Structured interview

An interview schedule is involved in a structured interview. All respondents will be asked a same set of questions prepared beforehand, and the order and phrasing of the questions should be standardised for every interviewee.

Evaluation points:

+ Standardised, thus replicable, and more reliable.
- Impossible to explore ideas and informations the interviewer has no prior knowledge to
+ Quick and easy to conduct
- Answers might lack depth, thus decrease the validity

Semi-structured interview

A semi-structured interview is not structured by a list of preset questions, but the interviewer has control over the focus and direction of the interview. Unlike structured interviews, respondents are encouraged to go into details at certain points, and different respondents might receive different questions.

Evaluation points:

+ More flexible than structured interviews since new questions can be generated during interviews
- Different or differently phrased questions make generalisations difficult
+ More detailed answers might contribute to validity
- Requires more skills for both interviewers and respondents

Unstructured interview

It aims to get the respondent to talk freely about whatever they think is important, so that the researcher could develop more understanding over the subject. Questions are non-standardised, and the researcher has little control over the direction of the interview.

Evaluation points:

+ A strong rapport can be built between interviewer and respondents, who will be more likely to open up
- However this may also increase interview effects and further introduce bias
+ Data-rich and in-depth, likely to be valid
- Time-consuming, and can be diverted at times

Group interview (focus groups)

A group interview involves a selected group of respondents having a discussion over a topic selected by the researcher, who has control over the focus of the interview. It allows interactions between the group members, assuming that people would be more comfortable sharing ideas in such an environment.

Evaluation points:

+ More naturalistic than one-to-one interviews
- People might feel pressured to reach a socially desired conclusion
+ The researcher has control over the pace and focus of discussion
- Some individuals might withhold ideas which differ from the group consensus

Interviewer effect

Characteristics of the interviewer, such as gender and race, may cause a distortion of the response provided by the respondents. For example, a female victim of domestic violence might not trust or feel comfortable with opening up to a male interviewer. Regarding sensitive topics, people may choose to provide socially desirable answers as they fear the consequences of revealing their own thoughts. For some, the mere presence of the interviewer can cause stress, making their response less natural.

Examples of Research

Structured Interview

Tea Room Trade - Laud Humphrey

Semi-structured Interview

The Making of a Moonie - Eileen Barker

Unstructured Interview

Learning to Labour - Paul Willis

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