What Is An Interview? (Types Of Interviews And Examples)

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Definition, Types of Interviews in Research and Methods

Interviewing in sociological research involves the engagement of subjects from whom data or information on a study is acquired in questioning and conversation activities.

In this case, the interviewer, who could be the main researcher or a mercenary acting in the capacity of a trained research interviewer, asks predetermined research questions to be answered by a sampled subject(s) participant or interviewee to obtain qualitative information for the purpose of arriving at a conclusion on a topic of investigation.

Forms of Interview

Interviews take a number of forms, depending on how structured they are:

1. Structured interview

A completely structured interview suggests the use of an orderly, listed set of questions according to which the interviewer embarks on the exercise with the participant.

The questionnaire serves as a guide in such a situation, and no deviation is expected to occur from the questions provided. However, the interviewer is allowed to probe the participants' answers for clarification purposes. Strictly open-ended questions are asked during any interview section.

2. Unstructured interview

This takes the form of a conversation where the interviewer has no predetermined order of questions about the topic of research. But the conversation develops naturally and according to set topics of discussion throughout; unless the participant fails to cover an area in which the researcher is interested, then the interviewer will direct the discussion back to the areas he or she wishes to cover.

In this method, researchers have a schedule of topics to cover due to discussion with the participant, and they manipulate the conversation at some point to ensure that participants share their ideas on all the themes penned for the interview.

Most interviews fall somewhere between these two extreme forms. Meanwhile, there are few tools for interviews considering the number of people involved and their purpose. In all, sociologists make use of in-depth interviews (IDI), focus group discussions (FGD), and key informant interviews (KII).

1. In-depth Interview (IDI)

In-depth interviewing is a qualitative research technique that involves conducting intensive individual interviews with a small number of respondents to explore their perspectives on a particular idea, program, or situation.

For example, in a particular study about "Ifa Therapy System," Ifa priests and others associated with the health system participated in IDI to give detailed accounts about their experiences on topics raised during the interview, the thoughts they had concerning operations, processes, and outcomes, and about any changes they perceived in themselves as a result of their subscription to the Ifa health system. An in-depth interview is useful when a researcher wants detailed information about a person's thoughts and behaviors or wants to explore new issues in depth.

Interviews are often used to provide context to other data (such as outcome data), offering a more complete picture of what happened in the program and why.

2. Key Informant Interview (KII)

Key informants, as a result of their personal skills or position within a group, organization, or society, are able to provide more information and a deeper insight into what is going on around them in terms of the forms, meanings, and functions of their behavioral relationships with which they can also be identified.

As such, a key informant interview is intended to get detailed information on a particular topic of study from a knowledgeable person, especially when such information is hard to get directly from people who actually have the experience being investigated. What is being examined may be a very sensitive issue to a group of people with experience.

For example, a pimp can serve as a key informant for an investigator who is studying variables related to prostitution. In this sense, the actual prostitutes may find it difficult to divulge all necessary information needed by the interviewer when interviewed because of perceived anticipated consequences.

3. Focus Group Discussion (FGD)

This entails a setting where a researcher, this time as a moderator or facilitator, engages a group of individuals carefully selected as participants to air their opinion on a topic of interest to the researcher. The participants must have relevant information to supply on each topical issue raised at the table of discussion.

FGD can be defined as a form of group interview in which there are several participants (in addition to the moderator or facilitator): there is an emphasis in the questioning on a particular, fairly tightly defined topic, and the accent is on interaction within the group and the joint construction of meaning.

Many sociological researchers agree with 12 (twelve) as the maximum, while the minimum could be 7 (seven). The task of the moderator is to anchor the session by introducing each topical issue to discuss: time the exercise efficiently and record the points raised and concluded by the group. In this regard, a tape recorder may be employed for the complete capture of ideas.

At times, researchers employ the service of an assistant that watches and takes note of gestures or movements that may have significant meaning in the process of discussion. Focus group discussions are more 'natural'—closer to real social life—than face-to-face interviews (Wilkinson 2004).

Advantages of an Interview

  • Compared to the observation method, interviews can use larger samples, so generalizations are more justified.
  • It is versatile because it is possible to produce both statistical data and qualitative information relevant to the study. It can discover things that cannot be asked directly.
  • Misconceptions of words or expressions as used by the researcher can be clarified for participants to input relevant information, unlike the questionnaire method, where there may not be the opportunity to demystify cumulous expressions in situations where the questionnaire is self-administered.
  • Both researchers and participants come to terms with the meanings of concepts. It extirpates the researcher's imposition against what the concepts mean in the real social world. Thus, data and information become valid and reliable.
  • Interviews allow cooperation between researcher and participant to become partners in the course of research.
  • Interviews allow the opportunity for critical reflection by all those involved, so that they can examine and sometimes change the perspectives through which they see the world.
  • The response rate tends to be higher than when a questionnaire is used.

Disadvantages of an Interview

The responses given in an interview may not be accurate and may not reflect real behavior. Participants may lie. may forget or may lack the information required.

The presence of the interviewer may influence the responses of participants, causing a decline in the validity of the information.

There can be interviewer's bias, where participants might be either consciously or unconsciously led to give certain responses or information.


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