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Conducting the Information Interview

Module 6: Preparing the Report

2 people completing an information interview

Stage 6: Preparing the Report.

This step is much easier if you've: (1) organized your notes from Stage 2, Researching the Topic, (2) taken careful notes when conducting your interviews, and (3) completed a post-interview assessment for each interview.

In the post-interview assessment your objective is to evaluate the information you obtained in the interview. Ask yourself:

  • Does the information I gathered fit with my interview's purpose?
  • Do I have all the information I need to write my report?
  • Is this information appropriate for my audience?
  • How accurate is the information I obtained from the interview?
  • What information is factual or verifiable? What information involves the interviewee's inferences? (Go to "Fact, Observation & Inference" for more information on the differences between facts and inferences.)

After completing your post-interview assessment, sift through all the information you've gathered in your interview(s) and other research to determine what information to include in your report and what information to leave out. Here, it's useful to return to the project's purpose project and identify: (1) what information you must include, (2) what information you'd like to include, and (3) what information is tangential to your purpose.

Keep in mind that preparing a report based on information interviews is not just about you. You must consider your interviewees' goals, objectives, needs, and feelings as well. Making decisions about what to include and what not to include in your report requires solid ethical grounding on your part. How you frame an interviewee's remarks or how you place an interviewee's quote can greatly influence how others interpret that information and how they perceive the interviewee. Preparing your report involves analysis, assessment, evaluation, and synthesis as you create a coherent story based on your interviews and other research. You have an ethical responsibility to treat your interviewees with respect and fairness.

Three basic ethical principles should guide you in all stages of the interview:

  1. The interviewer/researcher should not purposefully deceive interviewees.
  2. The interviewer/researcher should not intentionally harm interviewees or the organizations or groups interviewees may represent.
  3. The interviewer/researcher should treat all interviewees justly and equitably.

Applying these three principles to construct the report, the ethical researcher:

  • uses information gathered in interviews accurately and fairly.
  • applies critical thinking skills in evaluating, weighing, and sorting through information.
  • does not distort or misrepresent interview or any other information.
  • does not use quotes out of context or only select words to support a particular position or personal agenda.

If you think of the information interview as a partnership or collaboration, preparing the report in an ethical manner will be easier. Researchers have a great deal of power in reporting on what others have said. That is why you must prepare your report carefully, respecting the time and energy interviewees are willing to expend to provide you with the information you need.

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