Friday, 22 April 2022


Interview as a technique of data collection is very popular and extensively used in every field of social research. The interview is, in a sense, an oral questionnaire. Instead of writing the response, the interviewee or subject gives the needed information verbally in a face-to-face relationship. The dynamics of interviewing, however, involve much more than an oral questionnaire. An interview is a relatively more flexible tool than any written inquiry form and permits explanation, adjustment, and variation according to the situation. The observational methods, as we know, are restricted mostly to non-verbal acts. So these are understandably not so effective in giving information about a person's past and private behaviour, future actions, attitudes, perceptions, faiths, beliefs thought processes, motivations, etc. The interview method as a verbal method is quite significant in securing data about all these aspects. In this method, a researcher or an interviewer can interact with his respondents and know their inner feelings and reactions. G.W. Allport in his classic statement sums this up beautifully by saying that “if you want to know how people feel, what they experience and what they remember, what their emotions and motives are like and the reasons for acting as they do, why not ask them.”

An interview is a direct method of inquiry. It is simply stated as a social process in which a person known as the interviewer asks questions usually in a face to face contact with the other person or persons known as interviewee or interviewees. The interviewee responds to these and the interviewer collects various information from these responses through a very healthy and friendly social interaction. However, it does not mean that all the time it is the interviewer who asks the questions. Often the interviewee may also ask certain questions and the interviewer responds to these. But usually, the interviewer initiates the interview and collects the information from the interviewee.

An interview is not a simple two-way conversation between an interrogator and informant. According to P.V. Young, “interview may be regarded as a systematic method by which a person enters more or less imaginatively into the life of a comparative stranger.” It is a mutual interaction of each other. The objectives of the interviewer are to penetrate the outer and inner life of persons and to collect information pertaining to a wide range of their experiences in which the interviewee may wish to rehearse his past, define his present and canvass his future possibilities. These answers of the interviewees may not be only a response to a question but also a stimulus to progressive series of other relevant statements about social and personal phenomena. In a similar fashion. W. J. Goode and P. K Hatt have observed that “interviewing is fundamentally a process of social interaction.” In the interview, two persons are not merely present at the same place but also influence each other emotionally and intellectually.


The following are some of the important objectives of the interview method.

  1. Direct contact:

The first and foremost aim of the interview method is to establish direct contact between the researcher and the interviewee so that both can understand each other's feelings, attitudes, and needs. After the interviewer establishes a friendly relationship with the subject, certain types of confidential information may be obtained, that an individual might be reluctant to put in writing.

The interviewer can explain the purpose of his investigation and can explain more clearly just what information he wants if the subject misinterprets the question, then the interviewer may describe it with a simple clarifying question and collect various information from them.

  1. Eliciting intimate facts:

In a modern complex society, experiences are highly heterogeneous. Few people share a common lot, but their attitudes and values are quite varied. Many People can live within the protective wall of anonymity. There are many facts of personal life, that one does not like to reveal. All other methods are not so effective in order to collect this intimate or personal information from a respondent which he does not want to share. But P. V. Young has rightly observed that interview is the most effective method through which the interviewer can penetrate into this protective mask and elicit these intimate facts. By establishing a rapport or a friendly relationship with the interviewee, the interviewer can gain his confidence and may be able to extract various confidential information from him.

  1. Establishing hypothesis:

Through the interview techniques, the researcher may stimulate the subject to have greater insight into his own experiences, peculiar attitudes, outlooks, and aspirations and thereby explore significant areas not anticipated by him. These new revelations help him in forming a new hypothesis about personal and social behaviour. P. V. Young says, “Every verbal response and non-verbal reaction may be an “eye-opener” for a whole new train of thoughts. An answer may not only be a response to a question but also a stimulus to progressive series of other relevant statements about social and personal phenomena which might indicate cause-effect relationships and at times may lead to the formulation of a hypothesis regarding socio-personal interaction.

  1. Verification of unique ideas:

When a researcher elicits a novel idea about a certain type of behaviour, it is always desirable to conduct an interview with the concerned person and see how far the ideas elicited are true or valid facts. So one can examine its validity through the interview method and safely conclude about it. Various sociologists have remarked that the objective of the interview is two-fold:

  1. eliciting certain information from the interviewee, which is known only to him and cannot be collected from any other source.

  2. the psychological study of verbal and non-verbal behaviour under given circumstances.

