Response 5

Merriam’s texts talked about conducting effective interviews and being a careful observer. Because I had already conducted my interviews with the Islam-informative panel members, I mainly used the first text as a checklist. Before conducting my interview, I made an interview guide and kept the paper for reference. I didn’t feel too bad on missing some ‘good’ questions because I felt they weren’t relevant to my topic anyway.  For example, sensory questions don’t have much of a place when conversing and informing a questioner on religion. Some questions I felt were natural, such as interpretive questions that rephrase an answer to observe the reaction of the interviewee.  Of the three questions to avoid, multiple, leading, and yes-or-no, I fell for the first mistake of asking multiple questions. Luckily, my interviewees usually answered the first question and asked me to remind them of the rest. I realize now that I may not always have a patient interviewee who won’t get frustrated when bombarded with questions. As for finding the right informants, I had asked a board member of the Muslim Students’ Association for suggestions, which according to the text was one way to find a good respondent. Another statement made in the text was the fact that interviewing requires the interviewers to have enough distance to enable them to ask real questions and to explore, not share, assumptions.  I felt that I fit right into that gap because, while I am an MSA member, I am not on that specific panel of MSA. Finally, I had enough sense in me to realize that I’d much rather listen and make eye contact with my interviewee than to jot notes or try to remember it all, so I downloaded a voice recorder app the night before and made sure I had permission to record the answers.

I am glad I read the text on careful observation before deciding on attending an Islam-informative table. Unlike interviewing subjects, I can’t learn these guidelines from TV interviews or articles. The text provided a checklist of things to observe that I found very pertinent. I hadn’t realized that I should observe my own behavior and reactions while I observe others. After reading the different relationships between the observer and observed, I opted for being an almost complete observer. I say almost because, while I have no intention of participating, I do believe I need help in noticing subtle factors and hearing conversations, so I intend to ask a member to tell me anything he/she think I missed. I think I can get away with that because I am already on a familiar basis with some members who would see me more as a friend learning than an observer scrutinizing, and he/she would want me to know as much as possible of the way he/she handles the process. The part I found most useful was the guide to making field notes. It provided a template to work off of and informed me of the practicality of making a diagram and listing the members at the table and how that might affect the process of informing the passer-by about Islam.

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