How to Do Library Research
In order to interview someone, you will first need to find out who the best (most qualified) person is and also whether or not the person is:
- willing to speak with you
- nearby (or willing to do a telephone, FaceTime, Skype, or e-mail interview)
You may need to focus on accessibility when time is short. Researchers working on a thesis or dissertation may need to travel to another state to interview key people, but for most students a local expert will be the best option. One advantage of being at a university is there are a lot of experts on campus, so you don't need to go very far to find one.
Sources to find an expert's address are:
- Phone Directories
- faculty directories--find online on college and university Web sites.
- Who's Who publications
- Association Web sites
Note: no source is going to be comprehensive, so you can't depend on being able to locate everyone you might wish to contact. You may end up sending a letter care of (c/o) a publisher, news organization, or the person's agent, so planning ahead will be essential. It is recommended that you send a SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope) as a courtesy with your letter--it also increases your chances of a reply. Researchers are increasingly available via e-mail, a mechanism that requires no SASE. Keep in mind, however, that not everyone uses their e-mail frequently (some people never look at their e-mail) so this may not work as a way to contact someone.
When writing your letter or e-mail message, be sure to mention sources you have already consulted and the main points you are exploring. NO ONE WANTS TO DO YOUR RESEARCH FOR YOU! Demonstrate that you have already done substantial work on the topic. Otherwise, why should a busy person talk with you? S/he does not want to be constantly defining terms you should already know. Your questions should focus on what you are not able to find out through regular (non-interview) means. Only after you have established a positive relationship with an expert can you ask "obvious" questions. Think about how you talk with people you've just met versus acquaintances versus friends. Consult a Reference Librarian to help find background (and as much in depth as possible) information that will help you prepare for your interview.