As regards the first objective, the interviewer clarifies the topic or area of study to the interviewee. Then interviewee narrates the experience of his life and his reactions pertaining to it. The interviewer listens to these descriptions carefully and tries to collect useful information from them.

For the second objective, the researcher plays more the role of a social psychologist than a sociologist. His attention is more centred on the attitude and expressions of the interviewee than the actual facts. It is basically to learn about what T. W. Adorno terms “levels of personality” of the interviewee. 

Both the objectives are required and obtained by the interviewer in any social research. As Lundberg rightly remarks “the researcher is interested in the objective data secured from the interview such as income, number of children, their age, etc. and also in the personality of the informants--his attitude, prejudices, likes, and dislikes as revealed by his verbal behaviour including the subtle gestures that accompany it, such as facial expression, tone of voice and so forth”. However one can give special emphasis to one of these above-mentioned objectives for certain reasons.


The classification of interviews may be discussed on the basis of various criteria. Three main bases for classifying interviews are:

  1. Function of interview.

  2. Number of person participating.

  3. Roles are assumed by the interviewer and interviewee.

  1. On the basis of the function of the interview:

There are different functions on basis of which the interviews have been classified into the following types:

  1. Diagnostic interview:

It is used frequently in clinics as well as by social workers. It proposes to locate the possible causes of an individual's problem by getting information about his past history, family relations, personal adjustment problems, etc.

  1. Clinical interview:

Following the diagnostic interview, a clinical interview takes place as a means of introducing the patient to therapy. It may take the form of guiding friends and relatives (rather than the patient himself) in their dealings with the patient or of an exit or termination interview before the patient is discharged from the clinic.

  1. Research interview:

For the purpose of research, an interview may be used as a tool for gathering data as required by the investigator to test his hypothesis or to a solution of his research problems of different types.

  1. On the basis of a number of participants: Another classification of interview is according to the number of persons taking part in it. Following are its types.

    1. Individual interview: 

The practice of interviewing one person at a time is called an individual interview. This helps to establish close intimate contact between the interviewer and interviewee. Due to this, detailed knowledge about personal and confidential aspects of the individual can be obtained.

  1. Group interview: 

As the name makes it very clear, the group interview is just the opposite of an individual interview which involves two or more interviewees at the same time in an interview. However, a proper setting for a group interview requires a group of not more than 10 to 12 persons, with some social, intellectual, and educational homogeneity which ensures effective participation of all. A circular seating arrangement of the group with the interviewer is conducive for full and spontaneous participation of all. Group interview economizes both time and money. It may also have the advantage in the range of responses over the individual interview due to the process of group interaction.

But on the other hand, it may suffer from certain disadvantages, if the group interaction turns into controversies or if discussions become unrelated to the topics, or if some aggressive members monopolize the discussion at the cost of others. The topic may not get fully explored in detail due to certain members hesitating to express significant responses in a quasi-public situation.

  1. Single interviewer:

Both individual and group interviews may be conducted by a single interviewer or a panel of interviewers. It depends on the design and purpose of the interview. When a single individual takes the interview that is called a single interviewer interview. Interviews for research purposes are usually held by a single investigator.

  1. Panel interview: 

Usually, interviews for selection and treatment purposes are held by a panel of interviewers, composed of experts in different but related fields. However, the number of interviewers in a panel should not be more than three to four, as a larger panel tends to scare and confuse the respondents.

  1. On the basis of the roles of interviewer and interviewee: the Following are the types according to this classification:

    1. Directive interview: 

This is also known as a controlled, guided, or structured interview. This interview uses a highly standardized technique and a set of pre-determined questions. The reason for standardization is to ensure that all respondents reply to the same questions. In this kind of interview, a complex schedule is used. (The questions given in this schedule have the same meaning for all the respondents. It mostly includes the fixed, closed-end, or alternative questions, The alternative questions or closed-end questions are those in which the responses of the subjects are limited to certain fixed, pre-determined, and restricted alternatives. (So directive interview does not permit much freedom to the interviewee to talk freely about the problem under study. 

  1. Non-directive interview: 

This type of interview is also called an uncontrolled, unguided, or unstructured interview. These kinds of interviews do not follow a list of pre-determined questions. This is characterized by a greater flexible approach to questioning the respondents. Compared to a directive interview, non-directive one involves relatively much lesser standardization of techniques and operations. Generally, it involves the formation of a free discussion or story-type narrative. The subject is asked to narrate freely and frankly his concrete experiences with little or no directions from the interviewer. The respondents are allowed the freedom to tall on any event which seems significant to them, to provide their own definition of the social situation, to narrate the incidents concerning their own lives and the interviewer has to draw his own conclusions from it.

