Ask a Friend Interview Guide

Ask a Friend interviews are informal chats, but, there are some things that are essential to cover in order for us to be able to use them for Access Folk - please read on and make sure you understand what you need to do. You can also refer to our Co-Researcher Checklist to make sure you don't miss anything.

If you have any questions, just drop us an email

Who to interview

We would like you to interview a friend, family member, colleague or acquaintance based in England. They may or may not have been to a folk music or singing event before but are not currently engaged with the folk singing scene in England. Ideally you will choose someone who has some interest in singing, music, or cultural heritage in one form or another. They must be over 18 years old and have the capacity to give consent independently. Please only interview one person at a time - if you know a couple, or have a group of friends that might be interesting, talk to them separately - you can do as many interviews as you like!

We recognise that many different languages are spoken in England and although we are not restricting what language to use for the interview, if possible and appropriate please conduct the interview in English. If you want to conduct an interview in BSL, doing an online interview may be preferable as it makes it easier to record the interview through the web cameras. Please contact us if you are intending to conduct interviews using BSL or a spoken language other than English so we can consider translations of the material for analysis.

Getting consent

Everyone involved in Access Folk needs to give their consent for the project to be able to use the data they provide. This includes both the co-researcher and the interviewee.

Consent is given by filling out a form (online or on paper) confirming that you are happy to contribute to Access Folk’s research. The consent form will also confirm the nature of your relationship with the University of Sheffield, your right to withdraw from the research if you so wish, and how you would like to be contacted.

The co-researcher

Before you start planning your interview/s you should sign the Co-researcher agreement and Consent Form, either online or request a hard copy via email:

The interviewee

You, the co-researcher, will be tasked with getting the interviewee’s consent before you conduct your interview. Please share the Interviewee Information Sheet and link to the Interviewee Consent Form with the interviewee in good time before the interview.

If the interviewee is not able to complete the form online, you can print it out for them to sign before the interview. You can request hard copies of the form via email:, (please allow ten days for copies to arrive). If you are using a hard copy you will need to either post it to us as soon as possible after the interview or photograph the form and email it to us.

It is perfectly fine for the interviewee to complete the consent form when you meet up, but If they do not fill it out you should not do the interview, even if they say they’ll do it later. Make sure you bring copies of the form and/or have the link to the google form handy so that they can consent before you start the interview. If they are not able to or reluctant (for any reason) to fill out the consent form, you need to postpone the interview. Please direct the interviewee to us if they have any issues.

Before you start the interview, confirm that the interviewee has filled out the consent form. Make sure any hard copies are signed. If they have filled out the form online, please ask them to check that they got an automated confirmation email (it will be from Google and might have ended up in their spam folder). If you have any doubts, please email for us to confirm that the form has been completed.

Please note that we are unable to accept any data or award any vouchers until we have received signed consent forms from both yourself and the interviewee.

Where to do the interview

When your interviewee has agreed to be interviewed you need to decide on a suitable place to meet up (or if you are doing the interview online, which platform to use). Depending on your relationship with the interviewee, it might be appropriate to do the interview at your or their home. However, in most cases it is more suitable to choose a neutral location where you both feel comfortable.

Try to choose a quiet setting, preferably indoors. If you are doing the interview in a cafe, library or outside venue make sure that you are sitting where there are not a lot of people walking past, where you can hear traffic, or next to a loud fridge or espresso machine. Pubs can make good places for interviews, but be aware that not everyone feels comfortable in them, and we do not recommend conducting interviews, or being interviewed, while under the influence of alcohol.

What to bring along

  • A recording device and batteries/charger

  • Paper and pen

  • The list of words for the word association game and interview question outline (if needed)

  • Any other paperwork, if needed, i.e. consent forms.

Recording device

Most smartphones and tablets have built in microphones that will work well for an interview. You may find that there is already a sound recording or dictaphone app installed on your device. If not, there are several free apps, both for Apple IOS and Android, that you can use, for example, Voice Recorder on Android phones or Voice Memos on iPhone. Make sure you know how to record with your chosen app and device. Do you know how to access the files after your recording? Do you know what file format you are recording to? There are many videos on YouTube that will introduce you to different recording apps and show you how to access your files. You can use a separate recording device, if you have one, just make sure that you know how it works before the interview. If you are using a separate device it can be useful to have your phone set up to record as a backup.

