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In this paper, we understood the importance of an in-depth interview method of data collection. The paper also explores the strength and limitations of an in-depth interview. Discussing the advantages of this method over the other forms of data collection like questionnaire and survey, the chapter enlists the do’s and don’ts of the process of conducting an in-depth interview. Highlighting the issues to be taken care of during the execution of the method, the paper also focusses on the approaches to be adopted while drafting the questionnaire for the interviews. The paper finally delineates the procedure of analysis of the data collected through this method.
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M30 - In-depth Interview
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Module name/ title: In-depth Interview
Paper: Communications Research
Component I: Personal Details
Principal Investigator
Prof. Biswajit Das
Centre for Culture, Media
& Governance,
JamiaMilliaIslamia, Delhi
Co-Principal Investigator
Dr. Durgesh Tripathi
University School of Mass
Communication, Guru
Gobind Singh
Indraprastha University,
Paper Coordinator (if
Dr. Sunitha Chitrapu
Social Communications
Media Department
(SCMSophia), Sophia-
Smt. Manorama Devi
Somani College, Mumbai
400 026
Content Writer/
Dr. Huma Parveen
Dept. of Mass-
Communication, Aligarh
Muslim University
Department of Mass
Communication, Aligarh
Muslim University, Aligarh
Content Reviewer
Prof. Biswajit Das
Centre for Culture, Media
& Governance, Jamia
Millia Islamia, Delhi
Language Editor
Mr. P K Satapathy
Department of English,
School of Open Learning,
University of Delhi
Component II: Description of the Module
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Module 30: In-depth Interview
1. Introduction
An interview is an important qualitative research method in which the
researcher collects data directly from the participants. Mostly paired
with other research methods like survey, focus group etc., interviews
are significant in unfolding opinions, experiences, values and various
other aspects of the population under study. Interviews are always
goal oriented.
With a purpose to extract the desired information from a respondent,
an interview may be conducted at numerous places like school, college,
market, home and others. Besides that, With the advent of technology,
we have witnessed an increase in the number of methods through which
an interview can be conducted. Unlike earlier, now, an interview is
not mandatory a meeting. It can be conducted over phone or Skype or
mail or through various other forms of the internet and telephone
without physical presence. There are different types of interviews. An
interview may be either formal or informal. The research questions
determine the method of the interview to be conducted. There may be a
business interview, job interview, TV interview, in-depth research
interview and so on.
Structure of Interview
The format of an interview is again determined by its goals or
objectives. On the basis of different methods of extracting
information, interviews may be broadly categorised into three
categories; structured, semi-structured and unstructured
If an interviewer follows a list of predetermined questions, the
interview becomes structured. In the same way, if the interviewer has
a list of areas or topics instead of specific questions, it becomes a
semi-structured interview. There is no fixed sequence to be followed
in this type of interview. The questions are asked about a specific
area and as the conversation develops, different questions keep
On the other side, unstructured interviews are moreover like a daily
based conversation. There is no specific set of predetermined
questions. They are regarded as open-ended or ethnographic interviews.
If the interviewer doesn’t follow the list of specific questions
prepared for the interview, a structured interview may turn into a
semi-structured or unstructured interview.
For Example You are conducting a research on the political economy of
media in India. In this regard, you have scheduled an interview with
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some news channel owner. You have prepared a list of some 10 simple
questions about the functioning, financing and few other aspects of
the Indian media. When you ask a question at the beginning, she
reveals some very serious exit polls scam to you. It gives a twist to
the interview. You don’t follow the predetermined set of questions
now. You are more interested in this new subject. You have also lost
your predetermined subject. The whole interview now is going in some
other direction.
Duration of Interview
The duration of an interview may vary. There are short duration as
well as long duration interviews. A short duration interview may
become a long interview or it may be the other way round. For example;
you have fixed an interview for 10 minutes with a politician. But you
go so deep into details that the interview crosses all the time
On the other side, a long duration interview can become short. In an
another example; If you are a TV anchor and you have scheduled an
interview with some prominent personality for half an hour. From
script to set, everything is ready and you have fixed half an hour
slot from you TV programmes for the interview. Your TV anchors have
been announcing about the interview since a week or more. Tickers on
the TV have been frequently displaying the interview time, duration
and other information. Just at the beginning of the programme, you ask
an uncomfortable question to the personality. She gets irritated and
leaves the spot. The interview is off. This way, an interview can
affect the reputation of a TV channel or researcher.
