How to do interview analysis

An introduction to interview analysis

For more best practices see our method overview

Context of interview analysis

Interviews, for qualitative research, are a means of obtaining detailed and nuanced information directly from participants. Unlike structured surveys, interviews allow for a flexible, open-ended conversation that can adapt to the respondent's experiences and perspectives. This unscripted dialogue provides researchers with a unique opportunity to explore the depth and breadth of individuals' thoughts, emotions, and actions.
Decoration image for interview analysis
By chosing interview analysis as a method for your research, you can emphasize the participant perspectives, and foster community engagement. By involving participants in the research process, from data collection to analysis and dissemination, researchers can build trust and empower communities.

Interviews can also be a valuable addition in mixed-methods research. When statistical anomalies point you towards a potentially significant divergance in the data, interviews may help understand the reasons for this divergence. In a more exploratory setting using a mixed methods approach, you may also want to do an interview study first, and a quantitative analysis second in order to sharpen the focus for your measurements on things that are more vital to the participants. Both orders are valid and the choice depends on your research question.

Types of interview analysis

You can chose between the following types of interviews in your interview study which vary in the degree of structuredness:
  • Structured Interviews: These follow a predetermined set of questions and are often used when comparing responses across participants.
  • Semi-Structured Interviews: These provide a balance between structure and flexibility, allowing researchers to explore specific topics in-depth while adapting to the participant's narrative.
  • Unstructured or Open-Ended Interviews: Characterized by a lack of predetermined questions, these interviews encourage participants to express themselves freely, revealing unexpected insights.
Choosing the right type of interview for a qualitative research project is crucial to ensure that the data collected is relevant and useful. Structured interviews are best suited for research projects that require a high degree of standardization and consistency in the questions asked. They are ideal for research projects that require quantitative data analysis. Semi-structured interviews, on the other hand, are more flexible and allow for a greater degree of exploration and discovery. They are best suited for research projects that require qualitative data analysis. Semi-structured interviews are particularly useful when the research question is exploratory in nature and the interviewer has prior interview experience. Unstructured interviews are the least formal of the three types of interviews and are best suited for research projects that require a high degree of flexibility and adaptability. They are ideal for research projects that require qualitative data analysis and are often used in ethnographic research.
Ultimately, the choice of interview type will depend on the specific research question and the goals of the research project.

Creating an interview guideline

Designing an interview guideline for a semi-structured interview in a qualitative research study can be a challenging task. Here are some steps that you can follow to create an effective interview guideline:
  1. Identify the research question: The first step is to identify the research question that you want to answer through the semi-structured interview. This will help you to determine the scope of the interview and the topics that you need to cover.
  2. Develop a preliminary guide: Based on the research question, develop a preliminary guide that includes a list of open-ended questions. These questions should be designed to elicit detailed responses from the participants. You can also include prompts or probes to encourage participants to elaborate on their answers.
  3. Peer Debriefing: You should consider involving a colleague in a peer debriefing session to question and critique your approach. Peer debriefings can be done at multiple stages of your research design and execution, and on all levels of granularity. Since resources are always limited, you should think strategically when to employ this technique. However if in doubt we always recommend doing it earlier rather than later to have the most impact.
  4. Pilot test: Once you have developed the preliminary guide and had it reviewed and critiqued by one of your peers, you should pilot test the interview outline with a few participants to ensure that the questions are clear and that they elicit the desired responses. This way you make sure your measurement instrument has a good fit to your research question. You can also do a first round of analysis and member checking after the pilot study. Based on the feedback, refine the guide and finalize it.

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