Interview Assignment: Decision Making in the Courtroom Workgroup

Research Goals (or Research Questions)

Our goal with these interviews is to learn more about what it’s like to work in one of the many court systems in the U.S.  Your interviews and analysis paper will address these very broad issues:

–What are their duties as courtroom workers?

–What affects their decision making?

–What legal principles do they think have the most effect on their job and decision making?

–What is the organization of their office or agency (management structure, special divisions, standard operating procedures, etc.) and how does this affect their decision making?

–What are their attitudes toward media (accuracy of depictions, effects on public perception of court system, effects media has on decision making among courtroom workers, etc.)?

–How do politicians and governments affect their jobs?

–What do they like about their job and what would they like to see changed?


Stage 1 of the Assignment:  Conducting the Interviews

Conduct interviews with at least three individuals who currently or previously worked in a court system and who would be willing to provide you with insight into operations of the court system.  (See separate document on Interview Tips.)


Near the beginning of the interview, be sure to ask for the following demographic information:




Job title

Jurisdiction in which employed

Length of employment in the court system

Any other facts you think are relevant (perhaps political affiliation or family members’ employment with the CJS)


Then ask them questions regarding the Research Goals above, and try to ask similar questions to each interviewee.


Interviews are best conducted face-to-face, with an audio recorder.  However, you can do them face-to-face with your just writing or typing notes.  You can also do them via phone or even email, if that’s what circumstances require.  (We always run into problems in research, and we just have to figure out solutions as we go along.  Using various technologies is one solution.)




Stage 2 of the Assignment:  Writing Up the Interviews into Field Notes

Write separate field notes for each interview.  This will be your “data,” and will be composed of a recording of questions you asked and their responses, as well as demographic characteristics and a description of the setting.  (See Interview Tips.)


Upload these as a .docx document to the proper thread.  You may include all 3 on a single document (that’s the preferred way) but be sure to have a clear break between each interview field notes.  Or if necessary, you can upload each one as a separate document.


Stage 3 of the Assignment:  Writing the Final Analysis Paper

When writing your analysis paper, analyze all three interviews in the aggregate.  In other words, explain the similarities and differences in their responses to questions and offer an explanation using concepts from the course. (See Interview Tips.)


A suggested outline is:

brief introduction to the topic and your thesis (the main findings in your research);

demographic breakdown of your subjects (provide the demographics for each subject and the subjects in the aggregate, e.g., 5 subjects, 3 white, 1 Black, 1 Hispanic; 3 men, 2 women; ages range from 26 to 65, etc.) 

1-3 paragraphs to address each question and synthesize the responses, and highlight rich points and quotes as you go (BE SURE TO INCLUDE DIRECT QUOTES FROM THE RESPONDENTS; sometimes the quotes will just be a phrase, but other times you’ll want to quote several sentences in order to illustrate how the respondent perceives the criminal court system.)

an overall analysis of the information you gained on the topic;

a summary of what you learned about your topic from the experience

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