Interviews are a qualitative research technique that consists of asking open-ended questions to talk to respondents and obtain data on a topic. In most cases, the interviewer is the subject matter expert who seeks to know the views of respondents through a series of well-planned and executed questions and answers.

Interviews are similar to focus groups and surveys when it comes to obtaining information from the target market, but they are totally different in how they work: focus groups are limited to a small group of 6 to 10 people, while surveys are quantitative in nature. Interviews are conducted with a sample of a population and the key feature they present is their conversational tone.

Fundamental types of interviews in research

A researcher has to conduct interviews with a group of participants at a time in the research when information can only be obtained by knowing and personally connecting with a part of their target audience. The interviews provide researchers with a platform to ask their participants and get input in the desired detail. There are three fundamental types of interviews in research:

Structured interviews

Structured interviews are defined as research tools that are extremely rigid in their operations and that allow little or no scope to ask participants to obtain and analyze the results. Therefore, it is also known as a standardized interview and has a significantly quantitative approach. The questions in this interview are decided in advance based on the detail of the information required.

Structured interviews are overused in survey research with the intention of maintaining uniformity across all interview sessions.

They can be both closed and open, depending on the type of target population. Closed questions can be included to understand the user’s preferences from a collection of answer options, while open questions can be included to get details about a specific section of the interview.


Structured interviews focus on the accuracy of different answers, so highly organized data can be collected. Different respondents have different types of answers to the same question structure – the answers obtained can be analyzed collectively.

They can be used to come into contact with a large sample of the target population.

The interview procedure is facilitated thanks to the standardization offered by structured interviews.

Replication across multiple samples is easy due to the same interview structure.

As the scope of the details is already taken into account when designing the interview, better information can be obtained and the researcher can analyze the research problem in a comprehensive manner by asking precise research questions.

As the structure of the interview is fixed, it usually generates reliable results and is quick to execute.

The relationship between the researcher and the respondent is not formal, so the researcher can clearly know the margin of error in case the respondent refuses to participate in the survey or is simply not interested in providing the appropriate information.


Limited scope of evaluation of the results obtained.

The accuracy of the information takes precedence over the detail of the information.

Respondents are forced to select from the response options provided.

The researcher is expected to always stick to the list of questions decided, regardless of how interesting the conversation with the participants is.

A structured interview requires a considerable amount of time.

Semi-structured interviews

Semi-structured interviews offer considerable room for manoeuvre for the researcher to probe respondents, as well as maintaining the basic structure of the interview. Although this is a guided conversation between researchers and interviewees, it offers considerable flexibility to researchers. The investigator can be sure that multiple rounds of interviews will not be needed in the presence of the structure in this type of research interview.

Given the structure, the researcher can follow any idea or creatively take advantage of the entire interview. It is always necessary to poll the respondent more to obtain information for a research study. The best application of the semi-structured interview is when the researcher does not have time to conduct an investigation and needs detailed information on the subject.


Semi-structured interview questions are prepared before the scheduled interview, giving the investigator time to prepare and analyze the questions.

It is flexible to some extent, but maintains the guidelines for research.

Researchers can express interview questions in the format they prefer, as opposed to structured interviewing.

Through these interviews, reliable qualitative data can be collected.

Flexible structure of the interview.


Participants may question the reliability factor of these interviews because of the flexibility they offer.

The comparison of two different answers becomes difficult, since the pattern of conducting the interviews is not entirely followed. Neither question will have exactly the same structure and the result will be the inability to compare are infer results.

Unstructured interviews

Also called in-depth interviews, unstructured interviews are often described as conversations held for one purpose: to collect data about the research study. These interviews have the fewest questions as they lean more towards a normal conversation but with an underlying topic.

The main goal of most researchers using informal interviews is to create a bond with respondents, so there is a good chance that respondents will be 100% honest with their answers. Researchers do not have to follow any guidelines, so they can approach participants in any ethical way to obtain as much information as possible for their research topic.

Since there are no guidelines for these interviews, the researcher must keep their approach under control so that respondents do not deviate from the main reason for the investigation. For the researcher to obtain the desired result, he must take into account the following factors:

The intent of the interview.

The interview should primarily take into account the participant’s interest and skills.

All conversations must take place within the permissible limits of the investigation and the researcher must try to abide by them.

