In-depth Interviews

One to One

Interviews are usually conducted using a topic guide. This is a list of key topic areas that are to be covered in the interview and are used to steer the discussion. They are useful to explore issues at the design stage of an intervention and to develop surveys. Open ended questions should be used so the respondent cannot answer yes or no but has to provide a fuller response. The structure of the topic guide informs the style of interview:

  • Un-structured - Questions and follow-up probes are generated during the interview itself
  • Semi-structured - Pre-determined open-ended questions are used as the basis of the interview but the phrasing and order can be changed.

Advantages of interviews

  • Generates a greater range and depth of response than other methods, especially if a rapport exists between interviewer and interviewee
  • Can raise issues of which the interviewer was previously unaware, as the topic guide is often very flexible
  • Small samples, if interviewed in-depth, can provide a large range of views
  • Flexibility of conducting interviews face-to-face or by telephone
  • Higher response rates than questionnaires
  • Valuable for developing more effective survey materials for use in an evaluation
  • Useful for evaluating respondents with low levels of literacy
  • The interviewer can rephrase the question if the interviewee does not understand it

Drawbacks of interview

  • Questions must be skilfully phrased so as to avoid leading the interviewee towards a particular response
  • Experience of interviewing is required to avoid using very restrictive topic guides
  • Interviewees may try to provide the 'right' answers, rather than their actual opinion
  • Transcription provides the most accurate results for analysis but presents a considerable cost in terms of the time required
  • The less structured the interview, the more difficult and time consuming it is to analyse
  • The less structured the interview, the more opportunity for bias to creep in to the questioning or interpretation of the answers