In a non-directive interview, the interviewer is having greater freedom to ask any supplementary questions. If he feels so, he may omit certain questions and may change the sequence of the questions. Granted such freedom, the interviewer has both advantages and disadvantages.

Such flexibility does not help in the comparison of the comparability between two separate interviews. Again analysis of the non-directive responses is much more difficult and time-consuming than those of directive responses. The non-directive interview usually requires deep knowledge and skill on the part of the interviewer. He is expected to possess not only the general skill and capacity demanded by interviewees but also the specific ability to adopt temporarily the beliefs and attitudes of each of his informants.

It has also its own advantages. Such interviews facilitate free responses from the respondents. This kind of interview is indeed the central technique for collecting information in explanatory and formulation studies.

  1. Focused interview: 

This kind of interview has been employed by Robert K. Merton and his associates for studying the socio-psychological effects of mass media like radio, television, cinema, etc. The focused interview concentrates on some particular event or experience rather than on general lines of inquiry about it. This interview is differentiated from other types of interviews by the following characteristics.

  1. It takes place when the interviewees are in a specialized concrete situation. For example, when they have seen a particular movie or heard a particular speech, or have been eyewitnesses of an event, under these circumstances they can give information about these things.

  2. It refers to a situation which has been analyzed prior to the interview.

  3. The interview is taken on the basis of an interview guide in which the field of inquiry and hypotheses are clearly stated.

  4. In this type of interview, the inner feelings and emotional attitudes of the interviewees regarding the particular concrete situations are given particular attention.

The specialty of the focussed interview is that through it the personal reactions, emotional and intellectual orientation of the persons towards specific issues can be studied. This type of interview has proved very useful in the study of situations of social tension. This type of interview is also of narrative type and in many respects similar to a non-structured interview.

  1. Depth interview: 

It is an intensive and searching type of interview with emphasis on such psychological and social factors as attitudes, emotions, or convictions. It determines the respondent's degree of attachment or detachment towards an experience or an activity. It usually involves the flexibility of the interview situation, and focuses on the feelings of the interviewees. An exploratory tool depth interviewing may be employed to locate important information for further study.

  1. Repeated interview: 

An interview is conducted interview when the interviewer desires to note the gradual influence or progress of some social and psychological process. There are certain social changes which have a rapid influence upon the people and often it is desired by the researcher to know the effect of such factors in time sequence. For example, a village situated in the vicinity of an industrial town will have some impact on the socio-economic life of the village. There will be gradual changes in the socio-economic status, literacy level, standard of living, entertainment, occupation, etc. of the inhabitants. To know this impact on time sequence one can make a study at regular intervals.


A good interview is more than a series of casual questions and generalized replies. It is dynamic and provides the researcher with interpersonal experience that is carefully planned to accomplish a particular purpose. Creating a friendly, permissive atmosphere, directing the conversation in the desired channels, encouraging the respondent to reveal information, and motivating skills along with competence are the required attributes of a researcher. The following are some of the steps for the fruitful conduct of an interview.

  1. Preparation for the interview: 

It is necessary to plan for the interview carefully if it is to be effective in obtaining the required information. The interviewer must decide exactly what kind of data the interviewer should yield, whether the structured or unstructured procedure will be more useful, and how the results of the interview should be recorded. It is advisable to try out the interview on another person before using it for actual investigation. This may reveal the deficiencies that should be corrected before the actual execution of the interview. In order to make an interview fruitful, certain preparations must be made before the actual interview begins. These preparations are given below:

  1. Rigorous training: 

Before an interview is undertaken, the interviewer should undergo rigorous training. This is generally done through a pilot study. However, the training programme must incorporate the following fourfold approach.

