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In-Depth Interviews


Interviewing is a method of qualitative research in which the researcher asks open-ended questions orally and records the respondent’s answers. Interviewing is typically done face-to-face, but can also be done via telephone.

In-depth interviews are different from survey interviews in that they are less structured. In survey interviews, the questionnaires are rigidly structured – the questions must all be asked in the same order, the same way, and only the pre-defined answer choices can be given. In-depth qualitative interviews, on the other hand, are flexible and continuous. They are not locked in stone and are often not prepared in advance.

In a qualitative interview, the interviewer has a general plan of inquiry, however he or she has no specific set of questions that must be asked with particular words and in a particular order. The interviewer must, however, be fully familiar with the subject, potential questions, and plan so that things proceed smoothly and naturally. Ideally, the respondent does most of the talking while the interviewer listens, takes notes, and guides the conversation in the direction it needs to go. It is the respondent’s answers to the initial questions that should shape the subsequent questions. The interviewer needs to be able to listen, think, and talk almost simultaneously.

Interviewing should be an essential part of the entire field research process. It is often done in conjunction with other methods, particularly participant observation and immersion.

Stages Of The Interviewing Process

Steinar Kvale identifies seven states in the complete interviewing process:

1. Thematizing: Clarifying the purpose of the interviews and the concepts to be explored.
2. Designing: Laying out the process through which you’ll accomplish your purpose. This should also include ethical considerations.
3. Interviewing: Doing the actual interviews.
4. Transcribing: Creating a written text of the interviews.
5. Analyzing: Determining the meaning of the information gathered in the interviews in relation to the purpose of the study.
6. Verifying: Examining the reliability and validity of the information gathered.
7. Reporting: Telling others what you have learned or discovered.


Babbie, E. (2001). The Practice of Social Research: 9th Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Thomson.

Kvale, S. (1996). InterViews: An Introduction To Qualitative Research Interviewing. Sage Publications.

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