Interview and Capstone Assignment (40%)

SMF 101: Winter 2021 (Remote Online)

Dr. Toni Serafini (Instructor)


Interview and Capstone Assignment (40%)


DUE: Saturday, April 17, 2021 by 11:59 pm (EDT) in LEARN DropBox 


Assignment Overview

This assignment is the capstone assessment of your learning about relationships and families. The objective is for you to interview someone about a topic pertaining to relationships and families and then provide a critical, reflective analysis of what you have learned from the interview, connecting it back to the material covered in this course (i.e., textbook, lecture slides, and readings/videos linked in the slides).


Note: Recipe for a Perfect Wife is assessed in the first assignment. While you are not forbidden from making a connection or two to this book, you are expected to draw extensively from the other course content in your analyses and critical reflections. No external reference materials are required; it is preferred that you rely exclusively on the ample course materials provided in SMF 101.


INTERVIEWS must be conducted following the Public Health Guidelines  in effect at the time of the interview.

You are encouraged to conduct the interview remotely or limit participant selection to someone within your household (unless otherwise recommended by Public Health).



STEP 1: Select a focus theme/topic for your interview.

There is so much to ask when it comes to relationships and families; however, you MUST narrow it down.  This will allow your interview to have more focus and depth about a particular topic. For example, you may want to interview someone about their experience of: parenthood, online dating, arranged marriage, childlessness by choice, being a 2SLGBTQIA person, an interracial/inter-cultural/inter-faith marriage, divorce, death of a loved one, family estrangement, conflict, “falling in love,” having an open relationship, work and child rearing, money and decision-making, etc.  As you can see, the possibilities are endless!  You just need to ensure the person you interview is willing and able to speak to your chosen topic.


Once you have a theme or topic, you will benefit if you can construct an overarching research question to guide you.

For exampleTopic: Inter-faith marriages. What do you want to know about interfaith marriages? Having a topic doesn’t provide much guidance to help you frame your interview questions and what you hope to learn. A guiding research question gives the topic better focus.   For Example Research Question: How does a married couple of different faith backgrounds navigate those differences, and how are they making religious decisions raising their child?  This brings some focus to the topic. Now you can develop the interview questions to help you explore the research question.

For Example – Interview Questions that explore the above research question might look something like:

  • While dating, how did their different faiths impact their relationship development? How great a role did being of different faiths play?
  • What challenges or conflicts did they experience in their relationship relating to their differing faiths?
  • Had either partner considered converting to the other partner’s religion? If so, what did that conversation entail? If not, how did they come to that decision?
  • In what ways have their differing faiths impacted their relationship? Positively?


  • How have their families responded?
  • If they have a child or children, how have they decided to raise their child?
  • What advice might they give another couple in the same situation?


STEP 2: Select a person you would like to interview who has the lived
experience you have identified as your topic.  

Consider what aspects of “relationality”

you are curious to learn more about from their lived experience and what wisdom, insights, and lessons-learned they might share.


Contact the person and ask if they are willing to give their consent to be interviewed for a class project. They will likely want some information about why you are asking (i.e., for a course assignment) and what you want to interview them about (i.e., the topic you have chosen), so be prepared to explain the goal and intent.  Arranging a date in the future to actually conduct the interview will give the person some time to give thought to your topic and what they might want to share. You may also provide them with the questions in advance so they can reflect on what they might share.


Whom might you select? Given this will be an intimate and personal conversation, consider inviting someone you would be comfortable talking with and someone who would be equally comfortable speaking openly and honestly with you. For example: close friend, parent, partner, grandparent, aunt or uncle, etc.


If you choose to interview someone outside your culture, critically reflect on what compels you to interview them. Most, if not all of us, have been “educated and trained” within and by a colonialist system. This usually results in “othering” practices, identifying and supporting negative stereotypes that reinforce harmful narratives and the practice of racist ideologies and white supremacy toward people based on their race, religion, country of origin, and so forth.  This interview is meant to support your learning process; therefore, you are asked to position yourself with humility and openness.


