You have performed qualitative research for your dissertation by conducting interviews that you now want to include: how do you do that? Chances are that this was never explained to you and you don’t know what is expected. That’s why in this article we describe how interviews can be included in for instance the conclusion section of your dissertation and how they can be referenced.
Including interviews in your dissertation
To present interviews in a dissertation, you first need to transcribe them. You can then add the written interviews to the appendix. If you have many or long interviews that make the appendix extremely large, the appendix (after consultation with the supervisor) can be submitted as a separate document. What matters is that you can demonstrate that the interviews have actually taken place.
Referring to interviews
When you have added the interviews to the appendix, you can then paraphrase to them in your dissertation. Paraphrase is done as follows:
Example: Reference to your own interview
According to interviewee X (Appendix 1), the …
It became clear from an interview with Y that … (Appendix 1).
Sometimes you are not allowed to ad the transcription of an interview to the appendix. In this case it is not possible to refer to this interview. According to the APA-rules it is possible to refer to it like this:
Example: Reference to your interview that’s not in the appendix
According to X (Personal communication, December 24, 2012) …
Rules APA style for your interview
Quoting from interviews
If you literally copy the words of the interviewee, then you need to quote. Finding interesting quotes is easier if you know how to get usable information out of the person during the interview. That’s why you should conduct the interviews in a professional manner.
Mentioning the name of the interviewee
Don’t just blindly note the name of the person you’re interviewing, but ask yourself two questions:
- Are you allowed to mention the name? This is the first question you should ask yourself before you include the interviewee’s name in a dissertation. Determine, in consultation with the interviewee, whether the name may be mentioned. Sometimes, in fact, the interviewee doesn’t want that. This may be the case when you have interviewed, for example, an employee and the employee does not want his or her boss to be able to read the answers because this could disturb their working relationship. Another situation where this can occur is, for example, when the interview contains very personal questions.
- Does it add anything to mention the name? The second factor to consider is whether it is relevant to mention the name. Does it add anything to your research? When the interviewee is an unknown person you have approached on the street, the name of this person is not very important. But if you have interviewed the CEO of a large organization, then it can be very relevant to mention his or her name. In this second case, add a short introduction so that the reader of the dissertation knows immediately who this person is.
Thus, you may mention the name if you have permission from the interviewee to do so and if it is relevant to the research. If you don’t have permission to use the name or if you don’t want to mention the name, you can then choose to use a description. For example: “Employee 1”.
This node provides an example interview transcript. Please note that the interview has not been edited nor does it represent a "perfect" transcript. It does, however, provide insight into the interview process.
If you have any questions about writing your interview questions, preparing for your interview, or creating the interview transcript, please consult the other interview materials and/or contact me.
Interviewee: Associate Head of Mechanical Engineering
Interview Setting: Interview conducted in office of [professor's] office in the mechanical engineering building. The interview was conducted at 3:30 PM on Wednesday afternoon.
Affiliation with interviewee: Professor has been my professor for two classes. I have also spoken with him privately regarding attending graduate school and areas of study.
(Start of Interview)
Interviewer: Particularly in regard to design and development, what are your duties as a mechanical engineer?
Interviewee: Do you mean before I took this position or in this position.
Interviewee: In my position I have now, about half of my time is devoted to counseling and registration and other issues like that. About thirty to forty percent of my time is involved with teaching, doing preparation, helping out in the labs, and helping students. About five to ten percent of my time is spent being involved in academic committees and working with administrative items.
Interviewer: Do you do any research?
Interviewee: Most of my research is education-related. I have a grant from the National Science Foundation to put some CNC machines in the student labs to teach students.
Interviewer: What types of research did you do before when you were an associate professor?
Interviewee: I worked primarily with acoustics and noise control, with my emphasis being in active noise and vibration control. I worked with the aircraft fuselage and all of the vibrations and noises created in there and limiting their effects on the cockpit. Of course, automobile engines are also very noisy being so close to the driver. I also worked with compressors. I worked with really small compressors to really big compressors. I worked on small refrigeration units using passive and active control techniques. You�d be surprised at how big an issue refrigerator noise is overseas, in Europe and Asia with their tight living conditions. I also worked with huge engine compressors of up to sixty horsepower. That�s really big for a university, you know. I also worked with reciprocating compressors, screw compressors, scroll compressors, and rotary compressors.
Interviewer: Most of your current grants are education-related though, correct?
Interviewee: That�s right, most of them are related to education. But I don�t have much time in this job now to do that though. I feel that I need to teach with this job, because I need to have that link to the curriculum and the students.
Interviewer: How much contact have you had with industry?
Interviewee: I had quite a bit of contact when I worked as an associate professor. I spent quite a bit of time at the Herrick Labs. I worked with a couple of United Technologies companies, Sikorkey Helicopter and Carrier Corporation, who does refrigeration, Aspera, which is an Italian company that makes compressors, General Motors, and some governmental work.
Interviewer: Did you ever work out in industry before you became a professor?
Interviewee: I worked at NASA-Langley for a year after I graduated with my masters. It really isn�t like industry though. It�s an academic environment. It�s a very research-oriented environment. I also received an educational grant about a year ago to work the summer at Boeing. I worked in Philadelphia with the rotorcraft division. They make all levels of military aircraft. They make the Belle Boeing 609, which is a lot like a V-22. It takes off like a helicopter, straight up, and then the wings turn over and it flies. They also work on CH-47, which is a very old helicopter, in a support mode. They also do some work with the commanche attack helicopter. As you can tell, they work at a lot of different levels in the design.
Interviewer: What is the difference between designing for a new product versus an older product?