  1. Convincing the interviewer that he is in need of training,

  2. Impressing upon him the problem to be investigated so that he will want to get valid answers,

  3. Orienting him to the nature of the problem so that he can see the relevance of the responses he gets, and

  4. Providing him with special skills on the basis of which he can accomplish what he is trying to do. Supervised practice in interviewing is essential to the success of an interview

  1. Knowledge of the problem: 

At the beginning of the interview, the interviewer may face a number of questions from the interviewees regarding the subject matter, objective, effect, or any other aspect of the interview. Unless the interviewer is able to answer all these questions, he can not motivate the interviewee for further continuation of the interviewing process. In order to give a convincing reply to the interviewee's questions, the interviewer must have a clear conception of the nature of the problem under study, the purpose of the study, its utility, its limitations of it, and its effects on the respondents and their community. So a thorough study of the subject matter and its related theoretical aspects must be made by the researcher before the actual interview is made.

  1. Interview guide: 

Apart from his skill, training, and understanding of the problem, the interviewer must have a clear conception of just what information he needs. Then he has to prepare appropriate questions to extract the desired data. He has to clearly outline the best sequence of questions and stimulating comments that will make the respondent feel comfortable and stimulate his flow of conversation. All these require the help of an interview guide.

An interview guide is a brief written handbook of instructions prescribing an outline of different aspects of interview to be studied. According to P. V. Young, when a prepared guide is judiciously used by the interviewer as a suggestive reference, it helps the conduct of interview in four ways:

  1. focuses attention on salient points of the study.

  2. secures comparable data in different interviews by the same or by various interviewers and thereby maintains uniformity in interviews.

  3. gathers the same range of items essential in the analysis of data or in testing the hypothesis formulated.

  4. accumulates specific concrete details as a basis for quantitative studies of life histories.

However, she also remarked that the guide is not an oral questionnaire. The guide becomes a hindrance, instead of an aid, if too much attention is paid to it. When too many questions are asked from the guide and fixed replies are expected the atmosphere of the interview becomes choked and free self-expression vanishes and everything becomes artificial. Precautions should therefore be taken to see that interview guide does not become too much rigid or structured with too many details.

  1. Selection of interviewees: 

After an advanced plan has been made and the guide is prepared the next step is to select the interviewees for the desired interview. One can choose any sampling method for the selection of interviewees. However, while selecting the interviewee he should see that the selected sample must represent properly the universe of the study. A previously conducted pilot study usually helps for the selection of interviewees in a scientific way. It helps the interviewer to know, who can be the most helpful and who knows most about the problem under study.

  1. Knowledge of the daily routine of the interviewee: 

Prior information about the respondent and his daily routine is always helpful for the interviewer to secure information in an easier way. The interviewer should not disturb the interviewee during his busy hours. It is therefore desirable to know his free time beforehand, so that he may be contacted at his suitable time.

  1. Prior appointment: 

Often it is useful on the part of the interviewer to take a prior appointment with the interviewee regarding the time and place of the interview. An appointment from the interviewee regarding the time and place of an interview can be taken by telephone or through a letter or any other convenient means. This prior appointment has the following advantages.

  1. It provides a sense of satisfaction to the interviewee because he feels that the interviewer has not neglected his valuable time.

  2. The prior appointment from the interviewee may inspire him to co-operate in the interview process.

  3. Because of the sudden arrival of the interviewer, the subject of the interviewee may feel awkward and may be reluctant to give information to a stranger. But a prior appointment helps the interviewee to prepare himself in advance and face the interviewer with much ease.

  4. If prior contact has been made, the researcher can also make utilization of his time in the best possible manner.

  5. It economizes the resources and time of the interviewer, because an appointment may help the interviewer reach the interviewee at the latter's most convenient time. 


An interview is an important tool for data collection. So here the primary objective is to secure proper information from the respondents. Getting the right response entirely depends upon the tactfulness, alertness, insight, or personality of the interviewer, However, one can not deny the possibility of the problem of response in the interview method. Therefore, while conducting an interview one should take the following precautions to avoid such possibility.

  1. Interviewing is an art that calls for the highest level of competence. Generally, competence or technical skill comes after long years of experience coupled with a good background in the theory and the art of interviewing. Without this competence, the interviewer can not extract the proper information from the subjects. So the interviewer should take proper training in the art of interviewing in order to avoid the problem of response in an interview.

  2. An advanced plan for the interview and proper selection of interviewees can check the problem of response in the interview.

  3. Prior information about the subject, their daily routine, leisure time, etc. is always helpful to secure a proper response from them.

  4. One should remember that interview is nothing but a social interaction process. So a prior appointment and later contact with the interviewee in a polite, informal and friendly manner may help in better response.

  5. The interviewer should only ask informal or general questions at the beginning of the interview.

  6. The interviewer should allow the subject to describe the event or incident, his feelings, and his reaction in a story form instead of giving in a brief form.

