Assignment 6: Requirements engineering interview with 1 person

Due: Sunday, 27 October 2019, 11:55 PM

This assignment gives experience on learning to find out information about a topic which you may not be entirely familiar with.

This assignment includes: planning a short interview about a theme that may not be familiar to you, execution of the interview, and transcription of its content into a report. All the returned reports will be used as qualitative research material in Assignment 7.

How should Instagram increase its support for self-branding?

Instagram has become so successful social media service that it has given rise to its own celebrities who gather followers in millions. For  these celebrities (or people who aspire to become celebrities), Instagram is a tool for self-branding. Your task is to find out, by interviewing one Instagram user, how Instagram could be even better in supporting its users in self-branding

Instagram and using it for self-branding may not be familiar topics to you. You may also find a concept of self-branding in online world a topic that feels strange to you. However, it is a worthwhile pursuit for other people, and your task is to learn about this with an open mind.

Carry out this assignment following these steps:

  1. "Desk research" (preparing yourself for the study):
    1. Familiarize yourself with Instagram. You can read about it, install it for yourself and try it out (if you want to).
    2. Read about self-branding (e.g., see the paper by Liu and Suh, 2017).
    3. Try to create a holistic picture about this activity, its users, contexts of use etc.
  2. Recruit a participant:
    1. From your social circles, find someone who uses Instagram and is not a student in this course. If the person is active in maintaining their own profile, seeks to gather followers, and therefore can be considered as a user of Instagram for self-branding, then even better. Otherwise, this participant should at least be a follower of other Instagram users and willing to talk about it with you.
    2. Agree about a 20-minute interview with the person.
    3. The person needs to show how they use Instagram, and allow you to take screenshots/picture about it. Find out which device your participant uses when using Instagram. 
  3. Practical preparations:
    1. Find out how you can take screenshots with the device that the participant uses.
    2. Find out how you can make an MP3 (or equivalent) recording with your own phone or other device.
    3. Prepare a short informed consent form, e.g., by modifying the version that was used in Assignment 5.
    4. Review again the slides about ethics in Lecture 5.
  4. Plan your interview.
    1. The research question (RQ) of your study is in the title (i.e., "How should Instagram increase its support for self-branding?"). However: the RQ is quite abstract, and may not be the question that you want to ask directly from your participant. Therefore you need to think what are the interview questions that best would help the participant talk about issues related to the RQ.
    2. Your interview should have the following structure:
      1. Introduction to the study (5 min): here you introduce the study, thank your participant for volunteering for it,  gather a signature to the informed consent form, etc. (see the slides about ethics)
      2. Background questions (max 5 min): ask the following:
        1. How much have you used Instagram earlier, and how much do you use it now?
        2. Would you identify yourself as a person who maintains an Instagram profile or as a user who follows others, or both?
      3. Your questions (max 10 min): 
        1. One main interview question. Try to invent a question that leads the participant to show how they use Instagram in relation to self-branding (either as a person who "self-brands" or who is in an audience for another Instagram user's self-branding), so that you can take a screenshot (hopefully your participant has given consent to it).
        2. Two follow-up questions that will deepen the participant's answer.
  5. Conduct the interview:
    1. Remember to record it! You can easily probably do it with your mobile phone. Test that your recording really works and make sure that your device has enough battery power.
    2. Put the recorder on only after your participant has signed the consent form.
    3. Make sure that you don't run overtime: that increases your workload and would be unethical, because you have promised that the interview will not take longer than 20 minutes.
    4. Try to make sure that your participant provides informative answers: 
      1. About interviewing: you don't need to ask the interview questions exactly with those words that you have planned, if another way of asking them seems more natural in the interviewing situation. This is OK in thematic/semi-structured interviews where it is more important that the participant understands the question correctly than asking it exactly with a particular wording. Therefore, you can elaborate your question with more words if you feel it necessary, and you can ask more and different questions than you originally planned, if that helps getting better data.
      2. You can conduct the interview in any language that is convenient for you and the participant. If the language is not English, carry out as good translation to English as you can when you prepare the transcription (see more below). 
      3. Guide the participant "back on track" if their answer starts to deviate from the RQ.
      4. If the participant does not talk much, ask the follow-up questions and improvise more questions.
      5. If the participant provides a very informative and well-elaborated answer directly, you don't need to ask the follow-up questions at all.
  6. Transcribe the interview:
    1. Transfer your recording from your recording device (e.g., your phone) to a computer. Put headphones on, open a text editor and a media player (see the tip below), with the recording ready to be played. Find out how you can switch between these two applications quickly, since you need to do that a lot (Alt+Tab in Windows, Cmd+Tab in Mac).
    2. By listening to your recording, transcribe your discussion with the participant in a nearly word-by-word manner to a text document. Avoid shortening the transcript, to ensure that the participant's "own voice" is not lost. This is a really slow step - reserve time for it!
      1. Tip: VLC Player provides a very useful feature that lets you slow down the playback rate. With a slower playback rate, you don't need to pause the tape as often and jump back to an earlier position. VLC also allows keyboard shortcuts for rapid +/-10 second jumps along the tape without needing to touch the mouse. Learn them and use them, because using mouse will slow you down.
    3. Provide your transcription in English. You can either 1) first transcribe the interview in the language that you used, and then translate what you have written to English, or 2) translate directly to English from the interview as you go through the recording.
    4. Only transcribe the background questions and your interview questions and the participant's answers.
    5. Add screenshot(s) to appropriate parts of your document.
  7. Prepare your report. Include the following sections:
    1. A short (e.g., 2-3 paragraphs) description of your preparations: what your information sources were, what you learned from them, and how that gave direction for your study.
    2. What was your main question and why did you decide to ask it?
    3. What were the two follow-up questions and why did you plan to ask them?
    4. The transcript of the background questions and your questions and the participant's answers.

Return your report using MyCourses from this page.

Anonymize your report!

Because other students will be reading your report in Assignment 7, it is important to anonymise this submission completely. To do this, do make sure you do these steps:

  • Do not include your name, student number, or other identifying information in your report.
  • In your text editor, make sure that it does not add your name to the document's metadata. In MS Word, for example, open File > Properties > Summary tab and clear all the fields from it, especially the Author field.
  • Make also sure that your PDF writer does not add metadata to the document.


This assignment will be evaluated based on 1) the evidence about high-quality preparatory work, 2) quality of your interview questions and how you explain the reason for asking these questions, and 3) quality of the interview itself: that it is long enough so that the participant actually provides information to your question(s).