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Prompts, Not Questions: Four Techniques for Crafting Better Interview Protocols

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Abstract

We offer effective ways to write interview protocol “prompts” that are generative of the most critical types of information researchers wish to learn from interview respondents: salience of events, attributes, and experiences; the structure of what is normal; perceptions of cause and effect; and views about sensitive topics. We offer tips for writing and putting into practice protocol prompts that we have found to be effective at obtaining each of these kinds of information. In doing so, we encourage researchers to think of an interview protocol as a series of prompts, rather than a list of questions, for respondents to talk about certain topics related to the main research question(s). We provide illustrative examples from our own research and that of our students and professional colleagues to show how generally minor tweaks to typical interview prompts result in richer interview data.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank our colleagues who supported this work and provided examples from their research: Emily Carian, Molly King, Tagart Sobotka, and Chloe Hart. Special thanks to Forrest Stuart for his input on several drafts. We would also like to thank the participants of the Migration, Ethnicity, Race and Nation workshop at Stanford for their comments on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Tomás R. Jiménez.

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Jiménez, T.R., Orozco, M. Prompts, Not Questions: Four Techniques for Crafting Better Interview Protocols. Qual Sociol 44, 507–528 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11133-021-09483-2

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