STEP 3: Generate your interview questions. Generate a list of approximately 5-8 questions designed to help you examine your topic.  Reminder: you want a series of questions that are about a single and specific topic (let your research question guide you)! Too many topics will result in a scattered interview with little depth. Five to eight questions should be plenty to stimulate a dialogue if the questions are designed to spark meaningful conversation, self-reflection, and story-telling. Your questions will come from your knowledge acquired during the course and your own lived experiences. Ultimately, the questions should be constructed so that they focus on the experiences of the participant/interviewee. See further suggestions under “Interviewing Tips” later in this document.


Remember, the interview questions should not be designed to test the interviewee about the course content. The interview process should be focused on examining the research question you selected in a way that generates rich, meaningful conversation and perhaps some storytelling.  It is your job – later – to connect what emerged from the interview to the course content. The write-up will be your opportunity to demonstrate the depth of your critical understanding and application of course material.


The interview questions and comments must not be harmful or unduly intrusive (e.g., directly asking about someone’s sexual history), nor are you to evaluate, edit, and/or revise someone else’s lived experience. People may choose to share very personal information, but you may not use this interview to pry or interrogate, or make your interviewee in any way uncomfortable. This interview is a form of sacred gifting-giving in which the people with whom you are speaking are sharing themselves with you.

Be respectful, grateful, and appreciative.


You are required to submit all the interview questions as part of the final assignment. These include both the questions you constructed pre-interview and those additional questions that come up organically as the interview unfolds (e.g., follow-up questions during the interview). Drawing on your knowledge of course content to create well-thought-out, open-ended questions (see later section on Interview Tips) will be more likely to generate rich and descriptive information from your interview participant. Take the time to think about your questions and write them out carefully. 


STEP 4: Conduct the Interview. Establish a day and time for the interview that is convenient for both of you and is likely to be free of interruptions. Once again, please ensure that you are following current Public Health Guidelines when doing so.


Schedule the interview so that you have plenty of time to complete the next steps (see below) and complete the assignment by the due-date. Our recommendation would be to conduct the interview at least two weeks before the due date (or earlier if you have a lot of other things that you are working on).


It is highly recommended that you record the interview (with the participant’s permission) and delete the video/audio recording after you have completed the assignment.  If you find yourself having a very organic conversation where questions are taking place in the moment, you will have the recording of your “spontaneous questions” to refer back to and include as part of your assignment.  Again, you are encouraged to go in prepared, and if the conversation deepens organically you can choose to alter your questions to follow the lead of your interview participant.  Going in unprepared, however, without a preliminary list of questions may jeopardize the quality of the interview.


How long should the interview be? There is no maximum or minimum time for the interview, but the interview process can be intense. You may find that approximately one hour (plus or minus 15 minutes) will give you the range and depth of content you need, but not over-extend you or your participant.



Interviewing Tips


  1. Ask open-ended questions. Try to formulate questions that can’t be answered by a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Aim to ask questions that draw people out and are reflective and inviting, where you both take deep dives into the theme. Be bold, while also being respectful, in asking about how people felt about those experiences. And don’t hesitate to use simple probing questions after asking your own content question when you notice and realize that there might be more.

For example,

“You mentioned that it was a difficult time following your divorce, could you tell me more about that time and how you felt?”


“Can you describe what you meant by ‘it was love at first’ sight for you”?


  1. Follow the conversation. Having an introduction prepared to share about why you are conducting the interview and what you hope to learn will help your participant understand the purpose and expectations. Then start slow – don’t ask a really hard or a potentially embarrassing question first. Start with something general and open-ended. Be a careful and respectful listener. Your prepared questions will be an important guide map to ensuring that you can access some of the information that you think is important to your learning. That said, be prepared to let the conversation unfold naturally and organically. If you find that the interview response generates an important question, but it isn’t next on your list, then ask the logical question that comes from the interview context. Keep the conversation going. You may eventually get back to your question or you may find that following the lead of the participant yields a rich discussion and your own prepared question either gets answered in another part of the conversation or no longer has the relevance you had anticipated.


