When conducting an interview or focus group, there’s a sequence of events that should take place to ensure participants are comfortable and you are prepared. Here’s a suggested process/checklist for interviews:


  • 1-day out reminder email
  • Schedule pre-sync w/team
  • Schedule post-debrief w/team
  • Video recorder — charged & ready
  • Audio recorder — charged & ready
  • Informed consent of recording form
  • Notebooks, pens ready
  • Compensation ready for end-of-visit

During Visit

Primary Interviewer: introduce team, study domain, and format. Obtain consent for recording, guide the session discussion, and compensate participant.

Observer(s) (not always applicable): begin audio/video recording, take notes on key ideas & areas for follow-up, help PI cover key themes & topics, ask questions.

  • Introduce team (yourself) & purpose
  • Set expectations for duration of the interview
  • Coordinate signing and distribution of consent forms
  • Begin recording
  • Conduct interview
  • End recordings
  • Pay participant
  • Take forms / activities sheets / gear
  • Thanks!


  • Immediate 5-min stand-up impressions discussion
  • Offload data to appropriate folders/devices
  • Meet for a larger debrief
  • Send participant thank-you note

While your interview may not need all of these steps, consider this framework before you conduct interviews (especially the thank you part!).

Follow Through

Participants are giving you their time. Be an interested and active listener, even if you know the answers already or the content is not new to you.


If a participant answers a question you haven’t asked yet, don’t re-ask the question because the participant may think you weren’t listening. When you arrive at the question, politely mention how you were going to ask it, but that the participant had already answered it. When this happens, it is appropriate to ask if they had anything to add to their previous answer. For example:

“My next question is about the type of pen you prefer, but you already mentioned it was a ballpoint pen. Would you like to share any more about your pen preferences?”

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Dennis Cheatham

Associate Professor, Communication Design

Miami University

Updated: December 9, 2021 12:10 pm
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