These eliciting skills build on and relate to the mindset you need to be unbiased and open. The techniques combine to increase the validity of qualitative research by keeping it focused on the experience of the respondent. It is best practice to listen carefully and build your questions based on what the respondent says.
Below is an example. Notice how different it would be if the opening question was: ‘what are the main things you take into account when buying a kettle?’
I: Tell me about your shopping trip yesterday. (An open, narrative type question)
R: Oh, it was a complete nightmare; I had to buy a new kettle. We had our old one for ages and it finally packed in.
I: Nightmare? (echoing)
R: You can’t live without a kettle, can you?
I: So it was really important that you got another one? (Paraphrasing for empathy)
R: The kitchen looked so sad and empty without one. I suppose we could have boiled water in a pan but its not the same. I left work early, I needed to get one straight away.
I: So you made a special effort, you couldn’t wait. Can you say more about that? (Probing the urgency)
R: If I bought it online I would have had to wait at least a day, I really wanted just to go home with it. Tea time we have this sort of a ritual- its about the only time we are all together, because the teenagers are out and about in the evenings.
I: You wanted it for this special ? (checking the paraphrase) time you have together. And you said earlier it was a nightmare?
R: I needed to be quick, and I was thinking – ‘it’s a kettle, its easy to buy a kettle’. But there were like, 20 different kettles in the shop. And they were different styles and colours, some had filters and coloured lights; some had glass bits in them so you could see the water….and then they lit up when it was on….
I: Seems like you had a lot of things to think about all of a sudden? (In the shoes of the respondent)
R: …..Never mind the cool touch walls – they all had some sort of thingummywhatsit to make them different.
I: So what happened, how did you deal with all the thingummywhatsits? (using the same language)
R: I was panicking. Too much information. Then I just thought of my kids at home, waiting for their tea and I found a kettle that would look right in our kitchen. Nothing space age, no gimmicks, It was a red round one that looked homely and…..friendly. It wasn’t the cheapest but I thought it would look right in the kitchen.
I: And when you got it home……?
R: They hardly noticed. My son was suspended from the football team so we had a bit of a drama to deal with during tea.
I: How did you feel? (noticing that the respondent had not mentioned her own feelings)
R: Job done! (Smiling, thumbs up, look of satisfaction).