Why we (User) Interview

“Interviewing gives us access to the observations of others. Through interviewing we can learn about places we have not been and could not go and about settings in which we have not lived. If we have the right informants, we can learn about the quality of neighborhoods or what happens in families or how organizations set their goals. Interviewing can inform us about the nature of social life. We can learn about the work of occupations and how people fashion careers, about cultures and the values they sponsor, and about the challenges people confront as they lead their lives. 

We can learn also, through interviewing, about people’s interior experiences. We can learn what people perceived and how they interpreted their perceptions. We can learn how events affected their thoughts and feelings. We can learn the meanings of them to their relationships, their families, their work, and their selves. We can learn about all the experiences, from joy through grief, that together constitute the human condition. 

Interviewing gives us a window on the past. We may become aware of a riot or a flood only after an event, but by interviewing the people who were the we can picture what happened. We can also, by interviewing, learn about settings that would otherwise be closed to us: foreign societies, exclusive organizations, and the private lives of couples and families. 

Interviewing rescues events that would otherwise be lost. The celebrations and sorrows of people not in the news, their triumphs and failures, ordinarily leave no record except in their memories.”

Robert S. Weiss, Learning from Strangers: The Art and Method of Qualitative Interview Studies, (1995)