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Practicing interview skills

Keywords: qualitative data; understanding the user; interview.

Aims and Rationale

The aim of this activity is for the students to apply and build on learning opportunities met during the Data gathering lecture.  Enhanced interview skills are useful for better understanding a user’s relationship with technology and, more generally, her/his culture.  Asking good questions requires training and practice, and the information retrieved through effective interviewing is invaluable for the design process.

Learning Outcomes and Associated Areas of Knowledge

Identify a real-world context for researching ICH

Evaluate the best way to ask effective questions and engage with interviewees

Illustrate the different uses for qualitative data around ICH

21st Century skills

  • Scientific Literacy
  • Research Skills and Practices

How to

Set up mock interviews to review the students’ prior learning and offer an authentic experience of data collection skill application. In preparation for this session, identify an interviewer volunteer who is asked in advance to prepare a list of questions related to a broad research question (RQ) linked to ICH. The RQ is the ultimate investigative goal that leads to findings about the ICH of a community. The RQ being addressed should be simple (i.e., “What are the food habits of the community?”) so that it is easier to advise on the quality of the questions asked. To begin the session, ask for a volunteer who is happy to be interviewed about this topic. The rest of the students can participate by suggesting unasked questions or comment on the style of the interviewer. The roles can change in relation to the number of students in the cohort and those who subsequently volunteer to be interviewer and interviewee.


Let the students with the strongest social sciences background lead the interview processes. During the mock interview, however, inexperienced students facilitate the job of educators in pointing out the more common mistakes. Inexperienced students may tend to ask direct, closed or more personalised questions that don’t link well to the chosen research question. Direct questions such as “What are your food habits?” might lead to poorer answers than asking more indirect questions such as “What are the culinary traditions of your region during festivities?”. Besides, closed questions such as “Do you usually eat this food?” are likely to foster “yes” or “no” answers that miss out of rich information about the historical culinary traditions and the ways in which these are transmitted and safeguarded within a community.

In our experience, students tended to ask questions about the preferences of the interviewee by the use of questions such as “What do you usually eat at lunch?”. In doing so, they overlooked that the interviewee may have an allergy or preferences that are fundamentally different from the food habits in the region. These questions will mostly likely lead to a misrepresentation of the ultimate investigative goal of exploring the food habits of a community, which may differ from the ones of a single individual. It is important that the students are careful with what information they are collecting exactly.

Assessment for Learning

This activity will allow students to demonstrate prior learning about the role of qualitative research in ICH as well as experience and experiment with the real-world application of a specific research method when applied to ICH. The activity in itself is designed as an iterative assessment for learning experience so that the questions asked by students are evaluated and improved and built upon in relation to the effectiveness of the replies by the interviewee ‘in the moment’.

Assessment 'How to'

As you facilitate the activity, listen closely and actively to ensure that the questions asked by the students are easy, simple, and short, with no jargon. It is also important to highlight any mismatch between what is asked and the general research question to answer which means all the interview questions need to be specific enough to link to the research question somehow.

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Download Word File of activity in English
Student Assignment Editable Word File


  • Ensure the semantic correspondence between the questions asked and the research question.