The question here arises, is there any fixed duration of an interview?
The answer is no. An interview may last from few seconds to several
hours. A news byte is usually of few seconds and in longitudinal
studies, interviews are conducted from the same subject over the
period for several months and years. So, there isn’t a fixed duration
for an interview.
In-depth Interview
In-depth interviews (IdIs) are mostly long-duration, face-to-face,
interviews conducted to achieve desired goals. In-depth interview also
known as one-on-one is a method of extracting more detailed
information or deep understanding of a subject or concept. Kvale
(1996), suggests two alternative positions on in-depth interviewing;
"Miner Metaphor" and "Traveler Metaphor." According to him, "Knowledge
is understood as buried metal and the interviewer is a miner who
unearths the valuable metal."
The second position according to him is called "Traveler Metaphor."
This position falls within the gamut of constructivist research model.
In this position, the knowledge instead of given is believed to have
been created. According to Kvale (1996) as quoted in Legard, Keegan &Ward
(2003), The interviewer in Traveler Metaphor, "Is seen as a traveller
who journeys with the interviewee. The meaning of the interviewee's
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'stories' are developed as the traveller interprets them. Through
conversations, the interviewer leads the subject to new insights..."
Participants in an in-depth interview are encouraged and promoted to
talk in depth about the topic under study. As in-depth interview is
considered a qualitative method of data collection, it is also called
qualitative interviewing. According to Patton (1987), there are three
basic approaches to conducting qualitative interviewing. These
include; informal conversational interview, general interview guide
approach and standardised open-ended interview. Being flexible and
continuous, the interviewer in an in-depth interview asks the
questions orally to the interviewee and record the answers.
IdIs may also be of different formats. An in-depth interview may be
semi-structured, unstructured (non-directive) or a mix of any two or
all the three aforementioned models. For e.g.; Coffee with Karan is an
unstructured interview. It is a conversation. He may ask anything at
any time.
In-depth interviews are also called unstructured interviews. In fact,
if we see, the researchers collecting data through this method, draft
very keenly a list of specific questions to be asked. The researchers
also keep in mind the areas and specific topics to be covered during
the interview.
Based on these realities, we consider in-depth interviews conducted
for the research purpose as a mix of all the three aforementioned
models in this module.
Later on, while going deep into the details, sometimes they also go
beyond the scope of the subject and ask some different queries and
make it a conversation. With different goals and objectives, there is
a difference between normal conversations and in-depth interviews
(Kvale, 1996; Rubin and Rubin, 1995).
2. Significance of the In-depth Interview
Significance of the In-depth Interview
In-depth interviews are one of the most efficient methods of collecting primary data.
Unlike a simple
questionnaire or rating scale, in-depth interview is conducted with an
intention of uncovering in-depth details of interviewee's experience
and perspective on a subject.
Being more effective and less structured, one of the most important
benefit of in-depth interview is that it helps to uncover more
detailed and in-depth information than other data collection methods
like surveys. Unlike other formats of the interview, these are
intensive interviews of individuals mostly conducted from small number
of respondents. The interviewer needs to create a comfortable
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environment for the respondent first and ask questions to uncover the
best possible details from her.
In-depth interviews are used to explore concepts for further
investigation and descriptive analysis. Interviewer needs to develop a
relation with respondent to achieve a complete understanding of her
perspective. Requiring interest in and respect for people as
individuals, Thompson (2000) states that in-depth interviews are not
for the people who can’t stop talking about themselves. Despite
appearing realistic, a good in-depth interview bears similarity to
everyday conversation. According to Burges (1984) and Lofland and
Lofland (1995) an in-depth interview is often considered as a form of
conversation. Making it one of the most significant forms of data
collection, not more than a total of some 10-15 people are interviewed
individually in a study using an in-depth interview method of data
This is a discovery-oriented method which may provide a more relaxed
atmosphere for the collection of data. As per Spradley (1979), there
are a number of stages in an in-depth interview. You can use this
method to collect data form the participants who don’t feel
comfortable expressing their opinion openly in a group. Noting some of
the key features, Legard, Keegan & Ward (2003) state that in-depth
interview intends to combine structure with flexibility and is
interactive in nature as material is generated by interaction.
