HideShow resource information

types of interviews

structured interviews

  • positivist
  • based on strcutured, pre coded questionnaire
  • a formal question and answer session
  • quantitative data
  • aim to be reliable as they can be repeated

unstructured interviews

  • interpretivist
  • a guided conversation with the interviewer having a mental list of topics to cover
  • qualitiative data
  • attempt to emphasise validity- in depth information
  • small scale less reliable
  • very dependent on the skills of the researcher

semi structured interviews

  • each interview uses the same set of questions, but the interviewer has the freedom to probe the responses of the participant
  • more reliable
  • extra questions are not pre-set
  • more valid than structured
  • allows deeper questioning

groups interviews/focus groups

  • interviewer encourages participants to discuss topics and issues with one another
  • often focused on political issues of the day

type of interview used depends on:

  • type of data required
  • topic area being investigated
  • sensitivity of the topic area
  • level of validity being sought
  • level of reliability being sought
  • skills of the researcher
  • concerns of interviewer bias

suitable topics

  • structured interviews- simple, straightforward, factual information, a respondent's age, gender, educational qualifications, occupation
  • group interviews- effects of long term imprisonment, victims of crime, conflicts within organisations, changes in working practices among steel workers

unstructured interviews


sensitive groups

  • some groups are less likely than others to provide information for researchers
  • might be suspicious of outsiders, hostile, afraid, uncomfortable
  • provides an opportunity for understanding and trust to develop

sensitive subjects

  • respondents may be more likely to discuss sensitive and painful experiences if they feel that the interviewer is sympathetic and understanding

respondent's viewpoint

  • offers greater opportunity for respondents to take control, define priorities and direct the interview into areas which they see as interesting and significant
  • greater chance to express their own viewpoints
  • can lead to new and important insights for the researcher

validity and depth

  • if respondents feel at ease they will be more likely to open up and say what they really mean
  • more likely to produce valid data and richer, more valid and more colourful data
  • allow interviewers more opportunity to pursue a topic, to probe with further questions, to ask respondents to qualify and develop their answers
  • resulting data may have more depth

meanings, attitudes and opinions

  • discovering meanings, values, attitudes, opinions and beliefs
  • can explore such areas without the limitations of pre set questions
  • shades of meanings
  • opinions are hedged with qualification
  • a skilled interviewer can encourage and enable respondent to spell out this complexity

disadvantages of unstructured interviews

interviewer bias

  • interviewer will affect the responses of the interviewer
  • interviewers are people with social characteristics, particular personalities
  • social and psychological characteristics will be perceived in certain…


No comments have yet been made

Similar Sociology resources:

See all Sociology resources »See all Sociological research methods resources »