Tutorial: Qualitative Research Methods for Crisis Informatics: Thinking Out Loud,”Semi-structured Interviews, and Focus Groups

Duration: Half day


Description and Objectives:

This tutorial is designed for the curious and the inexperienced practitioner and academic, i.e., scholars, students, researchers and Information Systems designers and Emergency Managers with little or no formal training in qualitative research methods. These methods are relatively quick to design and carry out, e.g., a small scale formative evaluation study can be done within a few days to a week of work. Versions can be done even when the internet is down and electricity out, at a disaster site, as long as there is a battery-operated recorder available.  Thus, they may be especially appropriate for on-site studies of the use of a new or proposed system for emergency management, when unexpected circumstances make it necessary to fine tune tailoring of functionality and interface (e.g., in a new language) and instructions for use, before wide scale deployment.

There will be a quick overview (30 minutes) of the most widely used qualitative methods, including observation, interview, focus groups, and “thinking out loud.”Then it will focus on the Semi-structured interview (1.5 hours).  This uses an interview guide consisting of open-ended questions, and then “probes” to follow up on the answers given.  The issues we will deal with are:

  • When is the interview the right choice?
  • How do you know who to interview?
  • How to get human subjects approval?
  • How to choose the right interview setting?
  • How to write a good interview guide/interview questions?
  • How to manage an interviewee? Keep them on track and talking? (Probing)
  • To record or not? To take notes or not?
  • To transcribe or not?
  • How to you analyze the interview results? Coding process.
  • How to integrate the results into a report, policy, procedure, other forms of data.

The tutorial will end with a discussion on how the internet has changed qualitative methods (digital ethnography, virtual interviews, qualitative content analysis) (30 minutes).

Participant equipment requirements: None