As compared to survey interview, an in-depth interview which functions
like a moderator guide, is moreover like a journalistic interview.
Participants in an in-depth interview speak out their mind which is
not a case in a rating scale or questionnaire. Unlike a rating scale
or questionnaire, the researcher in an in-depth interview may adjust
the order of the questions as per the situation. The latter methods
mostly follow a printed scheme of close-ended questions.
3. Do’s and Don’ts
3.1 Pre-Interview
1. Finalise your topic.
2. Identify participants. According to the Oxford Dictionary,
the word "participant" is a noun which means, "a person who takes part
in something." Ask yourself what information is needed and from whom?
3. In case you don’t know whom to talk regarding the issue, do
some legwork and meet subject experts to get an idea.
4. Seek proper appointments from the participants. It’s not always
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like you will go to them anytime and they will be giving you an
interview. The choice of venue must be left to the participants. They
must be informed about the subject matter that will be discussed. Take
care of the participants' convenience.
5. As the length of the interview depends on the type of
study undertaken, a rough idea of the length of the interview should
be given to the participant.
6. You need to do some background research of the topic or
person you are supposed to interview. For example; if you have been
planning to do an in-depth interview of a victim of domestic violence,
you should at least have a glimpse of legalities of the issue.
7. After gaining ample knowledge of things, develop a
questionnaire containing open-ended questions. Avoid close-ended
questions in case of in-depth interview. There should be a scope of
more explanation. Instead of asking questions like “when did it
start?” ask “Please describe how it started.”
8. Don’t forget to take your audio recorder, pen, notebook
etc. with you.
9. Reach the place of interview half an hour before the
scheduled time. It will give create a good impression and participant
may start trusting you.
3.2 During the Interview
1. Greet the subject well. If she asks to wait, don’t get irritated. Keep calm and
follow the directions. Let her gain more trust in you.
2. Don’t forget to test your audio recorder. Testing is a must.
3. To put participant at their ease so that she may reveal even sensitive
information, the researcher must assure confidentiality of interview or data
4. Don’t directly start with hard hitting questions. First you need to develop a
friendly relation with the interviewee. Better is to start with introduction. Don’t
ask questions like how do you feel when your husband beats you? This is
foolishness. Researcher must be fully trained in interviewing techniques.
5. To extract from detailed information frm the respondent, build a comfortable
environment for the respondent. Don’t bombard the respondent with too many
questions. Let her completely reply the first questions then only go for the
other one. Don’t jump to the conclusion. Let the interviewee complete her
6. Listen 90 per cent and speak only 10 per cent.
7. Avoid sensitive questions. Don’t ask questions which may hurt her
religiously, socially, politically, economically, morally etc.
8. It’s not necessary to follow sequential list of questions framed. Try to draw
questions from respondent’s answers.
9. Once you feel such feasible environment has been created, start asking
tough questions.
10. Go into the details keeping in mind respondent’s convenience.
11. Don’t repeat questions. If respondent declines to comment or answer a
question, don’t repeat your question. Instead try to reframe questions and ask
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the same question in some other form. For example, if you directly ask
someone’s age, she may get irritated. Better is to do it in an investigative
way. Ask her details like when did you complete your graduation? She will tell
you the year. Ask, what was your age then? Or at what age you gave birth to
your first child? In which year? You got the answer. Or at what age you
married? When? Calculate the age at your own. She may never realize that
you have done it. There are different ways to ask the same questions.
12. Participate in respondent’s dialogue. It’s not like you will ask a question and
become a statue. Participation is important to keep the ball rolling. In-depth
interview is not a one-way process.
13. As in-depth interview enables you to study the behaviour of the subject so try
to analyse the facial expressions, gestures, body movements of the
respondent. Try to read the non-verbal communication.
14. If the participant is speaking something irrelevant not related to the topic,
try to take to her back to the track cleverly. Don’t ask her to stop immediately
or rudely. She must be given a sense of feeling that all her points are
important and have been noted.