Interviewee: There are a lot of challenges no matter what the product. The military has been bringing old CH-47�s in to be repaired. Boeing has been gutting them out, leaving just a shell, and completely replacing the interior equipment. All of the design used to be on paper. The new Boeing 777 was a paperless design. They did a fly-through on the computer to check for interferences and other problems. One of the big issues with the CH-47 was whether to recreate this on the computer. It�s a difficult decision. It would make it a lot easier to make changes but it would take a lot longer. So they decided not to do it for this product.
Interviewer: What skills are necessary for a mechanical engineer to possess?
Interviewee: Number 1 is the technical skills. You�ve got to have those. Next are communication and teamwork skills. There is a need for intangibles to be successful. One of the big things at Boeing was timing. They had to pull together over 1,000,000 parts to make the 777. The engine had to come in at the right time to be connected to the fuselage, which had to be connected to other parts. I realized that what Boeing was doing was just a large-scale integration project. It requires a phenomenal amount of communication and scheduling. Being able to plan and schedule things is so important. You�re always behind time, over budget, and have to get deliverables to the customer. You have to make a decision with incomplete information. It�s a lot of gut feel and just making your best engineering judgement and taking your best shot.
Interviewer: What are the worst skills, or characteristics, for an engineer to have?
Interviewee: In some jobs, being highly individualistic can be a killer. Not in all jobs, but in some jobs. In a research environment, where an engineer can go off and do his own thing, that can be okay. But in the vast majority of jobs, not being strong in communication, and of course, technical skills, can have a very negative impact on your career. In fact, in a survey in the ASME magazine about two or three years ago, the top two skills employers wanted were communication skills and teamwork skills.
Interviewer: What is the difference between the academic world and industry? I know there are some similarities too, what are those?
Interviewee: In the academic world, people tend to be more reflective, more analytical, and less hands-on. That�s not always the case, but it tends to be that way. It�s partially because people who are attracted to this environment tend to be that way. In industry, the people tend to be more hands-on but the analytical skills tend to atrophy when not used. The academic environment cultivates those skills. But the environment is changing. There are more hands-on activities being added to the curriculum, along with some tighter links to industry. There is more of a need to be an entrepreneur and salesmen.
Interviewer: What is the typical day in the life of a mechanical engineer like?
Interviewee: A typical day varies radically for mechanical engineers depending on the job you have. A guy doing research is more independent, a guy doing customer service is dealing with people all day long, while a manager deals mainly with projects. It can really vary depending on what you want to do.
Interviewer: What can a person do to improve their situation?
Interviewee: The first thing is to define the company�s best practices. Define the process and look for ways to improve the process, to make it more efficient. I think that�s the idea behind the 9000 stuff, like ISO 9000 and QS 9000, to document the process. Unfortunately, some people just go through the motions, which is really a shame and a waste of time. You�ve got to take it seriously to do things the most efficient way. But I think the real key issue is getting people in areas they love to work. When you do that, the effort will be there. For example, I met a young engineer at Boeing who had been hired three times in the last three years by Boeing. She loved working with people and making decisions. Unfortunately, in her first two jobs she only made decisions once every two or three months and she hated it. Now they have her in a people where she�s working with people and making decisions and she loves it. I think it�s real important for companies to match people with what they love to do.
Interviewer: In general, what methods or criteria are used to evaluate mechanical engineers?
Interviewee: At Boeing, the backs of the engineer�s badges have criteria that is wanted for the engineers to work on at Boeing. There are twelve things: technical skills, communications, teamwork, initiative, productivity, continuous quality improvement, customer satisfaction, innovation and creativity, integrity � that�s really become a big issue in industry, especially at Boeing when I was there with the merger and all, leadership, risk-taking, and developing people.
Interviewer: I find it interesting to see that risk-taking is on there. It seemed like that has never been encouraged at GM.
Interviewee: Well, you can�t just go taking incredible risks. They are calculated risks.
Interviewer: When designing a new product, what issues are typically given the most consideration?
Interviewee: Again, it varies depending on the product. First, you have to understand the customer and find a way to give them what they want. You have to get a sense of where the market is going. Take inline skates. They came out of nowhere and now they�re selling four million skates a year. It was a local market in California and they took it national. Being able to see needs is very important and having the creativity to know how to meet them is the hard part.
Interviewer: Is the procedure for process development similar to that for products?
Interviewee: Yeah, I�d say they�re similar. You need to do some benchmarking on what�s out there to see where you stand and brainstorm to find what you can do.
Interviewer: How are design procedures developed and followed in corporations?
Interviewee: Wow, those procedures vary greatly and to tell you the truth, I don�t think they�re followed very tightly. Part of the problem is that I don�t think they are stated explicitly. You don�t want to be rigid, but you need to be efficient. You need to come up with a plan and extrapolate what you can based on your design. It�s a real art at this stage. It needs to be tailored to what you are trying to accomplish. There are multiple approaches to this, but it really needs to be designed explicitly and improved from there.
Interviewer: What does a graduating mechanical engineer need to know that he probably does not know?
Interviewee: It�s not so much what you don�t know as much as it is what will change. The things you like to do now might now be what you like to do in the future. Interest change in time and there must be a willingness to change with them. I think another important thing to recognize for some students is that your whole life is not your job. It can be very easy to ignore other things, but I think the real key is balance. The ME program is very rigorous and everyone is working very hard, and as a result sometimes they don�t recognize the need for balance.
Interviewer: Thanks for your time.
Interviewee: You�re welcome.
Other Analyzing Professional Contexts Project Links:
Formatting Reference | Project 2 Overview | Interview | Observation | Example Field Notes | Data Coding | Example Data Coding | Contextual Analysis Plan & Report
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