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How to Incorporate Interview Data

How to Incorporate Interview Data

This article was prepared by the experts from to help you use interview data properly, incorporating it into your writing. There are many nuances you should pay your attention to, so let’s consider working with interview data in more detail.


When working with interview data, you can use quotations and access different sources to develop new ideas. Interviews can improve your writing, allowing you to illustrate complex concepts using real-life examples and personal experiences. Interviews also allow you to expand the audience for people who wouldn’t otherwise have a platform to share their thoughts and experience.

There are many reasons why you should use original interview data in your writing. However, the use of interview data involves many challenges and requires you to make the right decisions. In this article, we will consider working with interview data and provide you with proven methods, explaining how to work with information from different sources under different circumstances.


Before you start to write your paper, you need to plan and conduct interviews. You will also have to analyze them.

Interviewing is a very popular method of research which allows for collecting different types of data in various fields. To plan your interviews properly, you need to define your questions, people who will answer them, and the topic. We also recommend that you ask your mentor or instructor for advice so that you can understand how to approach an interview for a particular assignment, taking into account the features of your discipline. There are also many undergraduate textbooks that focus on research in the humanities and social sciences, providing some valuable information about interviewing. You can check out a few of such sources below.

To learn more about research methods that involve the use of interviews, we recommend that you read the following books:

  • Jackie Grutsch McKinney, Strategies for Writing Center Research
    This book mostly focuses on research writing. However, it also considers interviews and provides some useful tips on how to plan and conduct them. There is also chapter 8 devoted to data analysis and a step-by-step guide that will help you code qualitative data. It is a good approach that allows you to better understand your interview data.
  • Joyce Kinkead, Researching Writing: An Introduction to Research Methods
    It can be used as a textbook if you want to learn formal writing. There is a lot of specific information that will be appreciated by social science researchers who conduct interviews.

The following resources focus specifically on the methods of qualitative research, as well as interviewing.

  • Robert Bogdan and Sari Knopp Biklen, Qualitative Research for Education: An Introduction to Theories and Methods
    The authors provide a general overview of popular and proven interview practices. This book will help you approach your interviews in an effective way so that you can use the right methods.
  • Irving Seidman, Interviewing as Qualitative Research: A Guide for Researchers in Education and the Social Sciences
    The whole book provides lots of information about interview practices and applications. Chapter 6 considers particular techniques in detail, providing examples and explaining how to use different methods of writing.

In the rest of the article, we assume that you already know how to plan your interview. You need to analyze the available information and then incorporate it into your writing.

Methods of Incorporating Interview Data

You can approach the interview data differently. Most often, the goal is to make an analytical or argumentative point while supporting it with evidence that you’ve got from your interviews. As an example, we decided to consider a passage from Paul D. Hutchcroft’s Booty Capitalism: The Politics of Banking in the Philippines. The author makes a claim, then provides a quotation from an interview, supporting this claim, and then comments on this issue. The quotation from the interview allows the author to connect the concepts of politics and banking, while also using a metaphor.

  • The author explains that his book considers the relationship between oligarchy and state in the banking system. This claim is followed by a quotation from a former bank president, who says that this issue is crucial if one wants to understand the banking system in the Philippines. In the next sentence, Hutchcroft refers to a study of the banking system, explaining that an oligarchy uses the political system to undermine developmental policy efforts.

Generalizing: Themes and Trends

The main purpose of using interview data in your writing is to support your claims. The way you should approach interview data depends on your specific objectives. In the section below, we consider different methods of incorporating such data into your writing and provide some useful examples.

  • It’s important to take into consideration the politicization of the nationality responses. Most republican executives try to avoid influencing the process, and the issue of nationality is not so problematic in the regions mostly populated by ethnic Russians. According to original interviews, there are no difficulties associated with the nationality question. According to the officials, respondents who were not ethnically Russian easily cited a different nationality. Such findings correspond to the enumeration process in Moscow. There were cases of people in ethnically mixed marriages registering their child as of one parent’s nationality. Nevertheless, this problem is rather conceptual than political.

Illustrating a Theme or Trend

Quite often, different interviewees say similar things, which allows you to highlight these similarities and put them together to draw certain conclusions. In the following segment, we are going to consider Jane Calvert and Joan Fujimura’s work where they address scientists’ response to developing fields of biology. The authors use parenthetical citations for anonymous interviewees.

  • In one of the US universities, funding administrators initiated building a research center. This decision was initially opposed by the majority of campus laboratory scientists. To illustrate how challenging such a task can be when the goal is to create an interdisciplinary center, the authors provide a list of short quotes from five biologists in one sentence, describing the problem in their words.

Combining Two Sources

You can use one interview to explain or to complicate another interview. In the next paragraph, we consider the way Hutchcroft uses this method in Booty Capitalism. The author uses insights from interviews in his analysis. The former governor’s laughter allows the author to perfectly illustrate the difference in attitude between the government officials and the former bank supervisor that he’s cited before.

  • The author notes that former bank owners use their personal connections, even in the Supreme Court, to counteract Central Bank’s efforts aimed towards solving common problems in the banking sector. Then the author cites Jaime Laya, a former Governor, who said that even martial law didn’t prevent lawsuits against the personnel of Central Bank. The author also notes that Laya laughed when remembering that Central Bank has never won a case. After this, the author quotes a former head of the bank supervision sector who doesn’t see anything funny about the regulators going to jail.

