View Full Version : Interviews for Research - Am I overlooking anything?

07-14-2010, 03:15 AM
I'm getting ready to post a "wanted" ad in this research thread for those who could answer some questions pertaining to the research I have done. At the end of my questionnaire I was going to have them sign a statement similar to what you would find on the back of an employment application. Something like . . . "To the best of my knowledge I have answered these questions accurately . . .

I am also going to ask that they provide their full name and a reference to verify what they are claiming.

In addition, I was going to have a statement that said that their name would be kept confidential but that a general acknowledgement may be placed in the back of the book if published.

My questions: Have I overlooked anything? Gone too far? Does the author normally have a say about acknowledgements in a work of fiction? Could I be accused of plagiarism even if I use my own words from the answers?

07-14-2010, 10:47 AM
The pseudo legal stuff sounds completely over the top to me. If you put that down as a requirement then there will be a lot of people who will refuse to help just on that basis.

07-14-2010, 06:21 PM
I wasn't quite sure how to answer this but I felt like I wanted to.

As someone who only writes only fiction, but with a professional background that means I could write either "advice" books or even reference books, I can appreciate the different quality of research that goes into me researching a story, compared to what I'd have to do if I wanted to advise someone on medication, for example.

I can't really tell if you're looking for a legal way to defend yourself from a lawsuit if some idiot like me suddenly decides to give you awful advice and a reader decides to sue you, or whether you just want a record of the people who talk to you consenting to have their answers / opinions included in your work so that they won't sue you if you do.

I like the spirit of the forums a lot. I like the idea of a number of people with different backgrounds sharing their experience in a casual and helpful way. I have no concerns that anyone who's ever offered me advice on woodcare, smoking teddy bears or army ranks will turn around and sue me later, and it's still my job to fact check anything I'm told.

I think your answer might be different depending on what you want.

If you want people to offer a little advice to help develop a work of fiction then I think I'd suggest you just go with the flow and ask your questions and see what advice you get.

If you want people's answers to be your book, i.e "I asked a hundred people called Craig what they thought about x, and Craig said...." then you've got a simple consent issue and you do need a record of people's agreement to you using their comments.

If you are actually writing a book offering medical advice to people and you're hoping to do your research through the forum, i.e. "Some guy on a forum claiming to be a doctor told me that eating cardboard is a perfectly good way to cure heart disease.", then I don't think anything you got me to sign would protect you from being partly responsible if you went ahead and printed that as fact. If you're wanting true experts to go on record and be responsible for any advice they give you, then I'd suggest you actually talk to a lawyer rather than make your own form up.

There's also truth in Robin's comments about what motivates people to respond. I usually get about four or five email surveys sent to me a year (I am a doctor) and the drug companies usually offer about fifty pounds worth of shopping vouchers for about half an hour of my time. I've never bothered to fill one in yet....but if someone asks a pointless question on the forum about how a psychiatrist might tell the difference between demonic possession and schizophrenia in a world where demons actually do exist....then try and stop me answering that one, and they don't even offer to bribe me.

You'll get more answers if you keep it casual, but if you're genuinely fearful of being sued, then it might be worth putting this question to a lawyer before you start.


07-15-2010, 06:27 AM
My two cents: I did some research for a young adult novel that required intimate knowledge of teen issues. I posted a flier at the local high school offering pizza, soda and bowling for feedback. The kids who responded were amped to provide the data and loved that their "voice" was being heard and appropriately captured. The whole night cost me less than one hundred bucks and I got enough info for ten books. People love to talk about themselves so I worked that angle and got feedback you would never find on a forum.

Your form and requirements sound a little over the top and may send people running. If you want the real skinny and are adamant about protecting yourself then I'd suggest using an approach similar to mine. Take your form and hit the local hospital, law school, detox center, etc. and find people willing to talk. You'll be better received.

Again, just my two cents. Best of luck :)

07-16-2010, 03:40 AM
I thank you all for your input. There seemed to be a little confusion about my post. Sorry about that. Here is a little background. My work is historical fiction. The information that I gain from the interviews will be coupled with my own research that I've done. Kind of like a "2nd witness".

After reading the comments, I think I am going to keep the reference check due to the fact that I am looking for someone who has served oversees in a humanitarian aid organization. I'm not expecting to get anyone directly from AW (If I do that's great!) but more likely I will end up with a friend of a friend of a friend sort of deal where my trust issues will be lessened. I can’t see why anyone would be scared of the verification since if they are telling the truth, they should have no problem with it.

The signature thing I will toss, but I will include a short sentence about the acknowledgment.

I'm a little surprised, that no one commented more about plagiarism and using interviewee's answers. Additional advice in this area would be appreciated. :)

07-16-2010, 03:42 AM
Plagarism? Fiction? Not likely.

07-17-2010, 02:08 AM
Several years ago I was interviewed for a book on internet e-commerce, and I never had to sign any legal documents, except to confirm via email to the publisher (one of the big players in technology books) that I gave my permission to be quoted by name. I also received a free copy of the book.