Technical Writing Researching and Interviewing

Researching and Interviewing

There are a limited number of opportunities to get cooperation and information from experts: The experts are people who have the best information about the product, but the experts are the busiest people on the project. It is important to minimize interview time and allow them to develop the product or project. Do not waste the expert's time. The better prepared for the interview you are the less time the interview will take.

Plan the Interview

Review notes from the project manager. Focus on the subjects that you have agreed to write about. Read any previous product documentation on the subject matter. This research can provide useful information. If writing an update or amendment to a product, ask which information has changed and which information is still the same.

Prepare for Intervieware for Interview

Conduct the interview

Validate the information after the interview

Check the information you record and ensure that it does not contradict other previous information

Why Plan the interview?

Testers, developers and architects are busy people.

Minimize the amount of time spent.

The maximum duration of an interview should be 30 minutes.

Remember the phrase: Proper Preparation and Planning Prevents Poor Performance

How do you prepare for an interview?

It is important to prepare clear and well-defined questions.

Always be focused and ask open questions.

An open question is a question that you cannot answer yes or no to.

Make sure any equipment used works before the interview.

Why Research for an Interview?

It is important to prepare before meeting with the Subject Matter Expert. (SME) This:

When the research is complete some information may require explanation.

Write a list of questions to ask the SME.

The aim is to get all the information needed in one interview.

What to bring to the interview?


Where is the best place to have the interview?

Always book a quiet meeting room where the SME can bring a laptop to show you the information.

SMEs will attend most booked meetings

Do not book a meeting in a cafe or noisy environment.

This will also eliminate potential disruptions that can take place in the SME's regular work location

When is the best time to have the interview?

The best time to have an interview is when the SME has time.

If the SME has an assistant ask when the SME is likely to have time and book a meeting then.

Monday mornings are usually the worst time because many issues arise over the weekend and often on Friday afternoons the SME will finish off the tasks for that week.

How do you start the interview?

Conduct the interview

Do not record every word that the SME says

Validate the information after the interview

Validate the information acquired by checking that the information does not contradict another source of information. If there are contradictions prepare a list of questions and book another interview

Track each task

Each update or amendment becomes a task.

It is essential to Track each task for the life cycle of a project. If tasks are tracked then everyone in the team knows:

Make a list of topics and concepts that correspond to the requirement specification of the system.

By tracking these requirements to the actual system and documents delivered to the users this validates that every task has been done.

How to Validate

Providing accurate information is one of the most important tasks in technical writing.

Test the information against the software if available.

A second technical writer notices errors undetected because familiarity with the text.

Let the SME validate information in the document. The developer is a key resource for validating the veracity of what is written, but never for commenting on the style.

Tips for collecting information from SMEs

Either call the SME or go over to their desk and ask a few questions.

Taken from I'd Rather be Writing by Tom Johnson, used with permission.

End of lesson Test

  1. Where is the best place to have the interview in a place that is not noisy
  2. When is the best time to have the interview when the sme has time
  3. How do you prepare for an interview? research
  4. How do you start the interview?