  • At the end of the interview offer your thanks and appreciation for their time and their courage to participate and share with you. If you can, express a thought or two about what you have learned from your conversation.





Step 5: Type up the responses to the interview.

You are strongly encouraged to video or audio-record your interview, with the participant’s consent. For reasons of privacy, however, you will not be asked to submit the video or audio recording of your interview.


You are required to provide a detailed summary of the answers you received to your questions (both the questions you wrote ahead of time AND the questions you asked as the interview happened). Bullet points are NOT acceptable for this part of the assignment. Remember that this part of the assignment does not have a page limit, as interviews will vary in length. Note: A complete, verbatim (word-for-word) transcript of the interview is not required (unless you want to do that).


Pick one – a verbatim transcript OR a detailed summary. Overall, the goal is to provide the responses to the interview questions so that the instructor/TA has a good idea of what the participant said just from reading the summary. For the detailed summary, think a paragraph or two per question rather than a sentence or two when typing up responses.


There is NO word/page limit for the interview questions and summary.


The most effective way to share the interview with the instructor/TA will be to include the question you asked (bolded) immediately followed by their response. Repeat this format for each question and answer (i.e., your interview question, summary or verbatim participant response, next interview question, next summary of response … and so on). If your summary includes a verbatim direct quote from the participant, putting quotation marks around it will serve as a reminder that these words were the actual words used.


Step 6: Write Your Interview Reflection Paper (4 pages – see below)

Formatting Instructions:

  • Analysis/Reflection: 4 pages, double-spaced, 12-pt font (e.g., Times New Roman, Calibri, Arial), and 1 inch/2.5cm margins. This is a firm page-limit as it provides an equitable learning/assessment context across all students in the course. It is also important to learn to write concisely
  • Title page, References page, and summary of interview are not part of this page limit. Remember, there is no actual page limit to the summary of the interview part of the assignment.
  • Citations and References style: American Psychological Association (APA) – modified version specific to this course (see the Citation & References document posted in LEARN – the same one you used for the Book Report Assignment).


Remember to use proper in-text citations in your written analysis. If you are unsure how to do this please consult the documents in the content section of our 101 LEARN site where I have posted some reference material.


References Page: A proper references page must be included immediately following the Interview Reflection paper and will be found as the last page of your assignment.

  • Includes all sources you cite in your paper. In-text citations and items in the Reference list should mirror each other. Therefore, only sources used in citations appear in full in the references page, and similarly any items included in the references page have been used in the paper. Basically, do not include anything in your Reference List if you have not used it (and cited it) in your paper.


Writing:  The reflection paper must be written in complete sentences with appropriate headings (if applicable).  Bullet points are not acceptable, as this does not fulfill the requirement of the reflective paper. Headings: May be used if they help organize your paper and are appropriate and not overused, such that they chop up the paper.


Grading Rubric: A grading rubric has been uploaded into LEARN, along with this assignment outline. You are encouraged to consult the rubric to further understand the expectations.




How should you approach the writing and analysis in your reflection paper?

The objective is to provide a critical, reflective analysis that showcases your learning while using the participant’s story to share how this has influenced your own knowledge, understanding, thinking, values, and reconsiderations. The objective of this assignment is not to merely copy or summarize the responses and story of the participant’s interview, but to draw links between the participant’s experiences and the course content about the topic.


Writing in first person: While this is a “formal” writing assignment, this type of personal reflective assignment lends itself to writing in the first person using “I.”


Background about the individual you interviewed: You are not required to provide their name. Using a pseudonym can “personalize” your narrative as opposed to always referring to the participant as her/him/they (although do ask about their preferred pronoun). That said, you do need to provide some description about the person you interviewed so the reader understands WHY this person was chosen for their particular perspective about relationships and HOW they are socially located (e.g., sexuality, race, gender, religion, lived experience, etc.). If someone asks to remain anonymous, be cautious about how much information you share regarding their relationship with you. For instance, if you rename the participant and then go on to say that they are your mother, they are no longer anonymous. Instead, you can describe the person as  a mother.


