In-depth interviews can be defined as a qualitative research technique which involves “conducting intensive individual interviews with a small number of respondents to explore their perspectives on a particular idea, program or situation” (Boyce and Neale, 2006, p.3).
There are three different formats of interviews: structured, semi-structured and unstructured.
Structured interviews consist of a series of pre-determined questions that all interviewees answer in the same order. Data analysis in structured interviews usually tends to be more straightforward compared to other forms of interviews, because researcher can compare and contrast different answers given to the same questions.
Unstructured interviews are usually the least reliable form of interviews from research viewpoint, because no questions are prepared prior to the interview and interview is conducted in an informal manner. Unstructured interviews can be associated with a high level of bias and comparison of answers given by different respondents tends to be difficult due to the differences in formulation of questions.
Semi-structured interviews contain components of both, structured and unstructured interviews. In semi-structured interviews interviewer prepares a set of same questions to be answered by all interviewees, however, additional questions might be asked during interviews to clarify and/or further expand certain issues.
Advantages of interviews include possibilities of collecting detailed information about research questions. Moreover, in interviews researcher has direct control over the flow of primary data collection process and have a chance to clarify certain issues during the process is in need arises. Disadvantages of interviews include longer time requirements compared to some of primary data collection methods and difficulties associated with arranging an appropriate time with perspective sample group members to conduct interviews.
When conducting interviews you should have an open mind and refrain from displaying disagreements in any forms when viewpoints expressed by interviewees contradict your own ideas. Moreover, timing and environment for interviews need to be scheduled effectively. Specifically, interviews need to be conducted in a relaxed environment, free of any forms of pressure for interviewees whatsoever.
Respected scholars warn that “in conducting an interview the interviewer should attempt to create a friendly non-threatening atmosphere. Much as one does with a cover letter, the interviewer should give a brief, casual introduction to the study; stress the importance of the person’s participation; and assure anonymity, or at least confidentiality, when possible” (Connaway and Powell, 2010, p.170). Moreover, Engel and Schutt (2009) warn about possible interviewee bias during the primary data collection process and argue that interviewee bias would seriously compromise the validity of the project findings. Other scholars, on the other hand, recommend that “some interviewer bias can be avoided by ensuring that the interviewer does not overreact to responses of the interviewee. Other steps that can be taken to help avoid or reduce interviewer bias include having the interviewer dress inconspicuously and appropriately for the environment, holding the interview in a private setting, and keeping the interview as informal as possible” (Connaway and Powell, 2010, p.172).
Boyce, C & Neale, P, 2006, “Conducting in-depth Interviews: A Guide for Designing and Conducting In-Depth Interviews”, Pathfinder International Tool Series
Connaway, LS & Powell, RP, 2010, Basic Research Methods for Librarians, ABC-CLIO
My e-book, The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Dissertation in Business Studies: a step by step assistance offers practical assistance to complete a dissertation with minimum or no stress. The e-book covers all stages of writing a dissertation starting from the selection to the research area to submitting the completed version of the work within the deadline.