Here are some basic dissertation interviewing guidelines for participants in your study:

  1. Ask qualifying questions to validate that potential interviewees meet your inclusion criteria for the study and that they are willing to participate voluntarily.
  2. Be clear on the purpose of the interview and convey that message to the interviewees. It should be the same as your Purpose of the Study statement.
  3. Let potential interviewees know what you expect of them in the study. In other words, explain the nature or subject of the interview. Triangulation is now considered standard practice when collecting interview data. Schwandt (2007), when defining triangulation, states: “This is a procedure used to establish the fact that the criterion of validity has been met.” You will want to remind participants that in addition to the actual interview they will be asked to review, approve, and return the transcript of the interview to you. This is called member check or validation (Vogt 2005).
  4. Let potential interviewees know the approximate duration time for the interview. Less that 60 minutes is best. You want to avoid fatiguing them. If more time is needed, you can schedule a follow-up session.
  5. Remind potential interviewees know that they may discontinue and withdraw from the interview at any time. This should be clearly stated in your Informed Consent form.
  6. Tell potential interviewees that their identity is confidential and that you will be the only one who will know their name. It is good to explain to them that you will assign a fictitious name and alphanumeric code to their interview recording and transcript.
  7. Ask qualifying questions to validate that potential interviewees meet your inclusion-exclusion criteria (VandenBos 2007) for the study and that they are willing to participate voluntarily. These individuals would be those, who have experienced the phenomenon or issue you are studying.
  8. Have a list of predetermined open-ended questions. These are interview questions, which form the foundation of the interviews. These should be the same ones that have been approved in your Proposal and Institutional Review Board application.
  9. Avoid “leading” the interviewees. If you make a positive or negative comment about what the interviewee has stated, this is a form of leading. This behavior will distort their responses and contribute to invalid interviews.
  10. Only interrupt interviewees to ask for clarification, additional details or information, and/or to request stories. If interviewees give you incomplete or vague responses, it is appropriate to ask for more information. You could say: Can you tell me more about that? When you say “___________,” what do you mean? You need to get their story, their perceptions, and experiences. You want their “thick descriptions.”
  11. When all predetermined questions have been asked, you can always ask whether there is additional information the interviewees would like to share that has not previously been addressed.
  12. At the end of the interview, offer a sincere “thank you.” Within a day or two, it is always polite and first-class to send each interviewee a written thank you note. Your study required their participation so your note of thanks reinforces your appreciation.

For additional reading and references, you may want to consult:

Schwandt, T.A. (2007). The Sage Dictionary of Qualitative Inquiry, (3rd ed.). Los Angeles: Sage Publications.

Seidman, I.E. (1998). Interviewing as Qualitative Research: A Guide for Researchers in Education and the Social Sciences. (2nd ed.). New York: Teachers College Press.

VandenBos, G.R. (2007). APA Dictionary of Psychology. (Ed). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Vogt, W.P. (2005). Dictionary of Statistics & Methodology: A Nontechnical Guide for the Social Sciences. (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Recommended citation for this report:

Wargo, W.G. (2014).  AIC Report #16, Dissertation Interview Guide. Menifee, CA: Academic Information Center.

For more information, please contact William Wargo, Ph.D. at or (951) 301-5557; toll-free (888) 463-6999.

Rev. 7-14


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