A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.


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Analysis, Plus Synthesis: Turning Data into Insights

In this article, I will outline an approach to gleaning insights from primary qualitative research data. This article is not a how-to for creating the design tools that are often the outputs of primary qualitative user research—such as personas, mental models, or user scenarios. Instead, it identifies an approach to generating overarching insights, regardless of the design tool you want to create.

Ellerby, Lindsay. UXmatters (2009). Articles>User Centered Design>Interviewing>Research


The Art of Asking Questions

Asking questions is one of the most powerful ways to open up a text and begin a discussion. It’s not a new technique, of course, but it’s one a philosophy professor in college taught me years ago.

Johnson, Tom H. I'd Rather Be Writing (2010). Articles>Interviewing


Asking Questions is Key

I think one of the hardest things in technical writing, especially for new hires, is to be assigned to document a product or feature that you know nothing about.

Technically Speaking (2009). Articles>Interviewing>Technical Writing>SMEs


Asking Your Users, Part 1

We tech writers need to know what our readers need. One of the simplest ways to find out is to just ask the users. However, the most obvious questions aren’t necessarily the best ones. Today, I look at some questions that don’t work as well as you might think.

Weber, Kai. Kai's Tech Writing Blog (2010). Articles>Web Design>Usability>Interviewing


Attraction to Organizational Culture Profiles: Effects of Realistic Recruitment and Vertical and Horizontal Individualism—Collectivism   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Today's organizations are challenged with attracting, developing, and retaining high-quality employees; thus, many firms seek to improve their recruitment and selection processes. One approach involves using realistic job previews (RJPs) to communicate a balanced view of the organization. The authors explored the effects of organizational culture (hierarchy, market, clan, and adhocracy), recruitment strategy (RJP vs. traditional), and personality (horizontal and vertical individualism—collectivism) on attraction to Web-based organizational profiles using a sample of 234 undergraduate students in a mixed two-factor experimental design. Results indicate that the clan culture is viewed as the most attractive. Traditional versus RJP recruitment produced higher levels of organizational attraction. Finally, predicted relationships between the personality framework of horizontal and vertical individualism—collectivism and organizational attraction were supported.

Gardner, William L., Brian J. Reithel, Richard T. Foley, Claudia C. Cogliser and Fred O. Walumbwa . Management Communication Quarterly (2009). Articles>Management>Interviewing>Organizational Communication


Before the Interview

People often turn down the chance to be interviewed because they're nervous, or afraid they'll say the wrong thing. Instead, think of the interview as a golden opportunity for you to convey your message. If perceptions about you, your school, or youth in general have been wrong in the past, this is your chance to set the record straight.

Media-Awareness.ca. Articles>Interviewing>Video


Best Practices in Preparing Students for Mock Interviews   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Studies have shown the importance of employment interview preparation in boosting the confidence and performance of students and jobseekers when they interview. This article reviews several techniques for preparing students for mock job interviews and, hence, actual job interviews.

Hansen, Katharine, Gary C. Oliphant, Becky J. Oliphant and Randall S. Hansen. Business Communication Quarterly (2009). Articles>Education>Interviewing>Business Communication


The Cardinal Rule of Interviewing a Subject Matter Expert (SME) For a Document

A technical writer will periodically need to interview Subject Matter Experts (SME) to gather information about a technical document. More often that not, and especially within the context of software development, most SMEs are engineers and software developers. But they can also be mechanical, electrical and other types of engineers, hardware installers, network engineers, testers, site foremen, call center engineers, field technicians, sales or marketing people, local dealers, etc. One cardinal rule of interviewing an SME is to do your homework well, in advance.

Akinci, Ugur. Technical Communication Center (2009). Articles>Interviewing>Technical Writing>SMEs


Conducting Successful Interviews With Project Stakeholders

A simple, semi-structured, one-on-one interview can provide a very rich source of insights. Interviews work very well for gaining insights from both internal and external stakeholders, as well as from actual users of a system under consideration. Though, in this column, I'll focus on stakeholder interviews rather than user interviews.

Baty, Steve. UXmatters (2007). Articles>Collaboration>Interviewing


Conducting Successful Interviews With Project Stakeholders

Looking back over recent months, by far the most common form of research I’ve carried out is that stalwart of qualitative studies—the interview. A simple, semi-structured, one-on-one interview can provide a very rich source of insights. Interviews work very well for gaining insights from both internal and external stakeholders, as well as from actual users of a system under consideration. Though, in this column, I’ll focus on stakeholder interviews rather than user interviews.

Baty, Steve. UXmatters (2007). Articles>Collaboration>Interviewing>SMEs


Contextual Enquiry - A Primer

Designers who don’t understand their users frequently develop products that are difficult to use and understand, do not meet real-world requirements, or provide irrelevant functionality.

Gaffney, Gerry. SitePoint (2004). Articles>User Centered Design>Interviewing


Culture and Usability Evaluation: The Effects of Culture in Structured Interviews   (peer-reviewed)

A major impediment in global user interface development is that there is inadequate empirical evidence for the effects of culture in the usability engineering methods used for developing these global user interfaces. This paper presents a controlled study investigating the effects of culture on the effectiveness of structured interviews in international usability evaluation. The experiment consisted of a usability evaluation of a website with two independent groups of Indian participants. Each group had a different interviewer; one belonging to the Indian culture and the other to the Anglo-American culture. The results show that participants found more usability problems and made more suggestions to an interviewer who was a member of the same (Indian) culture than to the foreign (Anglo-American) interviewer. The results of the study empirically establish that culture significantly affects the efficacy of structured interviews during international user testing. The implications of this work for usability engineering are discussed.

