What to Ask, Who to Interview


  • To decide on goals of the interview
  • To determine who to interview, based on goals
  • To figure out what to ask, based on goals


  • Paper
  • Pens or pencils

Prepare Before


Warm Up

What are we hoping to learn from our interviews?  Why is this important to our topic and the change we hope to make? Brainstorm goals for your interviews.


Explain that the point of doing interviews is to get information that will help you decide on potential actions they will take.  That means you may need to talk to people who can tell you about any or all of these things:  the historical context of your situation, the present day analysis, root causes, and possible solutions.   If we don’t have a goal for the interview, then we shouldn’t do one!

As a group, look at the list of goals for the interviews.  For each goal, brainstorm the types of people you will need to interview. These can either be specific people (e.g., last year’s 9th grade English teacher) or a description of a type of person (e.g., 10th grade students with a 3.5 or higher, anyone who eats breakfast every day). Make sure these types of people include people who are impacted by your topic and people who could help you better understand the facts of the issue.


Facilitate a discussion with the following reflection questions:

  • Who are the three most important people or groups of people we should interview?   Come to consensus about who the top three are.
  • Should all these people be asked the same questions or do we need to individualize the interviews for the person?
  • For these interviews, is it important to ask about a person’s background (age, race, gender)?  In what situations would this information be helpful?


Interviewing takes a lot of time and a lot of people to do it.  For this reason, we want to make sure we are interviewing the right people and asking the most relevant questions we can.



If the interviewees need different questions, divide the class into six groups with at least two people in each group (two groups for each category of interviewee). If the interviewees can all have the same questions, divide the class into groups of 3-5 people.

Within each group, they should develop a list of ten interview questions with additional follow-up questions. The questions should all fit the goal for that interviewee. Questions must be neutral and not leading. Once each group has their list of questions, pair up with another group who were writing questions for the same interviewee. Share questions. Get their feedback on your questions and give your feedback on their questions. Revise any questions as needed. Using both sets of questions, create a combined list of 10-15 questions. Make sure each group member writes down these questions for their practice interview.


Once everyone has a set of questions, everyone should get in interview pairs with people who were not in their group.

Explain that they will be practicing their interview skills and see if their questions get them good information.  Everyone will be testing out their interview questions—they should take detailed notes on what the person says. To take notes for this, they should number a sheet of paper for each question and take notes on the answer.


Once each pair has interviewed each other, everyone should get back in their original question groups.  Compare responses.  What questions worked well?  What questions were confusing to the interviewee?  What questions gave you surprising answers?

Make any changes to the questions to make them stronger.  Submit your list of final questions to the facilitator.


What was it like to take notes during the interview?  Why is taking good notes important?