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Questions for Research

I often use interviewing and surveying with subject matter experts or potential clients to gather information when doing writing research. Data and opinions help me make a good case when I am trying to be persuasive or come to a decision and then write about it. That really is the point of doing writing research – to get data that you can use to push your ideas forward.

Both tools require careful preparation to give me the best results. They require me to be good at asking the right questions to get what I am looking for. Watch the video now to learn more about techniques we use for writing research, and then leave a comment below so we know what else you’d like to learn.


Interviewing tips

In today’s high-tech communication world there are many formats to choose from when attempting to do writing research. The first thing you would want to do is find an expert to interview. There are many people who can attempt to interview; we’ve done interviews in a variety of ways:

  • Face-to-face: When sitting down with someone, I can adapt the interview to the person’s answers. I can either take notes because I write fast or record the interview with some recording equipment. This tends to be the best method of interview — all the famous interviewers on television focus on face-to-face interviews. When conducting PhD writing research, most people rely on in-person interviews.
  • By Telephone: I’ve used this technique many times with people from around the world or who are too busy to meet. I sometimes use a recording service to record the interview in MP3 and download it to my computer. Telephone interviews are beneficial because many people don’t live in your city or don’t have the time to dedicate to travel and sit-down.
  • By email: I really like this technique because it saves time for both me and the interviewee. It also gives me a document already in digital format. All you have to do is email your list of questions to whomever has agreed to answer your questions, save their answers, and voila! you have some awesome writing research.
  • By Skype: If my subject matter expert has this tool, it combines all the advantages of face-to-face and telephone interviewing.

Surveying tips

Another tool I have used in my consulting and teaching is the survey. It is an excellent way to get feedback from a large group of people.

I can survey people live, give them a paper-based version of the questionnaire, or use Internet tools such as Kwik Surveys  or Survey Monkey. Some advantages of these websites is that they provide many different question types. The also tabulate the survey results. Really cool!

Here are some things to keep in mind when preparing a survey:

  • Be clear about which group or groups you are targeting.
  • Have an idea of how many people you intend to survey.
  • Think carefully about the kinds of questions you would like to ask.
  • Make your questionnaire just long enough to achieve your objectives.

What questions do you have about using questions for your writing research?

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