The melody of the interview

THERE IS A MUSICALITY to all interviews, big and small. The tempo will change and the conversation may explore various tones, but a good discussion is one where the rhythm never really breaks, and phrases respond to each other harmoniously. Even a vivid debate, or a tough negotiation, can become a pleasant and fulfilling experience, when different people playing different tunes are brought into accord by some…

Interview takeaways and throwaways

YOU’LL OFTEN BE ASKED about the “takeaways” of a particular meeting. In other words: what was new and meaningful, to you or to a broader conversation occurring on a given topic? What are you going home with, and might want to share with others? The query also suggests that there is much to cast aside…

Reconciling conflicting narratives

LEBANON IS A COUNTRY POLARISED between conflicting narratives if there ever was one. Most often, Lebanese genuinely entertain perfectly incompatible views of any meaningful event, to the point of making it difficult to establish facts or forge an opinion of one’s own. As the International Crisis Group’s senior analyst in Lebanon, Sahar al-Atrache has been…

Building your analysis on & through fieldwork

AS YOU CARRY OUT INTERVIEWS, bear in mind that your fieldwork is geared toward developing your analysis of a particular topic. Sometimes, we know what that topic is from the outset, and structure the fieldwork accordingly. Oftentimes, however, fieldwork produces insights into topics that we were not pursuing deliberately, and nonetheless impose themselves upon us….

Note taking and sharing

IF YOU THINK that you must type notes because you’ve had a few meetings, you’re wrong: we have meetings because we need notes. Our analysis is built not on impressionistic sentiments and recollections, but on a more tangible basis, which is the raw material of our craft: interview transcripts.  Without them, you’ll remain vague and shallow….

Introducing yourself when starting fieldwork

REACHING OUT to unknown people may be hard in ordinary circumstances. As we wade into an entirely new area of research—which typically, to prove interesting, must be removed from our social comfort zone—it can be daunting. In practice, though, it’s really just a matter of finding where to start. Just like a conversation may naturally flow…