How to: Conduct expert interviews correctly

November 2023 | Christina Jacob
last updated on 08. November 2023

Perhaps you are about to write your Bachelor's thesis or even your Master's thesis and would like to work with so-called expert interviews as part of qualitative research. Using expert interviews, you can specifically ask experts about theirknowledge on a certain topic and thus contribute to answering your research question, also known as empirical work.
The interviews may present you with a new challenge, but if you keep a few things in mind, conducting and evaluating expert interviews is not a problem.

1. closed vs. open interviews

In closed expert interviews, specific questions with predefined answer options are asked: Yes/No, multiple choice or evaluation questions. You can use this type of interview to collect quantitative data on a specific topic. The structure of these questions makes it easier to compare the answers of different interviewees and to analyze the data more effectively. Closed interviews provide more specific answers or data, but may not provide as much insight into a topic as open interviews. 
Open-ended interviews are conducted with objectively formulated, non-judgmental questions with the aim of finding out as much as possible about the interviewee's expert knowledge.

2. creation of a questionnaire

The fact that you as an interviewer "only" ask questions and get the answers from an expert does not mean that you should not be familiar with the topic. On the contrary, the more you familiarize yourself with the topic in advance, the more precise the questions you can ask and the more flexible you will be when it comes to asking follow-up questions in order to get the answers you need for your research. Prepare yourself well by drawing up a list of questions.

Tip:Divide the questions into different thematic blocks and formulate main questions that cover the knowledge requirements for your research topic, as well as sub-questions that you can use to fill in any gaps.

3. find and contact the right expert

An expert is anyone who has the relevant expertise for your research topic. Regardless of their professional position or academic degrees, this can be anyone who has specialized knowledge on the topic, e.g. a climate activist, a competitive athlete or even an office worker in a specific field. Explain to your potential interview partner exactly what you intend to do, what the topic of your research is and why their expert knowledge is important to you. However, do not pass on your questions in advance, because then the spontaneity of an interview situation will be lost. Get the other person's permission to record the interview, possibly even in writing.

4. conducting the interview

In agreement with your interview partner, choose a meeting place for the interview where you can be as undisturbed as possible and concentrate well on the questions. 
During the interview, use the guidelines you created in advance as a guide. You will now be grateful for a good outline, as you can use the structure to go through the various topic blocks and deviate if necessary - or if it arises during the interview - without losing the overview. Of course, you are flexible within the guidelines and can steer the course of the interview. If it is an open interview, you can also ask your interviewee at the end if they would like to add anything else.

5. transcription and evaluation

Once you have the interview in the can, the theoretical part of the work begins. First of all, the audio recording has to be converted into text, which can take a lot of time if there are several interviews, which you actually need for the evaluation. 
Tip: To save yourself hours of tedious typing, use transcription software such as GoSpeech. You will receive your text within a few minutes, the AI-based software recognizes different speakers and has an excellent recognition rate
Once you have your finished transcript, you can analyze the interview using the method best suited to your research objective (e.g. qualitative content analysis or statistical analysis).

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