How To Interview a Source

Interviewing a source is more than a method to gain information. It is a way of relating to another person meaningfully.  Here is how to interview a source that is both pleasant and productive:

  1. Know as much as you can about your source.  This may not mean that you find out what his favorite food is or the names of his pets, unless you need to know these details.  Knowing information about your source that relates with the topics you want to discuss makes it easier for him to open up to you more.  By knowing his character, viewpoints and attitudes, you could interact with him more appropriately.
  2. Prepare your questions.  Know what you need to know and write down effective questions.  Effective questioning is asking questions that elicit the information that you need to know.  Avoid asking questions that can be answered by a single response such as yes, no, or I don't know because these will prevent the flow of information.  Ask many questions to cover your topic adequately but avoid unnecessary questions.
  3. If you are doing the interview with other people, compare your list of questions and make sure that you don't ask the same questions repeatedly.  However, other interviewers could ask a question, which is similar to the question you already asked but which deals with a different part, aspect, level or view of the same topic.
  4. Call your source for an appointment.  Ask for when and where it would be most convenient for the source to be interviewed.  Make sure that you have got a definite time and location and inform other interviewers.  Also, say for how long the interview may last to help you and your source adjust schedules accordingly.
  5. Prepare your supplies before the interview.   Put these in bags so that they are ready for carrying when the time of the interview comes.
  6. Arrive on time.  Make sure that you show up early but not too early because this may interfere with other activities that occur in your meeting place and also mean that you have nothing else to do.  Just show up at the place to prepare your equipment and review your questions.
  7. Politely introduce yourself to the source.  Explain the purpose of your interview and answer any questions he may have.  If you are planning to record your conversation, ask for permission first.
  8. Listen attentively and ask follow up questions.  The source may mention information, which may be unclear, important or interesting enough to require further questioning.  Take note of catchy phrases.  If the source starts to veer off topic, bring back the conversation to the main points.  Keep an open mind and avoid arguing with the source because everyone is entitled to his own opinion.  Pay attention to his behavior as well because you can learn a lot from body language.
  9. Make things light.  Treat the interview as a conversation so that you will be comfortable enough to discuss things further.
  10. After the interview, or if you have run out of things to talk about, thank your source for his time. 

Interviewing a source requires preparation, attentiveness and sensitivity.  Gaining information is easier if you treat your source as a human who is worth of respect and attention.


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