The Elicitation Interview technique
A guide to conducting an Elicitation Interview study, in the context of Information Visualization
When conducting an Elicitation Interview it is important to determine a specific singular experience to focus the interview on. It is not appropriate to conduct an Elicitation interview about general experiences, such as the participant’s typical experience with visualization.
When deciding on the experience to base the interview on there are two basic choices for the researcher:
(1) Focus on a personal experience with a specific visualization that the participant explored/read/encountered/interpreted/analysed in the past, or
(2) Provide the participant with a visualization to read and then conduct an Elicitation Interview about their experience with this particular visualization.
The timing of the interview following the experience with the visualization is not critical, however, if the interview takes place immediately after the participant has read the visualization, it is easier for them to re-enact the experience.
The interview should be conducted in a quiet location. During the interview the participant should be seated at an angle from the interviewer to provide (visual) space for them, so that they can stare into the void, and their view is not blocked by the interviewer. This helps the participant to reach and maintain a state of evocation, where they can re-enact the experience and, in the best case, forget about the interview situation.
In Elicitation Interview comprises of a number of phases (see Fig. 1). The following paragraph describe these phases, highlighting important aspects to consider. We also provide example questions that can be used to guide the interview.
Before the interview commences the researcher should agree a contract with the participant (see Fig.1, Phase 1). As an Elicitation Interview can go deeper into past experiences than traditional interviewing techniques, it is important to inform them that they can stop the interview at any time.
At this stage the interviewer should also inform the participant about:
– The overall goal of the study they are participating in.
– The purpose of the interview and the type of questions it aims at addressing.
Inducing the state of evocation (See Block A in Fig. 2)
To help the participant reach a state of evocation (see Fig. 1, Phase3) the interviewer should commence a line of questions with the following statement:
“If you agree, I suggest that we go back to the time when you started to experience X…”
Then the interviewer should ask questions of when and where the experience took place:
– When did the experience take place?…
– Where did the experience take place?…
Once the participant has described the specific time and place of the experience, the questions should then focus on eliciting the sensorial conditions surrounding the original experience, starting with questions probing the visual aspects of the experience, and then questions regarding the auditory and finally kinaesthetic experience. Below is a list of typically questions that can be asked during this phase.
Questions probing visual experiences:
– When you are there, what do you see?
– I would like you to describe this place or this scene to me, as you saw it at the time.
– Look around you again at what you were seeing then..
– To transition from visual to auditory: And in this place, there may be sounds?
Questions probing auditory experiences:
– At this moment, what are you hearing?
– Find again the sounds/noises/conversations…
– Listen again to everything you are hearing…
– To transition from auditory to kinaesthetic: While continuing to hear everything you are listening to, let the sensations come back to you…
Questions probing kinaesthetic experiences:
– At that time, what is the position of your body?
– At that time, what are you feeling?
– Can you retrieve this bodily position?
Questions to describe the diachronic structure
The diachronic structure of an experience (addressed in Phase 4 of the interview, see Fig. 1) explores how the experience unfolded over time, from the start to the end of an experience and all the phases in between (as represented in the coloured blocks in Fig. 2). There are 5 different types of questions that can help the participant to recall the unfolding of an experience, including trigger, beginning, sequence, end and test questions. In the following we present example questions for each type:
– How do you know how to begin?
– How do you know that it is “x” that has to be done?
– How do you start?
– What happens first?
– What do you do then?
– In this sequence, where does this action take place?
– What happens at the end?
– What do you end with?
– How do you know you have finished?
– How do you know that you know?
– How do you know that it is difficult?
Questions to describe the synchronic structure
The synchronic structure of an experience relates to particular episodes during the experience (see Fig.1, Phase 5). The procedure and types of questions used in an Elicitation Interview help the interviewer to probe deep into these episodes to reveal cognitive processes employed by the participant which they may not have been aware of during the original experience. Much like the questions used to reveal the diachronic structure, questions in this phase of the interview focus on the sensory experiences: vision, hearing and feeling. In the following we provide example questions for each:
Questions to describe a mental image
– When you see “x”, what do you see?
– Is it in colour or black and white?
– Is it clear or fuzzy?
– Is it stable or fleeting?
– Are you
(1) “inside the scene”, or
(2) do you see it as if it was a photograph or a film?
– If (1), are you there as yourself? Are you in the role of another person? Or elsewhere in the scene? Do you see yourself?
– If (2), where do you see the image (at the top, at the bottom, to the right, to the left)?, how far away is it? How big is it?
– Is it an image (or a scene) that you have already encountered, or is it an imaginary one?
Questions to describe an auditory sensation:
– And when you hear “x”, what do you hear?
– Where does this sound come from? From how far away? From which direction?
– How loud is it?
– What is its tone?
– How persistent is it?
If the participant reports talking to themselves, ask:
– Is it your voice, or the voice of someone else?
Questions to describe a bodily feeling
– Could you come back to this feeling?
– And when you feel this, what do you feel?
– Where is this sensation? Where do you feel it in your body?
– How big is it?
– How intense is it?
– What is it like?
– What kind of feeling is this feeling?
– If I had this feeling, what would I feel?
– If you had to teach me how to feel it, what would you tell me?
– Transmodal: Did the picture have a sound?
To deepen the description:
When the participant is recalling an episode of the experience, it is important to help them to retrieve this experience in fine detail. The following question can be helpful:
– Could you come back to “x” When you do “x”, what do you do?
– And when you do “x”, how do you start?
– How do you do “x”?
– How do you go about doing “x”?
If the participant finds it difficult to recall a deep description of the experience, the interviewer can use “Ericksonian” language, such as:
– When you do nothing, what do you do?
– When you don’t know, what do you know?
– How do you know that you don’t know?
The end of the interview (See Block B in Fig. 1)
Reformulate the entire interview and ask them if there is anything else they would like to add:
– Is there anything else?
– Have I missed anything?
– Is there anything you wish to add?
Discuss what will be done with the interview. Ask the participant whether they would like the transcriptions? Interview the participant about the interview. Ask them if they learned anything new?
Things to think about throughout the interview
If the interviewee begins to introduce judgement or you recognize that the interviewee is emerging from the evocation state, interrupt this process
– Bring them back
Define the start and end of the experience.
Be aware of the markers that represent the start and end of each phase of the experience.
Represent the contract again (if you agree…).