The researcher’s skills and knowledge should match the objective of the interview.

Researchers need to understand what to do and what not to do in unstructured interviews.


Due to the informal nature of informal interviews, it is very easy for researchers to try to develop a friendly relationship with participants. This allows you to obtain very detailed information without much conscious effort.

Participants can clarify all their doubts about the questions and the researcher can take every opportunity to explain their intention to get better answers.

There are no questions that the researcher has to follow and this usually increases the flexibility of the entire research process.


In the absence of a structure in the interview process, researchers are slow to conduct them.

The absence of a standardized set of questions and guidelines indicates that the reliability of unstructured interviews is questionable.

In many cases, the ethics involved in these interviews are considered to be at the limit of the annoying.

Methods of research interviews

There are three methods for conducting research interviews, each of which is peculiar in its application and can be used according to the requirement of the research study.

Personal interviews

Personal interviews are one of the most widely used types of interviews, in which questions are asked personally to the respondent. To do this, a researcher may have an online survey guide to take note of the answers. A researcher can design their survey to take note of the respondent’s comments or insights.


Higher response rate.

When respondents and respondents are face-to-face, there is the possibility to adapt the questions if they are not understood.

More complete answers can be obtained if there are doubts on both sides or specific information that is remarkable is detected.

The researcher has the opportunity to detect and analyze the body language of the interviewee at the time of asking the questions and taking notes about it.


They take a long time and are very expensive.

They can generate distrust on the part of the interviewee, since they may be self-conscious and not respond with sincerity.

Contacting interviewees can be a real headache, whether it’s making an appointment at the workplace or going from house to house and not finding anyone.

Therefore, many interviews are conducted in public places, such as shopping malls or parks. There are even consumer studies that take advantage of these sites to conduct interviews or surveys and give incentives, gifts, coupons, in short; there are great online research opportunities in shopping malls.

Among the advantages of conducting this type of interview is that respondents will have fresher information if the interview is conducted in the context and with the right stimuli, so that researchers can have data of their experience at the scene, immediately and first hand. The interviewer can use an online survey through a mobile device that will undoubtedly facilitate the whole process.

Telephone Interviews

Telephone interviews are widely used and easy to combine with online surveys to conduct research effectively.


To find the interviewees, simply have their phone numbers handy.

They tend to have a lower cost.

Information is collected quickly.

Having a personal contact can also clarify doubts, or give more details of the questions.


Many times researchers find that people don’t answer phone calls because it’s an unknown number to the respondent, or they’ve just already changed their place of residence and can’t locate it, causing a bias in the interview.

Investigators also face that they simply do not want to answer and resort to pretexts such as that they are busy answering, that they are sick, that they have no authority to answer the questions that are asked of them, that they have no interest in answering or that they are afraid of putting their safety at risk.

One of the aspects that must be taken care of in this type of interview is the kindness with which the interviewers address the respondents, to get them to cooperate more easily with their answers. Good communication is vital to generate better responses.

Email interviews or website

Online research is growing more and more because consumers are migrating to a more virtual world and it is best for each researcher to adapt to this change.

The increase in people with internet access has made email or website interviews stand out among the most widely used types of interviews today. For this nothing better than an online survey.

More and more consumers are opting for online shopping, so they are a great niche to be able to conduct an interview that generates information for the correct decision making.


Speed of data collection

Respondents respond according to their time, at the time they want and where they choose.

Online surveys can be mixed with other research methods or use some of the interview models above. They are tools that can complement and make the project perfectly profitable.

The researcher can use a wide variety of questions, logics, create graphs and reports immediately.

No doubt, the objective of the research will set the tone for what types of interviews are best for data collection. From the design of the research, a researcher can plan and test the questions, for example, if the questions are the right ones and if the survey flows in the best way.

In addition there are other types of research that can be used in specific circumstances, for example in the case that there is no connection or adverse situations to carry out the surveys, in this type of occasions it is necessary to carry out a field research, which can not be considered an interview but rather a completely different methodology.

To summarize the discussion, an effective interview will be one that provides researchers with the necessary data to know the object of study and that this information is applicable to the decisions that researchers make.

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You may also be interested in: Understanding and Evaluating Research through Surveys

Types and methods of interviews in research

Types and methods of interviews in research


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