Interviews are generally recorded manually. The sociologist may tape the interview or video it so they can later produce a transcript. Interviews can be carried out in a public space, e.g on the street. However, the most sucessful interviews are carried out in private and unthreatening venues. Interviews are useful when studying areas which are not accesible to sociological study using other methods. For example, it may not be practical to observe how a family cares for a sick member. Interviewing can be expensive especially if a large interviewing team is needed. There are 5 types of interview that a sociologist can use:
1. The Structured Interview
Usually invovles the researched reading out a list of closed questions and ticking boxes or writing down answers according to pre-set fixed catergories.
The interviewer plays a passive role in that the interviewer is not normally allowed to deviate from the questions on the interview schedule.
The responses are usually converted into a quantitive form.
More like a guided conversation - The talk is informal but the researcher plays an active role in that they manage the questions to ensure the participants keeps to the subject of the research.
Very flexible interviews as although the interviewer has an idea of the topics they should be covering, they are quite happy to follow the respondent if they feel that this might produce useful results.
A skillful interviewer can follow up ideas, probe responses and investigate motives and feelings in ways in which the questionnaire can never do.
A mix of the structured and unstructured interview.
They contain closed questions in order to generate facts but also contain a few open questions.
The open questions allow the interviewer some flexibility to ask for clarification of vauge answers.
The reliability of such interviews has been questioned because an interviewer might find that some interviewees may need more probing than others. The data may, there, not be strictly comparable.
Carried out in groups, rather than individuals.
They are often used to interview children who may feel threatened in a one-to-one situtation.
They may also be used to investigate the dynamics of how particular groups operate, e.g a nursing team.
A danger of these types of interviews is that one or two strong personalities may lead the other respondents to give particular answers.
Focus groups interviews
Participants are encouraged to talk to each other.
They usually involve people getting together to discuss an issue, rather than simply give answers to a question.
This method was first used by market researchers to see how consumers responded to products.
There is minimal interference from the sociologist.
Danger that one or two strong personalities may lead the other respondents to give particular answers,