All you need to know about research interviews

Research Interviews: Uncovering their types and methods

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Being a popular technique for qualitative research, research interviews are a process of conversing with respondents through open-ended questions and collecting elicit data related to a subject. In most cases, the person who conducts the interview is a subject matter expert (SME) intending to understand the respondents’ perceptions in a well-planned manner through the use of detailed questions & answers. While interviews look similar to surveys and focus groups in case of gathering information from a group of the target audience but their operation is completely different. As focus groups are used among a small group of people (mainly 6-10 individuals), surveys are considered to be quantitative in nature. To conduct interviews a sample from the population is taken and then an interview is framed using a conversational tone.

Types of research interviews

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What are the fundamental types of interviews used in research?

A researcher conducts interviews to gather information from a group of participants that can be obtained by either meeting or connecting personally with them. An interview provides a great platform to the researchers for convincing their participants to share inputs related to a subject in detail. There are three types of interviews used in the process of market research:

Structured Interviews

Structured interviews are the research tools known for their extreme rigidity in operations as they don’t allow any scope of prodding participants to gather effective results. These interviews are known as standardized interviews and these follow a significantly quantitative approach. With pre-defined questions included on the basis of the required detail of information, structured interviews are highly preferred in survey research. It also plays a key role in maintaining consistency among all the interview sessions.
Depending on the target population, the questions used in structured interviews can either be open-ended or closed-ended. While closed-ended questions can help to uncover respondents’ preferences from a list of answer choices, open-ended questions can help to dive deeper into a particular topic included in the interview.

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What are the advantages of structured interviews?

  • Structured interviews help to gather extremely organized data as they focus on the accuracy and precision of different responses. While each respondent may have a different answer to a particular question – so the different answers can be analyzed collectively.
  • Structured interviews are extremely effective in reaching out to a large sample of the target audience.
  • With the standardization provided by structured interviews, the entire interview procedure becomes too simple.  
  • The similar structure offered by structured interviews makes it easy to replicate multiple samples.   
  • While drafting a structured interview, the researcher always considers its scope of detail. This helps to gather insightful information and empowers the researcher to efficiently analyze issues in an extensive manner.
  • Due to the fixed structure of structured interviews, it is easier to execute and helps to generate reliable results.

What are the disadvantages of structured interviews?

  • There’s less scope for assessing the gathered results.
  • The accuracy of information becomes more important than its detail.  
  • There are predefined answer options that respondents are supposed to choose from.
  • Conducting a structured interview takes a significant amount of time.

Semi-Structured Interviews

Semi-structured interviews are known for offering an allowable margin of freedom to the researchers for examining their respondents while following the basic interview structure. Even in the case of a guided conversation happening between a researcher and interviewees – there’ll be a significant amount of flexibility offered to the researchers. In this type of research interview, there’s no need for multiple interview rounds in the presence of structure. 
According to the structure, researchers are free to follow any idea or take advantage of the complete interview. In order to gather information for research, additional respondent probing will always be needed. A semi-structured interview is mostly used in cases where the researchers don’t have time to perform research but need detailed information about a particular topic.

What are the advantages of semi-structured interviews?

  • The questions included in a semi-structured interview are prepared beforehand which gives the researcher some time to prepare as well as analyze them.
  • These interviews offer flexibility while maintaining research guidelines.
  • The researchers have the authority to present questions in the format they want, unlike the questions in a structured interview.
  • These interviews help to collect reliable qualitative data. 
  • It comes with a flexible structure.

What are the disadvantages of semi-structured interviews?

  • Considering the flexibility offered by these interviews, participants are likely to question its reliability.
  • Since the roadmap for conducting interviews is not followed completely, so it becomes difficult to compare two different answers. As no two questions follow a similar structure, so the researchers are unable to compare the results.

 

Unstructured Interviews

Being popularly known as in-depth interviews, unstructured interviews involve the conversations that are held with an aim to collect data about a specific research study. There are fewer questions in these interviews as they work like a normal conversation having an underlying subject.

Most of the researchers use an unstructured interview for establishing a bond with their respondents. This helps them to gather more insightful information as the respondents participate in the interview with full vigor and answer with 100% truthfulness. While the researchers don’t have to follow any guidelines, it enables them to approach the respondents in any manner they want for gaining as much information as possible. 

In order to obtain the desired outcome through unstructured interviews, a researcher should consider the following factors:

  • The overall intent behind the interview.
  • The interview must focus on the respondents’ interests and skills.
  • All the conversations in the interview should follow the permitted limits of research and researchers need to abide by them.
  • The researchers’ skills and knowledge should align with the purpose of the interview.
  • The researcher needs to be aware of the do’s and don’ts of an unstructured interview.

What are the advantages of unstructured interviews?

  • As unstructured interviews are informal, researchers can easily build a friendly rapport with their participants. This helps them gain crucial insights in detail without any extra effort.
  • It gets easy for the participants to clarify their doubts and the researchers can explain their intention for getting better responses.
  • As there are no defined set of questions that a researcher has to follow,  this streamlines the entire research process and increases its flexibility.
  •  

What are the methods of conducting Research Interviews?

There are three ways of conducting research interviews which include:

Personal Interviews

These interviews are highly preferred for market research, as these allow researchers to ask questions directly to their respondents. In this interview, a researcher can use a guide to take note of the answers given by a participant. Also, the survey can be designed in such a manner that the researcher can easily take notes of the comments without letting the interviewee know about them. 

What are the advantages of Personal Interviews?

  • It generates a high response rate.
  • As the respondents and interviewees come face-to-face, there’s always a chance to modify the questions in case of any confusion.
  • The researcher can easily detect as well as analyze the body language of the interviewees and can take notes.

What are the disadvantages of Personal Interviews?

  • They consume a lot of time and are highly expensive.
  • Personal interviews can make respondents self-conscious due to which they might not answer truthfully sometimes.  
  • Getting in touch with interviewees can be tough. You might have to schedule appointments in either a workplace or go from house to house.

Telephonic Interviews

Telephonic interviews are a popular method of conducting market research and can be easily combined with online surveys. These interviews play a key role in effectively carrying out research.

What are the advantages of Telephonic Interviews?

  • To reach out to interviewees, you just need their telephone numbers handy.
  • These come at a lower cost.
  • It is easy to collect information quickly.
  • In the case of personal contact, doubts can be easily clarified.

What are the disadvantages of Telephonic Interviews?

  • There is usually bias faced in these interviews by the researchers as many people don’t pick up phone calls due to unknown numbers or change of residence.  
  • These types of interviews require the researchers to stay kind while addressing their respondents to gather more accurate answers from them. So, lack of polite communication may yield poor results.

 

Email & Web Page Interviews

As customers are moving towards a virtual world and everything is going digital, online research has experienced exponential growth and researchers need to adapt to this change. So, interviews conducted through emails or web pages have become more popular than ever. And that’s where an online survey can work! 

What are the advantages of email surveys?

  • Data can be obtained quickly.
  • The participants have the ability to respond at their convenience, i.e. anywhere and anytime.  
  • It’s easy to integrate online surveys with other research methods which makes them ideal for conducting market research.  
  • These surveys come with a variety of logics, tools, questions, and functionalities for streamlined data collection. 

However, the aim of your research will help to determine the type of interview you should use for data collection. According to the research design, researchers can effectively plan as well as test the questions they’ve included in the interview, for example, if the questions are appropriate and the survey goes in the right direction.

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