Using interviews in conservation science

Today we published a paper in Methods in Ecology and Evolution on the use of interviews in conservation science. Co-led by myself and Juliette Young, it will be published in a special issue devoted to the use of qualitative methods in conservation, spearheaded by methods expert, Nibedita Mukherjee (senior author). We conducted a literature review on 227 papers which had used interviews in a conservation-related study of decision-making. Our paper found that many of these papers fail to report on the use of interviews carefully, sometimes leaving the reader struggling to make a judgement about what the researcher has done. I have fallen into this trap many times before, probably because reviewers don’t always insist on robust reporting of qualitative methodologies. Moving forwards, I will try much harder to do the following: justify why I’ve used a particular type of interview, give details on sampling, say whether I piloted it, provide a clear interview guide, and show how data led to conclusions.

We hope that the paper is accessible to both seasoned users of interviewers, and also those who haven’t used them before. For interview newbies, we provide a step-by-step guide on how to use interviews in research (see picture below).

Step-by-step interview guide. Taken from Young et al., 2018, Methods in Ecology and Evolution (link provided in blogpost). Material is reproduced under a Creative Commons Licence.

For interview veterans, we provide some recommendations on how to report on the use of interviews clearly in published material. To help us do this, we need reviewers (i.e. us!) to insist on proper reporting, even if this means lots of supplementary material is generated. While qualitative research might not always be reproducible, we should still leave the reader in no doubt about what we did.

The publication of this paper means a lot to me, and brings me particular joy. Although all co-authors are fantastic, there are three particularly wonderful names on the author list: Esha Marwaha, Jay Shah, and Stephen Parkinson (see pictures below). They are all undergraduate students at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, who I was fortunate enough to look after for two years. I’ve still not fully recovered from having to leave them in June, but I’m excited for them all to graduate this year! They did some great work on this paper, and I congratulate all of them on their first publication! Esha may be interested in pursuing an academic career, and I optimistically predict that this will be the first publication of many for her.



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