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Advanced Writing: Social Sciences

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Week 04: Research / Writing:
Professional Interviews

Assignments for the Week

Day 07 -- Tuesday 12 February 2002

Old Business / Announcements:


Project #2 requires that you prepare for, conduct, and report on an interview with a social science professional practicing in your field.

  1. In-class writing: "What are the problems of studying a 'foreign' culture as a social scientist?"

  2. See what reviewers and others have to say about the film Every Man for Himself and God Against All / The Mystery of Kaspar Hauser (Jeder für sich und Gott gegen alle)

  3. Brief review of interviewing
    • Ch. 41 "Conducting Research,"
      • §41h.2 "Conducting field research -- Interviewing"
      • "Useful Lists and Guidelines"
        • p. 1 "Web guides and search engines"
        • p. 2 "Tips for conducting observation" (pp. 471-472 text)
        • p. 3 "Planning an interview" (p. 473 text)
        • p. 4 "Designing a questionnaire" (pp. 474-475 text)

  4. Agreement Forms
  5. In-class developing and editing of interview schedules. Construct a draft of an interview schedule -- i.e., make up a list of relevant questions that you will ask the interviewee.

    • Avoid yes/no and fill-in-the-blank questions such as "Do you like to write? Do you write every day . . . ?"

    • Ask open-ended questions that offer room for follow-up and development. Try:

      • "Tell me about. . . ."
      • "Can you explain. . . . ?"
      • "Why do you say. . . . ?"
      • "What advice would you give. . . . ?"
      • "How would you go about. . . . ?"
      • "Can you give me an example of. . . . ?"

    • Organize your questions and know them well enough so that you do not need to read them off your list.

    • Include some questions about writing on the job.

    • Compose some questions to ask the interviewee about how you, a student, can best prepare for on-the-job writing.

    • Ask the interviewee how s/he prepared for writing on the job.

    • Make a list of things you want to know about the interviewee personally and professionally.

    • At the end ask SES (Socio-Economic-Status) questions.

  6. Practice interviewing
  • (WR05B) If you have a friend or acquaintance in another section of Comp 3160, you might look at "Appendix B -- Supplementary Unit: An Interview," in Write for the Social Sciences by Eleanor M. Hoffman (Duluth, MN: Department of Composition, University of Minnesota, Duluth, 1995), pp. 139-166. Other materials on interviewing can be obtained at the Northeast Minnesota Historical Center located in 209 Library- Annex. Project #2 in this section of Comp 3160 follows these materials closely.
  1. Continue working on your interview for Project #2 and by now you should have set up an appointment with the person you will interview.
    • Call the person(s) you will interview to confirm the day, time and place of the interview.

  2. Review Handbook assignments

    • Ch. 40 "Becoming a Researcher"
      • §40b "Scheduling a research project" (p. 439 text)

    • Ch. 41 "Conducting Research"
      • "Useful Lists and Guidelines"
        • p. 1 "Web guides and search engines"
        • p. 2 "Tips for conducting observation" (pp. 471-472 text)
        • p. 3 "Planning an interview" (p. 473 text)
        • p. 4 "Designing a questionnaire" (pp. 474-475 text)

Day 08 -- Thursday 14 February 2002
From Merriam-Webster

Old Business / Announcements:
  • Return Project #1 papers

  • Lab dismissed early due to electrical problem


  1. Return Project #1 papers

  2. Handout: Samuel T. Williamson (1949), "How to Write Like a Social Scientist"

  3. For Lab:
    • open your UMD e-mail account
      1. save attachment called "2002s-Your_Name-comp.p1" to your desktop (or to your removable disk)
      2. open attachment from the desktop (or to your removable disk)
      3. use WordPerfect to open the attachment
      4. if successful, compare the version of "2002s-Your_Name-comp.p1" with the hardcopy received in class (in your folder)
      5. send an e-mail describing the details of success / failure to
      6. repeat a. - e. using Microsoft Word
      7. compare your work with Williamson's essay (above)

    • open Netscape or Internet Explorer (if not already open)
    • open CD-ROM Handbook

  4. Review of assigned readings and Handbook assignments

    • Ch. 40 "Becoming a Researcher"
      • §40b "Scheduling a research project" (p. 439 text)

    • Ch. 41 "Conducting Research"
      • "Useful Lists and Guidelines"
        • p. 1 "Web guides and search engines"
        • p. 2 "Tips for conducting observation" (pp. 471-472 text)
        • p. 3 "Planning an interview" (p. 473 text)
        • p. 4 "Designing a questionnaire" (pp. 474-475 text)

  5. In-class review of designing and editing interview schedules, including peer review
    (What is the difference between a "questionnaire" and an "interview schedule"?)

    • Work on your interview schedule
    • When you're finished with this session send the file to yourself as an e-mail attachment.

  6. Conduct your interview and write up a draft for next class. Conduct the interview according to your plan:

    1. Arrive promptly.

    2. Introduce yourself and review the purpose of the interview.

    3. Ask for permission to tape the interview. If the interviewer agrees, put the tape recorder off to the side, where you can see it, but where it is not directly between the two of you.

    4. As best you can, ask the questions from memory. Don't read them! If you need to refer to the interview schedule occasionally, tell the interviewee something like, "Let me check the questions to make certain that. . . ."

    5. Listen carefully. Don't interrupt! Keep in mind that you primarily want to hear what the interviewee has to say. Ask follow-up questions: "You mentioned that you. . . . Could you tell me more about that. . . . ?" (cf., Interview tips from Day 07.)

    6. Keep the interview focused on the main issues. If you need to, help the interviewee get back on the main topic if s/he strays too far from the topic. You might try something like:
      1. "Before, you mentioned. . . ."
      2. "You were saying. . . ."
      3. "Can you tell me more about. . . . ?"

    7. At the end of the interview ask if you can phone or come back to clear up any questions that occur when you are writing up the interview.

    8. At the end of the interview ask the interviewee to sign a release of information form.. Tell interviewee that the final report might be put on file in the Composition Department office at UMD, and/or the Northeast Minnesota Historical Center.

    9. Ask for samples of writing done on the job that you might take with you after the interview.

    10. Do not forget to thank the interviewee.

    11. As soon as possible after the interview, preferably within thirty minutes of the interview, go somewhere close by to debrief.
      • This is especially important if you did not tape the interview. In writing your post-interview notes, describe all aspects of the interview.
      • Make a list of things that are incomplete or not clear.
      • Call the interviewee to get these things clarified or augmented.

    12. Write a draft of your interview, including relevant items from your debriefing notes.

    13. Begin to prepare an in-depth article on the interview suitable for a training publication in your field, or, if you prefer, begin to write a formal report to your boss.
      • If you are writing your report for a training publication, your audience is someone like you--a person new to the field who is eager to know how to succeed and how skills in reading, writing, listening, and speaking will contribute to success in the field.
      • What do you think they need to know?

    14. Your report must be well-thought-out and carefully organized, and the final text must also be free of spelling, grammar, and punctuation and formatting errors. All reports must be word-processed.

    15. What are the most important things the interviewpee said? Rank these.

    16. How are these important things related? Explain.

    17. How will you make these points in your report?

    18. Be sure to clarify when you are interpreting or analyzing rather than simply reportingor describing.

    19. To encourage the audience to read the interview, what information about the interview and the interviewee will you give as an introduction?

    20. How will you end your report?

  1. Write a thank you note to the interviewee. Handwrite the note and specifically refer to one or more points of the interview.

  2. Bring all of your drafts to the next class.

Next Week

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