Vatrapu, Ravi and Manuel A. Pérez-Quiñones. Journal of Usability Studies (2006). Articles>Usability>Interviewing>Cultural Theory


Developing Your Interview Skills, Part II: During the Interview

In Part I of this series on interviewing, I considered preparatory steps you can take before doing interviews for qualitative research to ensure their success. Immersing yourself in the problem space, getting access to the right people and preparing them for their interview, finessing the interview setting, and honing your script’s structure and phrasing are crucial to creating a conducive interview experience. A successful interview depends on characteristics of both the interviewer and the research participant. In Part II, I’ll address how to manage an interview to ensure it starts on the right track and stays there. This article also touches on some ways to develop your interviewing skills throughout your career.

Northrop, Mia. UXmatters (2011). Articles>Interviewing>Ethnographies


Developing Your Interviewing Skills, Part I: Preparing for an Interview

Bad interviews can result in missing data, incomplete detail, misleading results, partial insights, and lost opportunities. Your reports, presentations, and recommendations document what you’ve learned from your research and the decisions you’ve made based on it, so you need to ensure your research is the best it can be—that you get good interviews.

Northrop, Mia. UXmatters (2011). Articles>Interviewing>Ethnographies>User Centered Design


Documentation Through the Discovery Process   (PDF)

The technical writers at a software company learn about the software by gathering information and running the software themselves.

Kloss, Marilyn B. STC Proceedings (2003). Articles>Documentation>Interviewing


During the Interview

Remember that when you speak to a reporter, you're potentially speaking to an audience of hundreds or thousands of people. Try not to appear negative or confrontational. A hostile attitude will make it difficult for viewers to take your point seriously.

Media-Awareness.ca. Articles>Interviewing>Video


Effective Interviewing: Get the Story   (PDF)

In this article, Geoffrey Hart offers the following tips on how to interview a subject matter expert (SME) for reliable, comprehensive, timely information:

Hart, Geoffrey J.S. Intercom (2000). Articles>Interviewing>Collaboration


Employee Conferences That Matter

A troupe of disco dancers in gold bodysuits was about to hit the stage. Several of our corporate leaders—dressed as famous pop stars from the 1970s—milled around nervously in the wings. And I remember thinking, “What the heck have we got ourselves into?” I was part of the employee communication team for a government-owned financial institution: Farm Credit Canada (FCC). We were about to open our 2005 corporate office conference before a crowd of 500 people, many of them accountants. A campy musical opening could be seen as a risky choice. But here's what brought me peace of mind: I knew that behind the glitz, we had built our conference on a solid foundation of business thinking.

Mayne, Peter. Communication World Bulletin (2006). Articles>Business Communication>Interviewing


Extracting Pearls from Other People's Brains: The Art of Interviewing

Perhaps one of the bigger challenges faced by white paper writers is coming up with good content. The default course of action is to do a Google search. While this approach can yield valuable information, the best pearls reside inside someone else's head.

Stelzner, Michael A. WhitePaperSource (2006). Articles>Interviewing>Research>White Papers


Face to Face With Your Users: Running a Nondirected Interview

An interview is a funny situation. It's like a friendly conversation between strangers, but unlike the kind you may have on the bus. When chatting on the bus, people try very hard to agree with each other and to quickly communicate interesting information. Each person wants to be liked and adjusts the way they speak and what they say so as not to offend. This type of exchange is perfectly fine for maintaining civil society -- deeper exchanges can always happen as an acquaintance deepens -- but shallow banter isn't appropriate for an interview. You need to find out what someone is experiencing, what they're thinking, or what their real opinions are.

Kuniavsky, Mike. Adaptive Path (2003). Articles>User Centered Design>Interviewing>Usability


Focus Groups or Individual Interviews? A Comparison of Text Evaluation Approaches   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

By providing an empirical comparison of two evaluation approaches, this article aims to make it easier to choose between focus groups and individual interviews as a way of evaluating documents, and thereby to contribute to a methodology of text evaluation. The article first presents the relevant literature and then moves on to present the results of the authors' experiment. The authors find that focus groups tended to identify acceptance problems, while individual interview participants focused on comprehension.

de Jong, Menno D.T. and Peter Jan Schellens. Technical Communication Online (1998). Articles>Interviewing>Methods


Four Seconds of Silence

Here’s a quick tip for you as you conduct your goal-directed interviews with users and potential users: Leave a four-second pause after your interviewee pauses their response, allowing them to add more information or additional detail.

Noessel, Chris. Cooper Journal (2009). Articles>Interviewing>Ethnographies


Four Small Things You Can Do To Be An Exceptional Communicator

After spending 25 years in the FBI as a special agent in the area of counterintelligence (catching spies), you learn a thing or two about dealing with people. You learn that what motivates people is not your words but your body language. You can’t get someone to trust you just because you say so, you have to demonstrate it.

Navarro, Joe. Dumb Little Man (2010). Articles>Communication>Interviewing


Going into Listening Phase

I’m going into a listening phase for a client, where I observe their customers and partners habits online. I thought I’d write up some of my techniques.

Gentle, Anne. Just Write Click (2010). Articles>Interviewing>Advice


Group Interviews as Source for Writing Proposals

Group interviews can be an effective means for collecting information for competitive proposals. Many knowledgeable people who are phobic about writing will talk freely during a group interview. In addition, people who consider themselves too busy to write a section of a proposal may be amenable to committing 2 - 3 hours to a technical or project management interview.

Kendrick, Jim. Competitive Communication Methods (1998). Articles>Interviewing>Proposals



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