Qualitative Interview

What is it?

: Qualitative research methodology is considered to be suitable when the researcher either investigates new field of study or intends to theorize prominent issues. Interviewing is the most common format of data collection in qualitative research (Griffee, 2005). Furthermore, interviewing is a valuable method for exploring the construction and negotiation of meanings in a natural setting. Most of the qualitative research interviews are either semi-structured, lightly structured or in-depth. A table detailing the differences in types of interviewing can be found below:

Besides one-on-one interviews, focus groups interviewing is also prevalent. Focus group interviewing is an interviewing technique in which participants are purposively selected, although not necessarily representative, sampling of a specific population, yet this group is focused on a given topic, especially for investigating complex behaviour or phenomenon.

Figure 1. Comparison of interviewing procedures (Young et al., 2016)

For good interview

: A good qualitative interview has two key features.

First, the interview should flow naturally, creating comfort and trust for involving participants. Second, it should capture rich details. It is therefore necessary for researchers to remember that they are there to observe and listen, not just speak. It would be also valuable to consider the interview’s non-linguistic aspects, e.g. the interviewees’ body language, gestures, and other sources of ‘unsaid’ data, as they represent an interesting source of research information.

Furthermore, the wording of questions needs careful planning to eliminate interviewer’s biases and remains short and succinct o that the longer the subject’s answers are, the better the interview is. Some tips for a successful interview is avoiding asking leading questions, taking notes even when using tape recorders, conducting a mock interview to pilot the questions, and giving the interviewee a chance to sum up and clarify the points they have made.

Given the large amount of data, coding may take several rounds. Two steps of coding have widely been discussed in social science research (Creswell, 2009), including generating meaningful data units and classifying and ordering these units into themes and sub-topics.

Figure 2. A crude example of how a qualitative interview transcript is coded (Creswell, 2009)
Figure 2. A crude example of how a qualitative interview transcript is coded (Creswell, 2009)


Creswell, J. W. (2009). Research designs: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. Callifornia: Sage.

Griffee, D. T. (2005). Research Tips: Interview Data Collection. Journal of Developmental Education28(3), 36-37.

Young, M. E., Bell, Z. E., & Fristad, M. A. (2016). Validation of a brief structured interview: The Children’s Interview for Psychiatric Syndromes (ChIPS). Journal of clinical psychology in medical settings23(4), 327-340.

Written by Mary Dinh (mdinh@albany.edu)

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