15. Take care of all the ethical issues. For example; off-the-record means off-the-
record. Never publicise such information.
16. At last, ask her if she wants to add something more.
3.3 Post-Interview (Data Analysis)
17. After the completion of interview, transcribe the data in written form to make it
useful. To separate them form each other, assign different marks or numbers
to each interview.
18. Arrange the data either as per the themes or questions or events or following
some other sequence. For example, you asked the participant about the
details regarding various incidents of domestic violence. This question will be
answered at various points of time by the respondent during the interview.
You have to follow a sequence and arrange them accordingly. You may also
use a mix of both the aforementioned models. For example; you can start
analysing your data following the question model but later may switch to a
thematic strategy as themes emerge over the course of the interviews.
19. Enlist every new question and idea in a new paragraph. There is a
paramount need of further categorisation of these paragraphs. For example; if
the respondent is speaking about the “Problems” or “Methods of Coping”,
divide the recorded content accordingly and assign a different symbol to each
category. You can further divide these categories into sub-categories like the
“Problems” category may be further sub-categorised into “Family Problems,”
“Social Problems,” “Economic Problems” etc. Also record all the related
information about the category on the same file.
20. You can further arrange these categories alphabetically or following some
other sequence. The information which doesn’t fit any of the categories may
be included in “miscellaneous” or “other” category.
21. Summarize or interpret these categories and write a report of the findings. No
research is complete until reported.
4. How to Frame Questions?
1. Keep your questions simple. Don’t use jargons. Keep in mind, you are
framing questions for a layman not for a professor.
2. The questions should be clear, coherent and concise.
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3. Don’t write ambiguous questions.
4. Close ended questions must be avoided in case of in-depth interview.
5. Follow a logical order in arranging the questions.
5. Strengths of an In-depth Interview
1. This method provides much more detailed information as compared to
other forms of data collection methods like surveys, questionnaire etc.
2. It’s a qualitative method of data collection.
3. Being a method of collecting the primary data, in-depth interview enables
researcher to study behaviour of the participant.
4. It enables the researcher to get an in-depth understanding of a concept or
5. It becomes suitable for the participants who refrain from expressing their
opinion publicly.
6. Limitations of an In-depth Interview
1. A very small sample size.
2. Due to its small size, sample is not selected through a proper scientific
procedure like random sampling or others. So, there are concerns regarding
the external validity or generalizability of the research.
3. It’s a time consuming method. As in-depth interviews are conducted on a
one-to-one basis, they extract ample time of the researcher for interview,
transcribing, analysing and reporting the data.
4. It’s prone to bias.
5. There are many ethical and generic issues in this type of interview. Allmark et
al. (2009) conducted a study “Ethical issues in the use of in-depth interviews:
literature review and discussion.” They found that informed consent, privacy -
as interviews probe unexpected areas, confidentiality and protecting privacy,
potential for interviews to harm participants emotionally etc. have been some
of the most serious problems of the in-depth interviews noted in the papers
7. Summary
In this paper, we understood the importance of an in-depth interview method of data
collection. The paper also explores the strength and limitations of an in-depth
interview. Discussing the advantages of this method over the other forms of data
collection like questionnaire and survey, the chapter enlists the do’s and don’ts of the
process of conducting an in-depth interview. Highlighting the issues to be taken care
of during the execution of the method, the paper also focusses on the approaches to
be adopted while drafting the questionnaire for the interviews. The paper finally
delineates the procedure of analysis of the data collected through this method.
Adams, Anne and Cox, Anna L. (2008). Questionnaires, in-depth interviews and
focus groups. In: Cairns, Paul and Cox, Anna L. eds., Research Methods
for Human Computer Interaction. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University
Press, pp. 1734.
Allmark, P. J., Boote, J., Chambers, E., Clarke, A., Mcdonnell, A., Thompson, A.
& Tod, A..(2009). Ethical issues in the use of in-depth interviews:
Literature review and discussion. Research Ethics Review, 5 (2), 48-54.
Berry, R.S. Y. (1999). Collecting data by in-depth interviewing. Education-Line.
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Burgess, R.G. (1984). In the field: An introduction to Filed Research. London:
Allen & Unwin.
