As I posted yesterday, one of the big advantages of living in a national capital is having much better access to all kinds of interesting people. Which means: more interviews! Woot! But alas, with interviews comes ... transcription. Yes, I am posting about transcribing interview notes because I don't want to transcribe my interview notes. No, I didn't record the conversation so I cannot use some kind of handy tool. Also, my handwriting is not good.
This along a student question and a podcast I am listening to today with Zach Lowe of Grantland chatting with Howard Beck, a bleacher report reporter, on his interviews with Lebron and Melo, has me thinking about interviewing.
I have no formal interview training. It would have been handy. Good thing there are now far more opportunities to get such training either during summer qualitative methods programs or pre-conference short courses. But few opportunities back in the day. So, as with my quant skilz, I learned via practice. The irredentism book was my first effort at such interviews, and I could not really ask the Hungarians "hey, how did you decide on the optimal level of obnoxiousness when it comes to statements and policies towards the kin abroad?" The NATO book was far more based on interviews since the stuff we were looking into was quite current and not well documented.
Grad students and junior folks have asked me about how I go about interviewing, and the quick and dirty answer is: not very organized, not very disciplined. For some interviews, I have a set list of questions, especially when time is finite and I am asking the same folks the same kinds of questions (for instance, meeting members of the defense committee in a country over the course of a week). Sometimes, I don't, and hope that the conversation will go where it needs to go. This is especially the case at the beginning, such as when I am going to the embassy officials in Ottawa before I go to country x. Those conversations are mostly about getting my bearings and getting contacts down range (ah, the military has shaped my language forever).
The one thing I have learned? To be generous with my list of contacts since I have had to rely on the generosity of others when I need their contacts.
Oh, and this kind of post over and over again.