As we recently wrapped up the first year of a longitudinal study to evaluate self-efficacy of refugees in Central Florida, the funder asked what recommendations we had for conducting interviews in their community. Ah! Carrying out interviews can be trying, especially here in our culturally diverse Florida communities. However, knowledge acquired through lessons learned has made it easier to get across some interviewing challenges.

The most complex barrier is the issue of trust. As researchers and evaluators, we all know that gaining the trust of research participants from any culture, and especially from the Haitian and Hispanic communities, is hard. Thus, we have found it helpful to develop a relationship with community leaders, or to initiate a Community-based Participatory Research partnership. This research method has been successful in hard-to-reach communities like the Haitian community(1) and has been adopted by other programs(2) to reach the target population. This collaborative effort will not only decrease the community’s distrust and ensure answers’ reliability, but also help identify the most culturally appropriate study design to accomplish research or evaluation objectives.

With respect to Hispanics and Haitians, being culturally appropriate goes further than being able to speak Spanish or Haitian Creole: the interviewer should be a native speaker. For us, working in South and Central Florida communities, this might not be an issue, but for other programs, we recommend using an interpreter if you don’t have a native speaker on staff. This goes for any language. Moreover, the trained researcher or interviewer must be aware of the sample’s cultural context as well. Approaching Hispanic or Haitian immigrants has often been difficult as they may be fearful that their participation might have repercussions on their immigration status. It is beneficial to receive endorsement from community leaders to help recruit participants and reassure them of the nature of the study. Taking into account the participants’ socio-demographic and cultural background also helps to gain a 360-degree view.

Furthermore, there are often little details we as researchers and evaluators overlook. We must realize that the participants are giving up their time to talk to you. Asking participants whether they are willing to give you some of their time usually works better than asking them if they are interesting in participating. Scheduling the interview ahead of time is important. In Middle Eastern cultures for example, women have to obtain their spouse’s consent to participate in a research study, or even to simply speak to what they would consider an outsider to the community. Remember that respect and good manners will always create a comfortable and sincere atmosphere.

(1)    Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers Prev 2010;19:366-370. One Size Does Not Fit All: Differences in HPV Knowledge between Haitian and African American Women. Erin Kobetz, Angela Dunn Mendoza, Janelle Menard, et al.

(2)    Journal of Cancer Education (2010) 25:602–608. Barriers to Cervical Cancer Screening Among Haitian Immigrant Women in Little Haiti, Miami. Janelle Menard & Erin Kobetz & Jennifer Cudris Maldonado & Betsy Barton & Jenny Blanco & Joshua Diem

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