2.4 Document interview notes
Turn your interview notes into an organised set of post-its for each participant.
Do this after each interview, while your experiences and perceptions are still fresh.
By the time you have finished documenting your notes in the ways described here you will be ready for Guide 3: Finding themes and insights in what you’ve heard.

🛠️ Tools

A whiteboard and post-its. This could be online using a tool like Miro or Mural. Use the Miro template in Step 1.

🧍🏿 Solo or collaborate 👫?

You can do this on your own. It’s best if the same person analyses each interview.

👣6 Steps

1. Set up your whiteboard

You will use it to document your notes in a way that prepares you for Guide 3. Synthesis is a way of analysing and finding patterns in data. Insight statements are ways of writing what you’ve noticed in the data.

2. Spell check your notes

Use your word processing programme’s spellchecker. This will tidy up your notes before you analyse them.

3. Remind yourself what information you are looking for

You will be looking for three types of information:

Direct quotes - that capture the exact words of the interviewee.

Examples:
  • “Google is my best friend”
  • “It’s more a mindset than a competency thing. I never really know what digital means.”
  • “I'm very confident and capable of using digital tools.”

Observations - indirect quotes or recurring patterns you noticed throughout an interview.

Examples:
  • Thinks critically about digital. Not a techy. Doesn't know how to build, but does know how to ask good questions.
  • Usually looks for a blog on a digital topic.
  • Digital skills and confidence is an issue

Interpretations - underlying motivations or assumptions that were not explicitly mentioned.

These are the most difficult to distinguish. You might only spot one or two per interview.
Examples:
  • Seems to fear not being ready to offer digital support and advice to other charities.
  • Positive attitude towards digital - seems to have carried them far
🔗🔗 Read ‘Documenting interviews’ in The most neglected part of the design process.

4. Document your notes

Look for information directly related to your research questions. Not everything will be. Leave out everything that isn’t relevant. This will help you focus on the most important information later.
Find your first piece of text. It could be a paragraph or a couple of sentences. Decide if it contains important information. If it doesn’t then move on.
If it does, then depending on what it is:
  • Copy direct quotes to a post-it.
  • Summarise observations on a post-it.
  • Carefully summarise any interpretations on a post-it
Use different coloured post-its for each type of information. This is what it looks like:
Example of documented notes.
Use only one post-it per quote, summary or interpretation. Split sentences if you need to. This will help you later on.
🧙‍♂️ Tip: Add each observation or quote you copy as a comment to the note text you took it from. Like the image below 👇. This creates a record of what you have done with the notes, which can be helpful if you want to check back later.
You don’t need to do this for interpretations.
Quotes and observations added as comments to the original interview notes.

5. Repeat

Do this after each interview, while your experiences and perceptions are still fresh.

6. Ask a colleague to document too

This is an optional step. Doing it will improve the quality of your documentation but is not necessary for it to be good enough.
Ask a colleague to read through your notes and write down their observations and interpretations on post-its.
Integrate their post-its with yours. Remove any duplicates.

You’re done here

Nice work. You’ve completed Guide 2.

What to do next

You have two choices:
  1. 2.
    Stop here and analyse what you’ve heard using an alternative method.
Export as PDF
Copy link
Outline
🛠️ Tools
🧍🏿 Solo or collaborate 👫?
👣6 Steps
1. Set up your whiteboard
2. Spell check your notes
3. Remind yourself what information you are looking for
4. Document your notes
5. Repeat
6. Ask a colleague to document too