Interviews are the first research method we are going to look at. Interviews can be defined as one-on-one interactions (sometimes there is more that on interviewer – think job interview) that have a question response structure. The are qualitative in nature as they look at the deeper meaning behind phenomenon (see 5 steps of research post). Traditionally interviews are conducted faceto-face, but it is not unusual to have interviews over the phone, email, and/or social media. However, in order to have consistent results it is important to keep your choice of medium the same across all interviews. This also applies to the questions you ask.

Interview styles 



Multiple-choice interviews are spoken surveys. They include a set of predetermined questions with a possible mixture or multiple choice answers and free response. These are generally administered to young children (low reading ability), by market researchers (over the phone or door-knocking), or if requested by participant due to some other reason. They are limited in that they are mostly a quantitative design, rather than the traditional qualitative design of interviews. This means that they are able to identify if/how often a phenomenon is occurring, but give no indication as to why it is occurring.



In my opinion, this is a bizarre type of interview style for a nonresearcher (or even market-researcher to adopt). In essence, the interviewer poses one question and notes down the respondent’s response. This style does not provide room for a follow-up questions or re-phrasing for better comprehension. It is mainly used by psychologists, and is a useful style, especially when interviewing trauma victims. It allows for participants to soak in the question (you have to have a pretty amazing question for this style of interview), interpret it and respond freely. If you are using this style (or any face-to-face interview), make sure to note down body language as it can sometimes say more than words.


Standardized (structured) interview 

A structured interview is one where all questions are pre-defined. There is no deviation from these questions, no follow-ups, probes from the interviewer, or clarification on word meanings. In some ways this is a very beneficial style to use as you get individual interpretations of what the question is asking. If you have asked open, simply structured questions, you should get an adequate response. However, some people do not like to be verbose in these situations, or experience a memory block/blank and without follow-up questions/probes you can be left with a shallow interpretation. In order to combat this to some degree, be welcoming with your body language, show/communicate interest in what the interviewee is saying, and have frequent eye contact.


Semi-structured interview 

Personally, I feel that a semi-structured interview is usually the way to go. Similarly to a structured interview, there is a series of pre-determined questions that require verbose responses. However, unlike any other type of interview you have the ability to ask follow-up questions/probe to get a more in-depth response, follow/refrain from tangents, and rephrase questions so that participants understand the intended meaning.


Interview check-list

When implementing interviews you need to ensure that you have:

a) Sought and received ethics approval (if required)

b) Recruited a sample (convenience, purposive, snowballing, or quota sample)

c) Prepared a participant information statement 

d) Prepared a consent form

e) Tested your recording device

f) Picked a quiet, neutral interview location

g) Prepared an incentive/offer of appreciation

h) Note pad and questions

i) Maintain frequent eye contact

j) Friendly/comfortable body language

k) Show/communicate interest


Next week Mary will take a look at focus groups, how to run them successfully, and what to avoid.

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