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Example 1: A sample interview

This is an example of an interview conducted by staff at the Community Tool Box. The objective of this interview, conducted by phone, was to find out what funders want when conducting an evaluation. Even though this is based on an actual interview, it's been edited and the names of the interviewer and interviewee have been omitted because they are not relevant to the example.

Interviewer: Good morning. [Greeting] I'm calling from the Community Tool Box [Identification and purpose], a website on health promotion and community development. We're writing a section on funders interests on conducting evaluations. Can you talk to me right now? [Make sure it's an appropriate time to call]

Interviewee: Sure.

Interviewer: Do you mind if I record our conversation? [Permission to record ]

Interviewee: Go ahead, by all means.

Interviewer: Thanks! First of all, what, as a funder, are your interests when you conduct an evaluation? [Straight to the point ]

Interviewee: Well, we want to change, we want to make a behavior change or community change and so we destine probably 10 to 20 percent of the overall budget to evaluation.

Interviewer: I see. [Shows interviewer is paying attention]

Interviewee: And the evaluation, of course, will be, oftentimes both qualitative and quantitative in nature. We want to see the outcomes, whatever it might be; if it's teenage pregnancy, we'd like to see reductions of teenage pregnancies. We contract with people that have expertise in that particular area to conduct the evaluation.

Interviewer: Uh-huh. And what do you do when the outcomes come to you? [Scheduled question ]

Interviewee: If it doesn't appear that the initiative is working, we clearly start losing interest in continuing the project in that manner. Oftentimes the evaluation portion of it is after the fact; the initiative is already over, for the most part. If it comes back and it looks like the initiative was successful and the outcomes were going in the direction that we anticipated, then we may do another round of that initiative.

Interviewer: Which problems do you face working with evaluators? [Scheduled question]

Interviewee: We don't seem to have much of a problem when working with evaluators, at least we don't hear a lot of problems. I mean, we have seen some problems in some evaluators when they begin the evaluation. [Interviewee trying to avoid question

Interviewer: Which kind of problems? [Probe]

Interviewee: We may get some evaluations back that are measuring process rather than outcomes, and we clearly want to see outcomes. We want to see set outcomes that are related to a particular initiative, so we specifically ask to see some of those outcomes. Now, if it comes back later through the process that those aren't occurring, then clearly there's a problem there.

Interviewer: OK. How often do you use evaluations? [Breaking down complex question] Do you only use them when needed or is this a periodic process?

Interviewee: We have an agreement that all initiatives will allow us to perform site visits, to have a third party come in, or ourselves, and audit both their financial books and how the program is going at least once a year.

Interviewer: OK. May I sum up that your main interest is change? [Leading question]

Interviewee: Yeah, of course we want to see behavior change, systems change, changes in culture centered around the health and well being of communities and individuals in communities.

Interviewer: Ok, well, thank you very much for your time. May I call you again if we need clarification in any of the points we talked about today? [Keeping door openfor further interaction]

Interviewee: Oh, sure.

Interviewer: Alright, thanks a lot. Have a good day.

Interviewee: You too.

Interviewer: Good-bye.

Example 2: Probing

A probe is a follow-up question. Its objective is to lead the interviewee to answer more fully or accurately. Here is an example of how to probe to achieve a complete and clear answer. This example was adapted from Kenneth Bailey's Methods of Social Research.

Consider the question:

What do you think are the most important problems that we have in our association today?

Possible answers:

  • "High fees." Answer is adequate but incomplete; you need more problems.
    • Probe: Pause, wait for respondent to continue. Indicating understanding saying "yes." Repeat question, emphasizing problems (plural). Say that you need more problems.
  • "Managing problems." Answer is too vague.
    • Probe: "I'm not quite sure I know what you mean. What kind of managing problems? Could you be more specific?"
  • "There are a lot of important problems."
    • Probe: "List the five most important."
  • "There are more problems than there used to be and there will be even more in the future."
    • Probe: "List the five that are the most important now."
  • "Things are getting worse all the time."
    • Probe: "List the five that are the worst at the present time."
Marcelo Vilela