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Last updated 22 Mar 2021
Interviews are self-report techniques that involve an experimenter asking participants questions (generally on a one-to-one basis) and recording their responses.
There are two types of interview:
- Structured – where the interviewer has a set list of questions to lead the conversation, a framework which will be rigidly stuck to
- Unstructured – where the interviewer may have a list of topics or questions, but has extra flexibility to lead the conversation further, should participant responses lead to deeper/more detailed discussion
Evaluation of interviews
- Unstructured interviews provide potential to gather rich and detailed information from each participant – more so than questionnaires.
- The conversational nature of unstructured interviews is best suited to discussing complex or sensitive issues, as participants are more likely to relax and give better responses as the dialogue flows.
- Interviews can be used as part of a pilot study to gather information prior to conducting proposed research.
- There is a lot of time and expense involved when training interviewers, to conduct unstructured interviewers in particular.
- Social desirability bias can be a problem with self-report techniques, i.e. participants give responses that are thought to be the most socially acceptable, rather than necessarily truthful.
- Interview data can be a time-consuming task to analyse and interpret when it is so detailed (and in a qualitative [written] format).
- Interviews require participants to have basic competencies for interviews to be successful (e.g. adequate communication skills, memory, honesty) which could potentially limit the sample’s size and representativeness of the population if not met.