These are the kinds of questions you can ask yourself as you are reading over the interview and writing your analysis (noting that you will likely choose some, but not all of the following, as part of your reflection):

  • How much does the participant’s experience seem similar/different from what is portrayed in the textbook/other course material? Provide evidence by referencing the course materials regarding that similarity/difference.
  • Why might their experience be similar/different?
  • What evidence from the course materials are you relying on to highlight the difference/sameness? Use of proper citations will facilitate your discussion of this.
  • What explanation(s) can you offer for your conclusion(s) by again, referring to what you have learned?
  • How do you interpret your participant’s explanations of their rationale, choices, motives and intentions? For example, if someone said, “It had been my lifelong dream since I was a young child to have a child of my own” how might you contextualize what you think you are hearing about their motivations? Was this about socialization? Culture? Gender? How did they go about the process – waiting to get married? Adoption? IVF?
  • Furthering the example of having a child – what approach did they take: early child-bearing? Waiting until after marriage? Having a child alone? How does this approach relate to what is happening generally around child-bearing (e.g., was their approach ‘typical’? Atypical? In what way(s)?). What influenced the participant’s motivation to have a child under those circumstances?
  • We encourage you to be reflective and honest with your own learning. Include a paragraph at the end of the paper to engage in some self-reflective processing (note that the bulk of the paper focuses on analyzing the interview and making connections to course content). Give some consideration to the following prompts as you write that self-reflective paragraph:
    • What were your motivations for exploring this topic?
    • Much of the textbook/research has looked at relationships and families from a Western perspective. Does your interview follow that norm or did you take a different perspective – and why? What have you learned from your chosen path of inquiry (the type of questions you asked)?
    • If your participant’s lived experience tells a story different from the textbook/course, share how it is different and what you have learned from hearing a different experience/perspective. o What did you learn from the interviewing process itself? Did you follow the questions? Did the interview “conversation” follow a different course? Why? Did this work? What challenges did you come across regarding content, values, and beliefs around the topic? o What did you learn about the topic/issue that was most interesting/challenging?

What about the interview gave you a new perspective/understanding?

  • What observations did you make about the differences between “reading” about your chosen topic and “hearing” about it from the lived experience?
  • What did you notice about your pre-existing beliefs about the topic compared to those expressed by your interviewee? What might account for any similarities/differences (e.g., age, gender, sexual orientation, culture, etc.)?
  • What did you learn about yourself by participating in the interview process and completing this assignment? o Has your understanding of your chosen interview topic changed or been enhanced by this experience?
  • How has this interview impacted your own thinking/decisions about the topic – now and/or in the future?


Step 7: How to arrange your paper: First, please number ALL the pages in your assignment. If we drop it on the floor, we want to be able to put it together correctly☺ Place the items in the following order:

  1. Title page with name, student number, course number, and original title for your paper

(that corresponds to the topic of your interview/paper)

  1. The interview summary. We read your interview first (no word or page limit)
  2. Critical Reflection paper (4 pages, double-spaced, 1-inch/2.5cm margins)
  3. References page last (title of this page is References, centered)



Step 8: Read, Revise, and Edit your paper. After you have completed a good and

solid first draft of your assignment, it is often best to give yourself a day or two to step away and return back to it with ‘fresh eyes’. We encourage every student to consider having someone else read the paper and give feedback about content, organization, grammar, and spelling. As professors, this is a practice we always undertake as we are often alerted to mistakes or the unclear expression of our ideas that a new reader is more quickly able to identify.


Finally, you should return to your paper and make final revisions and edits prior to submitting it to the DropBox in LEARN.




Step 9: Paper Submission. 

Due in DropBox by Saturday, April 17, 2021 by 11:59 pm (EDT).


Submit ONE DOCUMENT with ALL components in ONE MS-WORD FILE that includes your: Title page + Interview Summary + Reflection Paper (4pgs max) + References Page


Please make sure the file name you create for the document that you upload into DropBox includes your last name. Example: Serafini_smf101_interview_assignment_April_17_2020.docx


Happy interviewing and learning!