Introduction to Interviews

Interviews, while seemingly self explanatory, are difficult to define as a genre. In Michele Koven’s “Interviewing: Practice, Ideology, Genre, and Intertextuality,” he defines interviewing as “a cluster of communicative practices used to produce and circulate various types of authoritative and consequential knowledge about groups and individuals.” His paper explores the what constitutes an interview and how to define it — a method, an object of analysis, a speech event, a reflection of mental contents, a reflection of authentic selves. Societal interview norms are full of variance, making interviews a more convoluted genre than simply asking and answering questions.

Paata Natsvlishvili’s paper entitled “The Genesis of Interview as a Genre” is slightly less abstract, outlining the pieces of a journalistic interview. She asserts that interviews reflect reality, are presented in the form of questions and answers, in which the interviewee is a source of information while the interviewer is the disseminator of this information. She includes that the “interview-as-genre must pertain to something topical and interesting for general audience… it implies readership, listenership or viewership.”

Sharlene Nagy Hesse-Biber explains “The Practice of Feminist In-Depth Interviewing” in a piece that includes what she defines as an “unstructured interview” with a fitness trainer. The interview opens with a description of the interviewee and the interviewer’s relationship to her, then takes on a traditional question-answer format. She then explains that the best method of interviewing comes a minimum of control over the interview wherein the interviewer allows the interviewee to explore topics they want to talk about but the interviewer keeps the overall topic in mind. Unstructured interviewing is based in open-ended questions, allowing the interviewee more freedom in their responses. She also includes different methods of “probing” to encourage the interviewee to reveal more.

I think unstructured interviewing will be the perfect final experiment for my project. After exploring researching the “high maintenance” stereotype and unpacking my own experiences, I think collecting the stories of other women (and potentially men) will give me more insight into this issue. Unstructured interviewing seems to be the best course of action because I want to give my interviewees as much freedom as possible to tell their stories and focus on what they deem important. Most of my experience with interviewing is from a strictly journalistic standpoint, so I’m excited to take a more personalized approach to this genre.

When your plans have to change

One thing we discussed in class today was the circumstances under which your plans for the project have to change. For me, this change of plans arose with a set of interviews I had intended to conduct as part of my research about people’s attitudes about gender and gender roles. However, after finishing my psychology and history research, I realized that these interviews would be redundant and unnecessary in this section of my project; the larger studies cover the information that these interviews would produce, but on a much larger and more reliable level. In addition, it was noted in workshop that the project focuses too much on me personally, and that some distance would make the project more interesting and engaging. As a result, I decided to cut the interviews out for now.

However, interviews can provide things that research cannot, such as nuance and the ability to interact with or contradict the research. Hopefully the interviews will ultimately be able to provide this, but in a different section of the project. In Ray’s words, I’m hoping this change of plans has a transformative effect, rather than an eliminatory effect.

Writing Tests

Interviews are nerve-wracking enough as is. Add in a two- hour-long writing test, and the pressure is on. I’ve recently been interviewing for summer internships and jobs and have had to bring my A game, not only in communicating but also in writing. Good thing I’m a comm major and a writing minor!

The writing tests I’ve received through email haven’t been so bad. They are similar to short answer portions of exams and have required me to research, write, and share new ideas. It was my most recent writing test that really tested my skills. After being interviewed by three different people and showing off some of my published work, I was brought to a computer and shown a nine-page online writing test with a two-hour time limit printed on the screen. I was allowed to use the Internet to help me and was told I could get out my AP stylebook if I brought it. Note to self: always bring your AP stylebook, and if you don’t own one, go buy one.

The writing test started out with three multiple choice questions followed by a free response portion, an editing section, a research portion, and then a writing press release section. It was overwhelming to say the least. Not to mention I had a bad cold and could barely breathe throughout the test. I read through the directions and immediately got to work. Even with Google as a lifeline, I could not figure out one of the multiple choice questions: the deadline for the business section of a newspaper. I felt like I was in a time crunch as I did whatever I could to show off my best work. All I can say is I’m glad it’s over with. I’ll be sure to research AP style better before my next writing test!