Make sure your phone or recording device is close enough to the person you are interviewing to get a good sound. Never hide the recording device from the interviewee. You can do a quick test recording before you start the interview to make sure you have got the volume right. It is useful, but not essential, to bring a pair of earphones to be able to check that the sound is good.

Take your time setting up and preparing for the interview, there is little point in going through the process if the recording can’t be used because of a technical mishap or too much background noise. You could do a trial run at home before the interview. Try to place the device in different positions and think about how far away you and the interviewee might be from the device. Listen back to your recordings and make adjustments as needed until you feel comfortable that you will be able to get a good recording. Don’t worry about this too much though, in most cases it will be enough to simply place the device on a table between you and the interviewee.

If you are doing your interview online and recording directly to you computer, please read the "Doing interviews online" section to the right.

Doing interviews online

We would prefer face to face interviews, but you can do your interview through a video call platform, such as Zoom, Google Meets, or MS Teams. This might be preferable if you and the interviewee are living far away from each other or if either of you have particular access needs.

The same precautions and consent forms apply as when doing an interview in person. Please make sure that you know how to record the interview, where the file/s are saved, whether you are recording both sound and picture or just sound etc. If you are recording both sound and picture, make sure that the interviewee is aware and okay with that, otherwise they should have the option to turn off their camera. It is good practice to do a test run first to make sure you know how to use the platform, there are many YouTube videos and other online resources to show you how to use the different platforms (just make sure that you are using an up-to-date resource).

Safe fieldwork practice

In a research context we refer to interviews as fieldwork, that is, a kind of data gathering which includes moving out from the usual office environment. When you do any form of fieldwork you should make sure that you keep safe. Here are a few points to follow:

  • Let someone know where you are going before heading out. Tell them where you are and how long you expect to be away.

  • Make sure that you know where you are going and how to get back afterwards.

  • If you are using public transport check that there are buses or trains running so that you can get home safely.

  • If you are meeting in a public place, keep an eye on your bags and other personal items at all times.

  • Make sure your phone is charged, especially if you are using it as your recording device. Bring a charger or power bank in case you need it.

  • Never put yourself in danger for the sake of an interview. If you find yourself in a situation where you feel uncomfortable, make an excuse and leave.

As a University of Sheffield research project, Access Folk follows the University’s Safeguarding Policy and we will make sure that you will be supported if something happens during our activities or you need advice for how to proceed with regards to experiences you may have had in the past.

If you need advice or support please contact the Project Manager and Designated Safeguarding Contact Dr. Helen Grindley in the first instance (; 0114 2220466). If this is not appropriate, please contact the Head of the Department of Music, Professor Simon Keegan-Phipps

After the interview

When you have finished your interview and checked that the recording came out okay, it is time to listen back and fill out the interview report form. Try to do this as soon as possible after the interview to make sure that you don't miss anything. When you have filled out the form you should submit it to Access Folk together with the original recording and any other documents relating to the interview (for example a scan of the interviewee consent form).

You will receive instructions via email on how to submit your interviews after you have signed the Co-Researcher Agreement and Consent Form.

When we have received and checked your recording/s and interview report form/s, we will issue you a £10 voucher (love2shop rewards) per interview (up to a maximum of £50 per interviewer).

Interview outline, themes and questions

Ask a Friend uses an informal interview format, more of a themed conversation rather than a fact finding interview. There are three themes we want to explore,

  1. the interviewee’s background in singing, music and arts (if any),

  2. their (non)involvement with folk singing in England, and

  3. their attitudes towards folk singing.

To explore the third theme we have devised a word association game to complement the interview questions. It is important that you include the word association in your interview. The interview outline and example questions below can be used as inspiration. Try to get responses to each theme but you don’t need to read out the questions verbatim or ask every single one. We recommend that you take some time in advance to think about the questions and how you would like to ask them. You can change the wording but try to keep them open and as far as possible avoid yes or no question. In some cases the interviewee will have given an answer already in a previous question and there is no need to repeat it. Although the format of the interview is conversational, make sure that the interviewees are the ones that speak the most and keep handing back to them by using open-ended questions and asking them for examples in follow up questions.

An Ask a Friend interview should ideally take no longer than 30 min. The outline below is a suggestion, depending on the person or context you might want to move things around, for example, starting with the Word Association Game or first talk about folk music and then about their other music experience. As long as you cover the three themes you are free to structure the interview as you please. You are not expected to follow the timings in brackets directly, they are only to give you a general idea of how much time we expect each section to take. Your interviewee will most likely have more to say about some questions than others. Don’t worry if your interview takes a bit longer (or shorter) than the prescribed 30 minutes, try to stay within the time but don’t feel that you need to immediately shut down your interviewee if they have a lot to say.

