Exercise 2: Conducting a hypothesis-generating case interview

Good interviewing techniques are an important aspect of gathering high-quality exposure information. The best way to develop your own interviewing style is to practice, practice, practice!


  1. Familiarize yourself with the hypothesis-generating questionnaire (Module 2 – Hypothesis-generating questionnaire) by reading through the entire questionnaire at least once, thinking about how you will transition from section to section.
  2. Review the background reading on case interviewing.
  3. Think of an introductory and concluding script for the interview. Example scripts are available here.
  4. Allow at least 45 minutes for the interview, and another 5-10 minutes for a debrief with your “case”.
  5. Identify a friend or colleague who is willing to let you administer the questionnaire to him/her over the phone, i.e., be your “case”. Your interviewee can choose to answer your questions truthfully or they can role play. Further, you can choose whether you want to ask your interviewee (“case”) about their exposures (e.g., food history) in the three days preceding the interview, or make the interview more difficult by asking your “case” to recall their exposures from three weeks prior to the interview. The latter actually represents a more realistic public health time frame (the time from illness onset to an interview by public health).
  6. Debrief with your “case” – ask him/her what went well and what didn’t, what they found difficult to answer, and whether they have any constructive suggestions for you to improve your interview style in the future.

This exercise should take 60-90 minutes to complete.