In the course of my doctorate I did only a few expert interviews at the beginning, but I supervised numerous bachelor’s and master’s theses, which used this method. I even have the feeling that the typical bachelor’s thesis for me consisted of literature analysis and expert interviews. In the following text I would like to give some tips.

Benefits Expert Interview

The purpose of the interview is to ask a selected expert on hypotheses. It is therefore not intended to get an overview of a topic, but to evaluate concrete points of literature analysis. So it’s exploratory, because you never know what lessons are gained. The expert interview therefore has its strength, in contrast to the survey, in unstructured and open questions. It is distinguished from the group discussion by the fact that it is a dialogue of two people.

Demarcation from the journalistic interview

An expert interview means asking someone about their knowledge. In contrast to the journalistic interview, the interviewee therefore has a matter-of-fact and less public interest. The approach is constructive. One wants to ask neutrally the knowledge of the expert and not to “put statements in his mouth”. It is therefore a question of technical statements and a neutral approach. Also ask real experts and not provocateurs such as some book authors. So it makes little sense for the author to be asked about a bachelor’s thesis on HR: “Why HR is in the end”. He is certainly not neutral and wants to provoke.

Reading tip: Book on expert interview

Selection and finding of experts

I always recommend interviewing at least 3 and preferably 5 experts. The work needs to explain exactly why you chose these very people. It is not enough to say that you know them or that they happened to be standing around at the bus stop.

Your experts should therefore be precisely defined. Depending on the research question, it is necessary to justify whether he needs long professional or managerial experience or whether he must be a newcomer to the profession. For example, when interviewing the application process, it may make sense to interview newcomers to the profession. Or in a survey on job equipment, the work experience has no relevance. For this reason, the following dimensions have to be checked out:

  • Certain age or generation?
  • Need some professional experience?
  • Manager or employee?
  • SMEs, SMEs or corporations?
  • industry important or not?
  • Certain competence required (e.g. scrum)

The experts can be easily found via Xing. With the help of the premium search, “I offer” can be searched for and the experts can be contacted. One or the other expert can also be found via groups. Linkedin, by the way, works. Furthermore, in the private environment (parents, friends,…) you can ask. It also makes sense to simply write to the authors of technical articles, which you will find in the literature analysis, and ask for an interview.

Tip: Write politely in the mail: why you selected the expert, how long it takes, what it’s all about and three appointment suggestions.

Contents of the expert interview

The exact content of the questions depends, of course, on your research question. However, you should design the type of question exactly. As a rule, you have made hypotheses that you want to check. In a quantitative survey, you try to substantiate these theses with concrete figures. In the qualitative expert interview, however, you want to better understand the theses. Examples of theses are:

  • From a team size of 12 people, the Kanban method is better suited than scrum.
  • In SMEs, Kanban is more efficient than scrum because of the small process landscape.

You derive one question per hypothesis. You want to know: Do you agree with this thesis and why? You can also substantiate theses with an open question and provide background information on the theses, e.g. “What is your opinion on Kanban?” In a thesis, 5-10 questions are usually enough.

Reading tip: Putting up theses

Execution of the expert interview

The best way to do this is to be done in person, otherwise via phone or Skype. You have to get a questionnaire with 5 – 15 questions. Gradually go through them and take notes or better record the interview. It may make sense to establish a data protection agreement. Don’t forget to introduce yourself briefly before the interview. You can choose whether or not to send the questionnaire in advance. Often spontaneous answers are better or most experts are very busy and don’t look at them anyway.

Tip: Don’t forget to limit your methodology cleanly.

How many people should I ask?

This is a good question and it is generally true that the more you question, the more meaningful the results are. My tip is that after each interview you ask yourself: How significantly the results have changed since the last interview. For example, if the 5th participant tells you that agile methods in IT are great for digitization, you can actually slowly stop asking this question even more experts.

To do this, add the following sentence to your work: 5 participants were interviewed. According to Wilde and Hess (2006), the saturation criterion of a research method is reached when no significant new findings have been obtained after a certain amount of participants after an iteration. After evaluating the interview results, no significant new findings could be detected in the last 2 iterations.

Overall, however, I can say as a guideline that in my bachelor’s theses often 5-10 people have been interviewed.

Evaluation of the expert tinerview

In the first step, you need to type the interview and drag the language smoothly. You can also play the content in key points or shorter sentences. However, this is usually decided by your supervisor. Otherwise, the transcripts will be included in the appendix and are similar to the interviews you will find in newspapers.

In the evaluations, you first point out question 1 on e.g. what equipment you want at the workplace. Then you present the answers: Example: Expert a and b agree that you want a smartphone. Expert C wants to go to a tablet. This is how you systematically go through the questions.

Reading Tip: Qualitative Content Analysis Book

Conclusion: Tips for expert interview

The method was very suitable for many researches and focuses on surveys of current knowledge. The preparation and evaluation takes a long time, which is why the interviews have to be properly prepared and planned. My tips should give an initial orientation to the methodology. In any case, take a look at my other book tips!

Are there any questions?

If you have any questions, I have two tips. I have summarized my experience from 5 years in the supervision of theses in the book: "Recommendations for the Bachelor and Master thesis". This is available at Springer and Amazon since August 2020. The book is an official reference book and can be quoted. You are also welcome to give me a call. Just look in the booking system for a free appointment . I take a few hours every month to help students.

My tip before submitting your thesis

It is always worth doing a professional thesis Proofreading or check plagiarism to let. The benefit is that you will also get feedback and improve your academic style. Providers such as Scribbr help with good prices for the thesis.

Gender note: I have used the masculine form for easier readability. Unless an explicit distinction is made, women, diverse and men as well as people of all origins and nations are meant. Read more about this.

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I blog about the impact of digitalization on our working environment. For this purpose, I present content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday work. I am a manager in an SME myself and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the chair of IT Management.

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