University of Bristol
Wellcome Trust
Recommended by:
Society of Biology
PEEP for Physics & Ethics at GCSE

The Carbon

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Station: Who cares?

Semi-structured Interview

What is it and when is it used?

A semi-structured interview is used when you need to ask different people different kinds of questions, perhaps in a different order, to gain information.  It is also particularly useful when the people being interviewed are likely to give very different answers.

The semi-structured interview is more flexible than a standard series of questions and the interviewer can use their own discretion and set the agenda to suit the person being interviewed.  It is more flexible than a structured interview, which has a set of questions which is identical to everyone being interviewed and set in the same order.

Semi-structured interviews follow a list of questions but these are open for the participant to respond as he or she feels fit.  The order can be varied and will follow the natural line of the interview.  Not all of the questions will be answered in the same depth by each person being interviewed.

The semi-structured interview allows you to ‘probe’ the person being interviewed more deeply than a structured interview, and it may yield a lot more information about the issue in question.

The questions:

The following list is only a suggestion in attempting to answer the question – ‘Who cares about CARBON emissions’?  You can add, delete and group the questions.  You might also ‘highlight’ the questions you must ask everyone or ask near the start of the interview.

  • Have you heard of a person’s CARBON footprint? (if not, you will need to define it for them).
  • How do you think that you contribute towards CARBON dioxide emissions?
  • Do you think that it matters how much CARBON dioxide we all produce?
  • If you had to reduce the amount CARBON dioxide you produce, how would you do it?
  • Do you think that everyone should be made to reduce their CARBON emissions?
  • Do you think we should have a CARBON tax?
  • If we do have a CARBON tax, who and how should it be collected?
  • Should those that use the most CARBON pay a higher tax?
  • Big cars (4 wheel drives) produce a large amount of CARBON emission, should they be banned?
  • Do you feel it is the responsibility of the individual or the government to reduce CARBON emissions?
  • China and India are producing more and more CARBON emissions.  Are you worried by this and how might it affect you as an individual?
  • Would you be prepared to drive less or have a limit placed on how far you can drive in a year?
  • Do you think people care enough about ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’ to do something about reducing CARBON emissions?
  • What do you think will happen in the future if we do not reduce our CARBON emissions?
  • If you personally reduce 5% of your CARBON emissions, do you think it will make a difference?

Interview technique:

  • Have a list of questions which you can tick off as you go.
  • Choose a quiet and comfortable location and plan to interview for a maximum of  15 minutes or you and they will get exhausted.  Shorter time if you run out of things to ask.
  • If possible, record your interview on a tape recorder for later analysis.  If not, you will have to take notes, which requires considerable ‘note-taking’ skills.  Ask the person if they mind you recording the interview.
  • Be a good listener and be sensitive to the interviewee’s reactions and answers.
  • Try to follow their train of thought and follow with an appropriate question.
  • Be aware of their bias or prejudice.
  • To develop a question, you might ask them to describe some specific examples.
  • Allow them to finish their answer and allow them time to think.
  • Spend time summing up their feelings AFTER you turn off the tape – they will often produce some extra ideas.  You will need to note these down.
  • Thank them and end on a positive note.
  • Assure them that their personal names will not be used in the results.
  • Avoid dominating the interview or exhausting them by going on too long.
  • Do NOT give your own opinions or moral judgements.

Analysis and presentation:

  • This type of  analysis comes under the heading of ‘qualitative analysis’.  You will not come out with a quantitative answer ( eg. 5 people were totally unconcerned about their CARBON emissions).
  • Start by summarising each person’s view.
  • Then compare some of the key questions where views were similar of different between individuals.
  • A full analysis will take a very long time (a 15 minute interview will take many hours to fully analyse), so for this case-study, limit yourself to a few questions and the most important answers.
  • You could present your findings in a number of different ways – possibly use a presentation which is similar to the MMR debate on the BEEP website.


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