  7. The investigator should allow the subject to describe an incident in his own way without being frequently interrupted by him.

  8. The interviewer should allow the interviewee to talk more and he himself should listen to it patiently to it. He should not impose his own viewpoint over the interviewee and try to disclose his own narrative as less as possible.

  9. The interviewer should establish a rapport or friendly atmosphere with the interviewee so that the latter won't feel scared to give his private, informal, personal or secret information of him to the interviewer.

  10. The interviewer should carefully guide the interviewee and encourage him constantly to get a proper response.

  11. The researcher should not give any clue for the answer. It creates subjective bias and reduces the objectivity of the interview.

  12. The interviewer should avoid blaming a respondent for his wrong answer. Rather he has to handle this situation skillfully to get a proper response.

  13. The interviewer has to show proper interest with the interviewee. Sometimes he has to praise him and inspire him for his answer.

  14. The interviewer should give sufficient time to an interviewee to pause over highly emotional incidents.

  15. The investigator should care for the interviewee. He should give respect to the respondent and his valuable time. Due weightage given to the interviewee may bring better results for an interviewer.

  16. If instead of repeated requests, the interviewee keeps silent deliberately about certain issues, then the interviewee should not force him to reply on the same topic.

  17. The investigator has to give top priority to the convenience of the respondents. He has to meet the interviewee in his free time and at the end of the interview he should express his thanks for the co-operation of the interviewee in sparing his valuable time.


Interview as a tool of data collection has certain merits as well as shortcomings or limitations. These are described as follows:

  1. Advantage over observation: 

The interview helps us to know about some events which are not open to observation and which are known to nobody else except the interviewee only. In social science, we know that most human behavior is of this nature and therefore interview is recognized as the best method to study these kinds of phenomena.

  1. Effective to study the past and future activities:

The observational methods are restricted mostly to non-verbal acts. So these are understandably not so effective in giving information about a person's past and future actions, private affairs, attitudes, faiths, beliefs, motivations, etc. for the purpose of observation it is essential that the event must take place before the eyes of the observer himself. But this is not a requirement for the interview. In an interaction process, the interviewer can ask any question to the interviewee about his present, past, and future activities.

  1. Advantages over questionnaire:

It is also more advantageous than a questionnaire in many respects. The questionnaire often fails to go deep enough to provide a true picture of the respondent's life or any incidence relating to him. But the interview situation usually permits much greater depth. It permits the investigator to pursue a topic that appears fruitful, to ask for elaboration of points, and to clarify the questions which the respondent has not been able to understand. It also permits the establishment of greater rapport and stimulates the respondent to give more complete and valid answers.

  1. Applicable to all:

A questionnaire as a method is only applicable to literate persons. Illiterate persons cannot bread and write any information through the questionnaire method. But interviews can be used for everybody, particularly for those with language difficulties, illiterate, young children, and those with limited intelligence.

  1. Command over the situation:

The questionnaire is out of the hands of the investigator, the minute it is mailed. But the interview allows the investigator to maintain his command over the interview situation throughout the study. Because of the established rapport, the respondents do not behave with the investigator in a funny way. They co-operate with the interviewer for interview and try their level best to make the interview a great success.

  1. Higher percentage of coverage:

The interview is rightly called a social interaction process. In it establishing a primary, intimate and personal relationship is considered a means to achieve the end i.e. collection of valuable information from the interviewee to create a friendly atmosphere. Because of this, the respondents do not refuse the interviewer to provide various information regarding the purpose of the interview. Interview therefore generally ensures a higher percentage of the coverage of the subjects.

  1. Proper encouragement:

This method permits the establishment of a greater rapport between the interviewer and the interviewee. On account of this, the interviewer stimulates the respondent to give more complete and valid responses. The interviewer always helps the respondent to clarify his thinking on a given topic. Although the respondent indicates that he cannot remember, the skillful interviewer may structure the field setting for him, pointing out some concurrent events in order to refresh his memory. This kind of encouragement helps the respondent to give a better response.

  1. Bias can be minimized:

While conducting an interview the field worker is present himself in the field to remove any doubt or problem regarding the interview. Therefore, the answers given in this process are not biased.

  1. Problem of response is less:

In an interview poor response, bad handwriting, leaving questions by the respondents, etc. can be avoided, because in the case of interview the interviewer himself remains present in the field. He can influence the behavior of the respondent through his personality and fill all the answers by himself only.

