8 Useful Study Habits Learned from Conducting Interviews
Every journalist knows that each story he writes will only be as good as the sources that he uses. That’s why many choose conducting interviews with primary sources as a method of professional survival. You can learn something from these pros and the interview process. With these 8 Useful Study Habits Learned from Conducting Interviews, you can not only find immediate access to the information that you need. You can also build a better academic record.
1. Planning Ahead
The planning stages of an interview are of vital importance to its success. Going in cold is something that only professionals can do well, and sometimes they even fail at it. Take Larry King and his now legendary interview with Jerry Seinfeld in which he “revealed” the popularly known item that it was Seinfeld who pulled the plug on his iconic show and not the network. “So you canceled them?” King asked. Seinfeld was floored and ribbed King mercilessly for just, at that moment, discovering something the entire world already knew. “Can someone please get this man a copy of my resume?” Seinfeld fumed. If you want to avoid embarrassing yourself, then you will prepare to learn about your subject by doing the research and brainstorming questions. In the same manner, when it comes to learning about a subject or preparing for a test, you should plan ahead. Don’t be caught off guard by facts and details you should have already known.
2. Thinking Quickly
In the midst of an interview, it is the interviewer’s job to maximize the effectiveness of the conversation by capturing the vital details as well as all the hidden bombs that are dropped throughout. An interviewer content to stick with the questions he has prepared and not veer off into more interesting territories will never be successful. In a similar manner, you should be aware that studying is more than just memorizing information. It’s about thinking quickly grabbing details on the periphery that you may not have thought of otherwise. In other words, don’t allow yourself to have tunnel vision for a subject. Open your mind to what is being said beyond a select portion of facts.
3. Asking Questions
Questions come in many forms, but the ones you should be asking in an interview are not of the basic yes/no variety. Yes, a yes/no for follow-up may be necessary, but what should drive your preparation is the open-ended question. Rather than, “How many volunteers do you need to finish the project?”—a yes/no question because it can be answered with a simple number—you should ask instead, “How do you plan to finish the project?” The open-ended version forces your subject to reveal details, such as how many volunteers are needed, what steps will have to be taken, and leads to an interesting second question about the challenges the project will face. Your interview won’t go very far without this tool. Similarly, few subjects in this world can be adequately explained with a yes/no question. You’ll need an open-ended mind and the ability to ask questions that will lead to understanding in order to improve your study skills. Conducting an interview is the best way to get one.
4. Summarizing Information
Summarizing is the ability to condense what a text or, in this case, an interview subject, says into its basic ideas. When conducting an interview, you’ll have to summarize what the subject says quickly as you take notes. This process sharpens one of the most vital attributes that you will need in higher education and the workforce, and it is what keeps you from having to memorize a 500-page textbook in order to do well on a test and in life.
5. Taking Notes
Unless you can remember every single thing that you see and hear without any further thought, you’ll need to take notes during the interview process. Yes, you can use a tape recorder, but the note-taking process will reinforce what you’ve seen and heard during the conversation without forcing you to sit through the entire interview recording again and again until you’ve nailed down all the pertinent information. It will also help with summarization and the ability to write and digest ideas quickly.
In the 21st Century, multi-tasking is a vital component for keeping up with the rest of the world. You may think that you’re a really good note-taker or a great summarizer or a tremendous communicator, but in the heat of an interview, you will have to do all three effectively, while also managing any additional stress that the situation brings along with it. Many first-time interviewers are shocked by how difficult the process can be, but it does get easier over time. It just takes practice. Likewise, managing a variety of different subjects and assignments can be overwhelming at first, but as you hone your multi-tasking skills, it gets easier. And thank goodness for that, because the demand for a well-rounded higher education isn’t going away ever.
7. Using Technology
Another must for living in today’s world, familiarity with technology can take your studies to the next level, and you can get a jump on how to use it effectively with the interview process. Programs, such as Garage Band allow you to record and take notes at the same time, marking time measures for when you hear something that you feel will be vitally important later on. The Internet allows you to grab important background information on your subject right away without the tedium of sifting through reams of data. The world is at your fingertips, and the interview process allows you to take advantage of it before, during and after.
8. Distinguishing Sources
Every research class reveals there are two types of sources: primary and secondary. But there are also reliable and unreliable sources as well. Conducting an interview gives you direct experience with all kinds. If you’re interviewing an actual witness to a crime, that could be a primary source, though depending on the details the witness gives and how they mesh with evidence and known facts, they may not be particularly reliable. The interview process teaches you to examine the subject’s involvement and proximity with the topic at-hand in order to determine the source nature and the reliability factor. And no, Wikipedia is not a primary source, nor is much of anything that you will find in books or on the Internet, though the most reliable secondary sources will base their findings on as many primary sources as they can. You should do the same in your studies.