos and listening to the interview’s multiple times, I got familiar with individual participants gestures, facial expressions, body language. I also began to gauge the ‘tells’ each participant had, like before sharing a poignant incident, some would pause, become silenct, or would fidget in the chair. Some like to mask hurt with humour or tear up. Sometimes the tone of the voice changed, sometimes participant spoke animatedly, fast at times they spoke measuredly, lots of pauses, expressions changing on the face. Interviews can be very exhausting as well, because you are on high alert wanting to observe every minute detail, trying to think of probes or the next question. At the end of every interview after the initial adrenaline rush, I also found myself exhausted. That was the reason I tried my best to schedule only one interview per day.

Another important aspect I had researched a lot before interviewing was ‘power dynamics’ within interview situations, it was important for me that participants do not feel pressured or subjected to an interrogation kind of situation. To mitigate the power dynamics, I used semi structured interviews, and maintained a free flowing format, letting the participant take lead in the flow of the interview. The questions I had prepared were used as guidelines to ensure I covered every aspect; I modified the questions according to previous response the participant gave. Thus, the interviews progressed with an easy comfortable ease. I made notes on the interview sheet, anything I felt would need my attention while analysing the data.

I feel the after interviewing my participants, listening to their experiences, watching them recall incidents, I felt deeply connected with my participants. The research for me had a new meaning, I felt more responsible towards representing my participants experiences.  I began with just wanting to collect data to answer my research question, but by the end of data collection, it became much more than just completing my study. 

In the next blog post I shall share my experience of thematically analysing the interview transcripts.

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