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How to Interview Someone for an Article or Research Paper

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If you've never interviewed someone for an article or research paper, you may not be sure where to start. While interviews may seem complicated, they can be quite easy and relaxed given the right environment and preparation. You should use the same methods whether you're interviewing someone you know well, an acquaintance or a professional you have not met before.

Call to request the interview. If your subject is not someone you know personally, state your name and publication or school. Explain the topic and the purpose of your article or paper. If the person accepts, set a date and time for the interview, allowing her to choose the location.

Research the person you are interviewing to collect as much information as you can about her background, personal and professional history and any other biographical details you can find.

Write down the questions you would like to ask, as well as tidbits you collected during your research. Knowing a little about the person you are interviewing shows her you're genuinely interested and appreciate her time.

Start the interview by introducing yourself and making a general observation such as complimenting the subject on her home. Being casual and making light conversation at the beginning of the interview helps the interviewee relax and become more comfortable.

Ask for permission to record the session. A recording is not mandatory, but it would be a helpful addition to your hand-written notes for later reference.

Ask your questions and take notes as you hear the answers. Avoid asking yes or no questions, advises Dr. Kristi Siegel of Mount Mary College. Try to keep the conversation moving at a steady pace. Russell Chandler of Right-Writing.com suggests "Tell me about...," Did you ever...," and "How did you feel when..." as some ways to start questions that will get your subject to open up. Be courteous; maintain eye contact and avoid interrupting. Thank the subject for her time when the interview is over.