Interviews are a research method in which a researcher engages in a direct, interactive conversation with an individual or a group of individuals to gather information, insights, and perspectives on a specific topic or set of questions.
Interviews can be categorized into the following types:
- Structured interviews: In structured interviews, the researcher follows a predetermined set of questions in a standardized format. This approach allows for comparability across participants but may limit flexibility.
- Semi-structured interviews: Semi-structured interviews combine predetermined questions with the flexibility to explore new topics or delve deeper into participant responses. This format provides a balance between flexibility and structure.
- Unstructured interviews: Unstructured interviews are more conversational and open-ended. The interviewer may have a general topic in mind but allows the conversation to unfold organically, adapting to the participant’s responses.
- Group interviews (Focus groups): Multiple participants are interviewed simultaneously in group interviews. This format encourages interaction and the exchange of ideas among participants.
Interviews have many advantages like:
- In-depth Understanding: Interviews allow for a deep and nuanced understanding of participants’ perspectives and experiences.
- Flexibility: The interactive nature of interviews allows flexibility in adapting questions and exploring new avenues based on participant responses.
- Building rapport: Interviews allow for building rapport between the interviewer and the participant, fostering a more open and honest exchange.
While the interview method has numerous advantages, some challenges include the subjective nature of the participant’s responses due to the interviewer’s presence and biases, the time-consuming and resource-intensive process of conducting interviews and social desirability bias, that is, participants may provide responses they perceive as socially acceptable rather than expressing their genuine opinions.
List of recommended resources #
For a broad overview #
This blog by Scribbr explains the different types of interviews used in qualitative research. It gives an overview of structured, unstructured and semi-structured interviews along with the advantages and disadvantages of interviews as a method for collecting data.
This blog by Scribbr gives a broad overview of focus groups in qualitative research, along with a step-by-step guide for conducting focus group interviews. It also provides a list of its advantages and disadvantages for better understanding of the reader.
For in depth understanding #
Annette Lareau gives a concrete, practical guide for interview and participant observation and analysis in research. Lareau writes about the importance of talking to others as well as listening to feedback from others while conducting research. She provides examples of real-life interviews with notes to show what probes work well and which are less successful.
Edited by Jaber F. Gubrium, James A. Holstein, Amir B. Marvasti & Karyn D. McKinney, this book provides an understanding of the dynamic, interactional, and reflexive dimensions of the research interview. It begins with an explanation of the history and transformations of the interview process along with discussions of the main components of an interview.
Case study #
This article by Kristin Adler, Sanna Salantera and Maya Zumstein-Shaha outlines the use of focus groups in child, youth, and parent research and the important factors to be considered when planning, conducting, and analyzing focus groups with children, youths, or parents.
This report published by the World Bank presents insights gained from the voices of young women and girls, their parents, and key informants through a series of interviews carried out in Luanda, home to a quarter of the country’s population, in 2022. Based on these in-depth interviews with low-income young women in Luanda, this report points to the multiple challenges they face across their life cycle – challenges relating to the dimensions of education, family formation, and work.