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Unstructured Interview

An unstructured interview is one without any pre-planned questions. Instead the interviewer might have some headings to guide a free-flowing discussion where interesting but unexpected responses can be followed fully. An advantage of these interviews is that they produce qualitative data that is thought to offer verstehen and be high in validity. It is also felt that interviewers are able to offer their subjects support and exercise sensitivity in a way that isn't possible with a questionnaire. As such this a method favoured by feminists conducting research on sensitive subjects, such as Dobash and Dobash's work on domestic violence. Disadvantages of unstructured interviews are that they are time consuming and require a skilled interviewer. They also produce large amounts of text which is difficult to analyse. Positivist sociologists would be concerned that the method lacks reliability and is therefore unscientific and subjective.

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