  1. Facility for verification:

In this method, the sincerity, frankness, truthfulness, and insight of the interviewee can be better judged through cross-questioning.

  1. Important for the purpose of diagnosis:

This technique is infact indispensable for the purpose of diagnosis and is often called very effective when it deals with abnormal persons.

  1. Convenient for respondents:

People are usually more willing and less hesitant to talk than write especially on delicate, intimate, and confidential topics.

To a great extent, the interview method is superior to many other tools. Only in the study of human beings, it is possible for a scientist to talk to his subjects and investigate directly their feeling and thinking process. The social scientist can ensure the object of his study, a degree of intimate and personal knowledge that is denied to the natural scientists. The latter cannot communicate with the subject despite all the instruments of precision. Therefore, it has been rightly remarked that the interview is “a tool par excellence.”



In spite of its many advantages, the interview also has many limitations which limit its scope and value. These limitations are:

  1. Subjective bias:

The major weakness of the interview is interviewer's subjective bias. In many cases, it has been observed that the interviewers tend to obtain data that support their own convictions. The very presence of the interviewer affects the responses he gets. He is likely to project his own personality into the situation and thus influence the responses he receives. So there are large numbers of sources of bias that may invalidate the collected information.

  1. Costly affair:

An interview is comparatively a costly affair. The cost for a single respondent is much higher in this method than in any other data collection device. When research covers a wide geographical area, interview is going to be expensive and also costly in terms of time and effort since the interviewer faces 'non-availability' or 'not at home' etc. of the interviewee during the interview process.

  1. Difficult task:

It is a difficult task to make a person agreeable for an interview. A busy person may prefer to fill out a questionnaire at his leisure rather than submit it to a longer interview. Again if an interview topic is about the common matters of life, people may give their consent for the interview. But when it is related to the private or personal aspect viz. sex relationship, divorce, etc. then they hesitate to give information about it

  1. It requires specialized knowledge:

The interview is a method that requires technical and specialized knowledge. The interviewer should have proper knowledge of human psychology in order to judge the respondents. The field workers who conduct interviews in the field hardly possess these great qualities and as a result, a lot of unreliable and invalid data are collected. For adequate coverage, the field workers may have to be trained in the work of data collection. All this needs a lot of expenditure and a research worker with limited financial means finds himself in great difficulty adopting this method.

  1. Incompetence of respondents 

The respondents suffer from four limitations. These are:

  1. His experience as in interviewee

  2. His judgment about himself

  3. His accessibility and readiness to pass the information and

  4. His ability to express himself clearly.

  1. Difficulties of recording:

The recording of data in an interview has so many difficulties. If one writes during the course of the interview the rapport is weakened and recording interferes with the smooth and natural conduct of the interview. Writing up from memory after the end of the interview has also its own demerits. It may bring wayward, whimsical, preferential, and conscious selection of the materials.

  1. Problem with tape recording:

Tape-recording the entire interview is likely to be expensive and time taking. More ever the use of the tap-recorder may make the interviewee cautious and score him away from giving any secrets

  1. Not applicable to all:

The interview is not applicable for infants, shy people, deaf and insane.

  1. Less facility for verification:

The interview puts the researcher at the complete mercy of the interviewee. There is no source of direct observation or verification of what the respondent says.

  1. Misleading information:

There are certain matters which can be written in privacy but the same cannot be spoken before others. If these matters are to be revealed in an interview, then only a pseudo version of these will be presented by the interviewee. There are people who even cannot express their true feeling in an interview or in front of a stranger.

  1. Differences between the interviewer and interviewee:

If there is a very wide gap in the thinking and outlook of the interviewer and interviewee, then one will fail to understand what the other says. So the discussion in the interview will be fruitless.

So overall the limitations of interviews help us to support the explanation of the interview which would be sufficient to obtain all the information that is needed.


Structured or Standardised Interviews:

Structured interviews enable the interviewer to ask each respondent the same questions in the same way. A tightly structured schedule of questions is used and often the intention is to use a quantitative method of data analysis. In many structured interviews, not only will the questions be set in advance, but the possible choice of answers also. Pre-coded responses are important to allow for comparison across all respondents. It is usual for all responses to be noted or written down on the questionnaire. By minimizing the number of open-ended responses, the amount of time required for coding and content analysis is greatly reduced and often the data can be directly entered onto a computer for analysis. 

