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Free Online Course on Qualitative Research Methods: Conversational Interviewing

Massachusetts Institute of Technology is currently offering an online course on Qualitative Research Methods: Conversational Interviewing. This course will teach you how to prepare for and conduct conversational interviews that will produce rich qualitative data.

This online course will focus specifically on teaching how to prepare for and conduct a conversational interview for data gathering purposes. They will also discuss the nature of qualitative research as a methodology, how it compares and differs from other forms of research.

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Course At a Glance

Length: 3 weeks
Effort: 2-3 hours pw
Subject: Humanities
Institution: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Languages: English
Price: Free
Certificate Available: Yes, Add a Verified Certificate for $49USD
Session: Start on February 12, 2019

Providers’ Details

Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a coeducational, privately endowed research university. It is dedicated to advancing knowledge and educating students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century.

About This Course

This short course is adapted from a semester-length graduate level course taught at MIT covering Qualitative Research Methods. This online course will focus on how qualitative and quantitative research complements each other in a research project. This is the first in a multi-part series which will be released over the coming year, which will focus on Conversational Interviewing, Data Analysis, and Constructing Theory.

You might have encountered other forms of interview techniques in your studies and training. The form that they are teaching is the preferred method of Professor Silbey’s, one that she has used extensively throughout her career. The goal is to construct an interview protocol such that you will be able to guide your interviewee through topics of interest to your study without bringing them up explicitly, in order to explore experiences and accounts without pointing respondents in particular directions. Not sure what an interview protocol is? No problem! You will be the end of the course.

Course Syllabus

They will cover the following topics:

The Science of Social Science

  • What is Social Science?
  • How does Social Science differ from the physical sciences?

The Process of Qualitative Research

  • How does Qualitative Research differ from Quantitative Research?
  • What is Fieldwork?
  • Conversational Interviewing and its use in research

Establishing Validity in Qualitative Research

  • What are the criteria for validity when conducting Qualitative Research?
  • What are the tests for validity?

Conducting Conversational Interviews

  • Interviewing as Data Collection
  • Drafting an Interview Protocol
  • Interviewing Techniques

Interview Examples & Discussion

  • Demonstrations of Good and Bad interview techniques with detailed discussion

Logistics and Ethical Concerns

  • Logistics of Conducting Interviews: Finding & Inviting Subjects, Recording Interviews, etc
  • Ethics & Human Subject Research

Learning Outcomes

  • How to prepare an interview protocol and how to conduct an interview.
  • How to assess validity in qualitative research.


Susan Silbey is Leon and Anne Goldberg Professor of Humanities, Sociology, and Anthropology Professor of Behavioral and Policy Sciences, Sloan School of Management Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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