Strengths and weaknesses of Unstructured Interviews

Advantages and Disadvantages of using unstructured, informal interviews for sociological research

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Strengths

  • Advanatges of using unstructured, informal interviews
  • The interviewer is able to develop a rapport with the respondent becuase of its informality. The respondent is therefore more likely to be at ease when explaining or describing certain matters.
  • Unlike the barriers of the 'interview schedule' of structured interviews, the interviewers is free to vary the questions  that may not have been thought of before hand.
  • the relaxed and normal situation of the interview may result in more detailed and honest answers
  • useful for investigating sensitive issues such as domestic violence which could not be investiagted through a questionnaire, survey or experiment
  • the interviwers can probe for answers and explain questions which the respondent may not understand or is unsure of, unlike the pre-set questions of formal interviews
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Weaknesses

Disadvantages of unstructured, informal interviews:

  • The problem of 'interview bias' - the tone, facial expression, gender, age and posture of the interviewes may significantly influence responses.
  • Usually, people unconciosuly act differently when being interviewed and hence their behaviour is set to the artificial situation - talking to an unknown audience
  • Respondents may lie, exaggerate or fail to expand answers which makes the validity of answers questionable.
  • Social desirability - respondents may give answers that they think are appropriate, plausible and 'socially desirable' to say.
  • Hard to quantify and compare results considering the range and variety of answers
  • Time-Consuming - not structured questions but characterised by long, extensive answers.
  • Tendency to go off the intended topic becuase it is unstructured
  • Cannot be easily repeated - question of reliability
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