Introduction (3-5 min)

Make the interviewee feel comfortable and relaxed, have a chat and avoid bombarding them with detailed questions straight away. When you turn on the recorder, it is good practice to start with a quick statement of the date and who you are talking to. Ask them to introduce themselves very briefly (for example, name, where did you grow up, what do you do for a living?).

Example questions

  • Could you please introduce yourself briefly

  • Is there anything you would like to add before we start?

Theme 1: music and culture background (5-10 min)

Ask a few questions about the person’s involvement with music, as singer/musician at any level or as a listener and audience member. Do they have family members who are involved in music? Any music when they were growing up?

Example questions and follow up questions (if needed)

  • Could you tell me about your involvement and interest in music and singing?

    • What kind of music do you enjoy the most?

    • Do you have a regular music activity that you attend (choir, live music venue, orchestra etc.)?

    • What do you feel you get out of making or listening to music?

    • Is there anything in particular that motivates you to get involved?

    • (Can you give me an example?)

  • What kind of music activities did you participate in when you were young?

    • Who introduced you to singing and music?

    • How do you think your early involvement has influenced your interests today?

    • (Can you give me an example?)

  • What arts or culture activities are you regularly involved with today? As audience, visitor or participant. (for example, dancing, festival organising, painting etc.)

Theme 3: Word association game (3-5 min)

We would like you to include a short word association game, where you say a word related to our research and the interviewee responds with whatever associations come into their mind (no rights or wrongs). It should be a fairly light-hearted warm up before moving on to the main subject of the interview. The word association should conclude with an opportunity for the interviewee to reflect on their associations. Make sure you bring the list of the words below to the interview so that you don’t forget them.

Use these words in this order for the word association:

  • Folk music

  • Traditional music

  • Folk songs

  • Folk singing

  • Folk singer

  • Folk club

  • Folklore

Follow up questions:

After you finish the word associations, allow the interviewee to reflect on their responses, it can be a general reflection or a couple of words about each association, it's up to them.

  • Did any of your associations surprise you?

  • Is there anything you would like to add to any of the associations?

Theme 2: Folk singing experience (5-10 min)

Move onto asking about their involvement with folk singing and folk music. What do they know and think about the folk singing and the folk scene? What is their past experience of folk singing? Any artists they listened to or any songs they recall hearing?

Example questions and follow up questions (if needed)

  • Could you tell me about your relationship to folk singing and folk music?

    • Have you ever been to a folk song event (a performance venue, folk club or sing around, traditional event?)

      • If yes, what was it like?

      • If not, why do you think that is?

    • Have you had the chance to attend a folk event but decided not to? Or has the opportunity never arisen?

      • If you decided not to, why? Can you give a specific example?

    • What folk singers and folk bands have you heard about or listened to?

      • Where did you come across them?

      • What did you think about their music?

    • Have you sung any folk songs yourself?

      • If so, where and when?

    • Do you feel there is any difference between singing folk songs and any other songs?

      • If so, what, and if not, why?

      • (Can you give me an example?)

Theme 3: Attitudes towards folk singing (3-5 min)

After discussing their (non)involvement with folk singing more generally, we want to get some more understanding of why they are not currently involved with folk singing? They might already have given some indication about this in their previous answers. If so, adapt your questions to get more detail but avoid making them repeat the same answers again. We would like to know, for example, if there are aspects of the genre or scene which are off putting? Would they be interested in going to more folk events? What might motivate them to get involved in folk singing? Try to get them to give specific examples.

Example questions and follow up questions (if needed)

  • Why do you think you are not involved with folk singing or folk music?

    • Is there anything about folk singing that you think could interest you? If so, what, and if not, why not?

    • Is there anything that would make you more inclined to be involved? If so, what, and if not, why not?

    • (Can you give me an example?)

  • What other activities do you do that have similarities to folk singing?

    • What draws you to those?

Wrapping up (3-5 min)

Tie up any loose threads, questions which weren't answered or that could be developed more. Ask if there is anything that they would like to add before you finish.

Thank them for their participation.

Example questions

  • Is there anything you expected to be asked that I didn’t ask you about?

  • Is there anything you would like to add to what you told me today?