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Interviewing can be stressful, especially if you have to turn the results into a compelling essay or article. It is important to stay focused and alert so you understand everything your subject communicates. Once the interview is complete, writing the paper will be easier if you paid full attention and took detailed notes. Knowing which cues to listen for during your interview and how to use your notes in your writing can help you write a successful essay.
Conduct the Interview
Prepare for your interview by formulating the right questions to extract the most important information from your source. Write a list of questions to help guide you through your discussion, include typical journalistic questions like who, what, when, where, why and how. Try asking the interviewee what they feel worked well with their project or endeavor and what they would change if they could. If interesting or controversial, this can provide a hook you can use at the opening of your essay.
Conduct your interview. Be friendly and inviting to help your source feel comfortable talking to you and make sure he knows that you are interested in what he has to say. If you begin to go in a direction that you feel will not be helpful to your story, gently guide the source back on track. You also may want to repeat what your source tells you to ensure that you have your facts written down correctly.
Before you finish the interview, have your notes or recording in order. Ask the source if you can call or visit her again for follow-up questions.
Write the Interview Essay
Write down your thoughts from the interview while the conversation is fresh to ensure that you include not only the vital facts but also any nuances or important details. Don't worry about writing the story or essay at this point -- essay editing comes later in the process.
Organize your story. Reread your notes or listen to your tape again. Include the intention for the interview in your first paragraph, or lead, which should be short and to the point. Make a quick outline or list that includes the points you want to add to your essay. Then, revise to include this additional information.
Refine and create the essay. Now is when you make your interview essay "pretty." Read what you've written so far and begin to polish the story. Be sure you can understand what the source said and include quotes and attribute them to the source. Also, try to use different language when referring to the source. Instead of constantly using "said Mr. Jones," try other verbs, such as commented or reported.
Have someone else read your essay. Ask your proofreader to look for typos and grammatical errors along with the content. If you've never written an interview essay, ask the reviewer to consider the format and style, too.
Keep the source on track during your talk, but don't worry if one question leads to another and you divert from your list.
Be approachable and make sure your source is comfortable talking with you.
Write your story and rewrite your story. Hone the interview so it represents what you discussed.
Gina Ragusa has made a career out of writing for the past 15 years, with an emphasis on financial institution writing. Ragusa has written for Consumer Lending News, Deposit and Loan Growth Strategies and Community Bank President. She earned her Bachelor of Arts from Michigan State University.