Telling a Story and Providing a Profile

Quite often, you might need to provide information on an individual’s background and experience to better analyze an issue. We recommend that you combine the information that you’ve learned from the interview with direct quotations from this individual. This method is especially important when dealing with ethnographic case studies. In the following segment, we will consider Kate Vieira’s story about a Brazilian illegal immigrant living in Massachusetts.

  • The author introduces Jocélia, a 22-year-old woman from Brazil who came to the U.S. as a student. However, when she ran out of money, she quit her ESL classes and started to work illegally. When the author met Jocélia, she has already managed to buy a house in Brazil for her mother and was going to purchase a car. The woman had two jobs working from 3 PM to midnight and from 5 AM to afternoon. Once she was so exhausted that she fell asleep at the wheel and caused a serious accident. After explaining Jocélia’s background, the author provides her direct quote, where she recalls how young and happy she was when she came to the U.S. and says that, only in a Catholic retreat, she realized that she cannot work all the time, sacrificing her health.

Working on Language

Sometimes, you may analyze an individual’s language, including the word choice and pauses. In the following segment, we will consider Beth Godbee’s work devoted to her subject’s phrasing and words. Goodbee analyzed a conversation between a writing center tutor Kim and a writer Susan.

  • Godbee provides Kim’s quote, where Kim describes Susan as a “specialist” in the future case, using the phrase “you’re gonna…” and then changing it to “you’re the specialist.” This way, Kim underlines Susan’s current position that determines her right to speak.

Paraphrasing, Quoting, or Summarizing

Interview data can be incorporated into your writing using direct quotations, paraphrases, or summaries. On the one hand, being able to choose from among these three options makes it easier to work with interviews. On the other hand, it may be difficult to decide what exactly you should use: a quote, summary, or a paraphrased passage. To answer this question, we recommend that you determine what is most important about this information.

  • When dealing with a particular opinion on a complex issue, paraphrasing this opinion in your own words can help your readers better understand it.
  • If the information provides a general perspective, then a summary might be the best choice.
  • If your goal is to demonstrate the authenticity and specificity of the language, we recommend that you go with a quote. However, don’t forget that quotes often require you to provide the necessary commentary and background information.

Obviously, when working with interviews, you might use all the three options, depending on the context and your goals. For example, you may start with a quick summary that provides an overall understanding of the issue, then paraphrase some key ideas, and then provide a quotation that will exemplify your argument.

Referring to the Interviewees

Sometimes, you might be expected to identify your interviewees using their real names. You may need to do it when dealing with journalistic writing or when consulting with an expert. However, even if you need to use real names of your interviewees, you have to get their permission first. We recommend that you clarify this issue even before you start an interview.

When working on interviews for academic research, writers often use pseudonyms to maintain confidentiality. You are responsible for protecting your subject’s privacy, because these people share their personal experiences and insights with you. The best way to honor their trust is to anonymize their identities. The Internal Review Board (IRB) focuses on developing a research methodology that keeps interview data confidential. Therefore, if you want to get permission to conduct your research, you have to explain how you’re going to achieve confidentiality. For instance, you might choose different names for your subjects or come up with pseudonyms.

Pseudonym selection was closely considered by Social and Community Health scholars Janine L. Wiles and Ruth Allen. They say that researchers should approach this process critically and discuss confidentiality and identity with their subjects. You should think of what aspects of your interviewee’s identity you can communicate through a certain pseudonym. When choosing pseudonyms, we recommend that you answer the following questions:

  • Who does choose a pseudonym? How are you going to address this issue with the participants?
  • Does the context of your writing require you to specify an individual’s ethnicity or gender? Should these identity markers correspond to the participant’s actual identity?
  • Is it important to use the first name and do you need to include the last name, as well?
  • Do you need to create pseudonyms for other participants or organizations mentioned in your materials? Who should make such choices?

The answers to these questions depend on the context of your research. For example, if your participant is talking about a small organization that you want to draw attention to, you may refer to this organization by its real name, even if it will make it harder for you to disguise the identity of your interviewee. On the other hand, if a participant criticizes a big corporation where they work, you might use a pseudonym for the company to protect this individual.

Verbatim VS Non-Verbatim

When conducting an interview of your main goal is to engage people in a focused conversation. However, when we talk, we often say “like,” “ah,” “um,” etc. We might interrupt ourselves and have some incomplete thoughts. Writing is much more coherent and direct than conversation. Therefore, when presenting other people’s words, you need to choose whether you will use a so-called “verbatim transcription” or “non-verbatim transcription.”

Verbatim transcriptions imply providing an interviewee’s exact words, without changing anything. You include all the grammatical mistakes, filler words, and false starts. In this case, you might also include laughs and coughs, as well. Most scholars consider verbatim transcriptions the most accurate depiction of the interview process. However, Blake Poland noted that the emotional context cannot be fully captured on a record because there is also a non-verbal element of communication. Non-verbatim transcriptions are aimed to provide only the meaningful parts of the conversation. In this case, you should eliminate filler words and other inconsistencies, focusing on the substance of a quote.

To understand whether you should use verbatim or non-verbatim transcriptions, think of the primary intention of your writing. Both approaches have certain benefits. For example, verbatim transcriptions allow you to better illustrate the thought process so that your readers can see how a participant develops their ideas. Self-corrections and pauses show the thought process in real time, providing certain insights into your interviewee’s personality. Verbatim transcripts can also be quite useful for conversation analysis and linguistic research. Nevertheless, non-verbatim transcriptions are easier to read and more informative. No matter what approach you choose, we recommend that you stick with it consistently throughout the whole interview. We also recommend that you clarify this issue before writing your paper and make sure that you use an appropriate type of transcription.

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