In carrying out a structured interview, it is important that the interviewer adheres closely to the interview instructions, namely:

  1. Only interview those participants who fit the sampling criteria

  2. Follow the correct order and filtering throughout the questionnaire

  3. Keep personal opinions to oneself

  4. Readout pre-codes and prompts where instructed

  5. Do not read out pre-codes for questions requiring spontaneous answers

  6. Write down open-ended responses in full. 

Using a structured interview is a way of trying to ensure comparability across the sample. However, it is important that respondents are trained to administer questionnaires and that they are well-briefed on the interview topic. 

The questions in a structured interview may be phrased in such a way that a limited range of responses is elicited. For example:

“Do you think that health services in this area are excellent, good, average, or poor?”

This is an example of a closed question where the possible answers are defined in advance so that the respondent is limited to one of the pre-coded responses. 

It is not unusual for otherwise structured interviews to contain a few open-ended questions. 'Catch-all' final questions are common, for example, 'Do you have anything more to add?' These questions are useful in helping capture as much information as possible but they increase the amount of time required for analyzing the interview findings. 

Semi-structured Interviews:

Semi-structured interviews are similar to structured interviews in that the topics or questions to be asked are planned in advance, but instead of using closed questions, semi-structured interviews are based on open-ended questions. 

Semi-structured interviews are useful when collecting attitudinal information on a large scale, or when it is not possible to draw up a list of possible pre-codes because little is known about the subject area. However semi-structured interviews are much more time-consuming than structured interviews, because of the requirement to draw up coding frames and carry out content analysis on a large number of interviews. Responses can either be tape-recorded or written down by the interviewer. 

Obviously, because of the use of open-ended questions, it is difficult to establish uniformity across respondents. It is therefore all the more important then, that the interviewer refrains from influencing the respondent in any way and maintains a neutral manner. 

With semi-structured interviewing, the open-ended nature of the question defines the topic under investigation, but also provides opportunities for the interviewer and interviewee to discuss some topics in more detail. If the interviewee has difficulty answering a question or provides only a brief response, the interviewer can use cues or prompts to encourage the interviewee to consider the question further. In a semi-structured interview, the interviewer also has the freedom to probe the interviewee to elaborate on the original response or to follow a line of inquiry introduced by the interviewee. An example would be: 

  1. Interviewer: I'd like to hear your thoughts on whether changes in government policy have changed the work of the doctor in general practice. Has your work changed at all? 

  2. Interviewee: Absolutely! The workload has increased for a start. 

  3. Interviewer: In what way has it increased? 

However, analyzing the interview data from open questions is more problematic than when closed questions are used as work must be done before often diverse responses from participants can be compared. 

Well planned and conducted semi-structured interviews are the result of rigorous preparation. The development of the interview schedule, conducting the interview and analyzing the interview data all require careful consideration and preparation. 


The first thing that you will need to consider is whether you wish to conduct individual or group interviews (also known as focus groups).

  1. Individual Interviews:

Individual interviews are valuable to provide detailed information about the meaning of an event, situation, or social context to each participant in a setting. They will be appropriate where we may expect a variety of different stories to be told concerning a setting or context, and where we are interested to learn about this variety. They are also appropriate where the topic to be discussed is sensitive, where a respondent may be unwilling to speak about some aspect of their experience in front of others, or where there is a possibility that the story told could contaminate other participants' stories, and so you need to ensure interviews are conducted in private. If interview data is to be subjected to statistical analysis, it is necessary to conduct individual interviews, to ensure the independence of respondents.

  1. Group Interviews: 

Group interviews (sometimes known as 'focus groups') are only really appropriate for qualitative approaches and can be used where there is some benefit in getting a 'group story' about a setting or incident (Morgan 1998). The kinds of circumstances where this may be of value include:

  1. To generate a research question by tapping into the shared wisdom of participants

  2. Where the researcher does not have sufficient knowledge to conduct appropriately detailed individual interviews and wishes to encourage conversation between participants to provide relevant information about the setting.

  3. Where there may be a range of views, and the extent to which participants agree or disagree about something is of interest to the researcher.

  4. To assess the theoretical proposition of the researcher, based on previous data collection and analysis

  5. To come to a consensus between participants about the 'best way' to do something (the 'Delphi' technique).

Individual and group interviews may be used in conjunction. Sometimes individual interviews may inform a subsequent focus group or vice versa. Having decided on individual or group approaches, you now need to decide which method of interviewing you wish to use. The three ways to conduct interviews are:

  1. Face-to-face:

Here the researcher and respondent meet together. This is the most frequently used technique and enables attention to be paid to non-verbal behaviour and to establish a rapport over an extended period of time. 

Face-to-face or personal interviews are very labour intensive but can be the best way of collecting high-quality data. Face-to-face interviews are preferable when the subject matter is very sensitive, if the questions are very complex or if the interview is likely to be lengthy. Interviewing skills are dealt with in more detail later in this pack. 

Compared to other methods of data collection, face-to-face interviewing offers a greater degree of flexibility. A skilled interviewer can explain the purpose of the interview and encourage potential respondents to co-operate; they can also clarify questions, correct misunderstandings, offer prompts, probe responses and follow up on new ideas in a way that is just not possible with other methods. 

  1. Telephone and Video Links: 

This can be used where a face-to-face interview is not possible and may be appropriate where the topic is not sensitive and non-verbal behaviour is less important. Telephone conferencing may enable focus groups, but there are major problems in 'turn taking' and ensuring all are able to participate. Video conferencing adds a further dimension to this kind of distance interviewing. 

Telephone interviews can be a very effective and economical way of collecting data where the sample to be contacted are all accessible via the telephone. They are not an appropriate method of data collection for a very deprived population where telephone ownership is likely to be low or where respondents may be ex-directory. However telephone interviewing can be ideally suited to busy professional respondents, such as general practitioners, when the telephone numbers can be easily identified and timed appointments set up. Telephone interviews are also particularly useful when the respondents to be interviewed are widely geographically distributed. 

One of the main disadvantages of a telephone interview is that it is difficult to incorporate visual aids and prompts and the respondents cannot read cards or scales. The length of a telephone interview is also limited, although this will vary with participant area and motivation. Nevertheless, it is possible to make prior appointments for a telephone interview and send stimulus material for the respondent to look at in advance of the interview. A prior appointment and covering letter may enhance the response rate and length of the interview. 

  1. Web Interviews: 

The Internet provides opportunities through chat rooms for interviewing and is a growing method of conducting in-depth interviews. There are clearly major problems in establishing rapport, and non-verbal behaviour will be missed entirely. However, some research suggests that respondents may be willing to be more open about personal matters in this kind of format. Issues of the authenticity of identity may also be an issue. Methods of using the web include e-mail interviews, bulletin boards, and interactive websites. Chat rooms can be used to simulate focus groups.


Interviews are considered necessary as it is an excellent way to whittle down a large number of applicants and allow the best ones. Here are some points which highlight the importance of interviews.

  1. Interviews play a crucial role in the selection process of the favorable candidate. They help the interviewer choose who is efficient and who is not.

  2. Resumes do not present a clear picture or inabilities of a candidate; recruiters get to know the candidate's weaknesses and where they need training through the interview procedure.

  3. If someone asks in an interview about their weaknesses, it's best to answer them honestly. It also shows the candidate's self-awareness about their good and vulnerable traits.

  4. Interviews are a necessary strategy to know a candidate's potential.

  5. Through the interviewing process, the employer and the interviewee get to know each other, the flow of essential information takes place, and all doubts are freed.

  6. The employer gets to know about the interviewee's actual communicative skills and checks their general skills of writing and speaking through the quality of their responses.

  7. Employers also get to know about the individuality and personality of the candidate. Also, analyze their social behaviour and confidence in their body language.


Fox, N. (n.d.). Using Interviews in a Research Project. RDS YH. Retrieved April 22, 2022, from

Kar, P. K., & Padhi, S. R. (2010). Social Research Methodology and Techniques. Kalyani Publishers.

PAPER-4 SOCIAL WORK RESEARCH AND STATISTICS. (n.d.). DDCE, Utkal University. Retrieved April 22, 2022, from

Purbey, P. P. (2022, March 17). Definition of Interview - Objectives, Types, and Importance - Getmyuni. GetMyUni. Retrieved April 22, 2022, from

Research Methodology. (n.d.). DDCE, Utkal University. Retrieved April 22, 2022, from

Young, P. V. (1998). Scientific Social Surveys and Research: an Introduction to the Background Content Methods Principles and Analysis of Social Studies. Prentice-Hall Of India Pvt. Limited.

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