Crossman, A. (2017). How to Conduct a Research Interview: A Brief Introduction
to the Research Method.ThoughtCo. Retrieved from
Harvey, L. (20122017). Researching the Real World. Retrieved from
Kvale, S. (1996). Interviews: An Introduction to Qualitative Research Interviewing.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Legard, R., Keegan, J. & Ward, K. (2003). In-depth interviews. In: Richie, J. and
Lewis, J., Eds., Qualitative Research Practice, Sage, London, 139-168.
Lofland, J., &Lofland, L.H. (1995). Analysing Social Settings, 3rd edition. Belmont,
CA: Wadsworth.
Pathfinder International. (May, 2016). Conducting In-Depth Interviews: A Guide
for Designing and Conducting In-Depth Interviews for Evaluation Input.
Retrieved from
Patton, M. Q. (1987) How to Use Qualitative Methods in Evaluation.
California: Sage Publications, Inc.
Rubin, H.J., & Rubin, I.S. (1995). Qualitative Interviewing: The Art of Hearing
Data. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Indigenous institutions, local‐level organisations based on societal values, are receiving a positive appreciation for their acceptability and sustainability. The purpose of this research is to demonstrate the roles of indigenous institutions in the social and economic lives of people, presenting evidence from the three indigenous institutions of the Awi people in Ethiopia, namely: the “Awi Equestrian Association”, “Head of Cow”, and “Head of Water”. The research is based on an ethnographic approach and qualitative design. Informants were chosen by purposive sampling. Data were collected mainly through interviewing, complemented by focus group discussion, observation, and review of relevant literature, which were thematically analysed together with the primary data. The findings of the study reveal that the Awi Equestrian Association works on charity, social welfare, reconciliation, festivity, and recreation, whereas Head of Cow and Head of Water institutions are engaged in the efficient and equitable management of cattle and irrigation water resources, respectively, plus managing conflicts between people in their respective sectors. Conflict resolution and justice maintenance was found to be the common feature of all the three indigenous institutions. The research concludes that the three indigenous institutions of the Awi have remarkable roles in terms of social support, conflict resolution, resource management, and reinforcing social cohesion.
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This paper reports a literature review on the topic of ethical issues in in-depth interviews. The review returned three types of article: general discussion, issues in particular studies, and studies of interview-based research ethics. Whilst many of the issues discussed in these articles are generic to research ethics, such as confidentiality, they often had particular manifestations in this type of research. For example, privacy was a significant problem as interviews sometimes probe unexpected areas. For similar reasons, it is difficult to give full information of the nature of a particular interview at the outset, hence informed consent is problematic. Where a pair is interviewed (such as carer and cared-for) there are major difficulties in maintaining confidentiality and protecting privacy. The potential for interviews to harm participants emotionally is noted in some papers, although this is often set against potential therapeutic benefit. As well as these generic issues, there are some ethical issues fairly specific to in-depth interviews. The problem of dual role is noted in many papers. It can take many forms: an interviewer might be nurse and researcher, scientist and counsellor, or reporter and evangelist. There are other specific issues such as taking sides in an interview, and protecting vulnerable groups. Little specific study of the ethics of in-depth interviews has taken place. However, that which has shows some important findings. For example, one study shows participants are not averse to discussing painful issues provided they feel the study is worthwhile. Some papers make recommendations for researchers. One such is that they should consider using a model of continuous (or process) consent rather than viewing consent as occurring once, at signature, prior to the interview. However, there is a need for further study of this area, both philosophical and empirical.
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With fast changing technologies and related human interaction issues, there is an increased need for timely evaluation of systems with distributed users in varying contexts (Pace, 2004). This has led to the increased use of questionnaires, in-depth interviews and focus groups in commercial usability and academic research contexts. Questionnaires are usually paper based or delivered online and consist of a set of questions which all participants are asked to complete. Once the questionnaire has been created, it can be delivered to a large number of participants with little effort. However, a large number of participants also means a large amount of data needing to be coded and analysed. Interviews, on the other hand, are usually conducted on a one-to-one basis. They require a large amount of the investigator’s time during the interviews and also for transcribing and coding the data. Focus groups usually consist of one investigator and a number of participants in any one session. Although the views of any one participant cannot be probed to same degree as in an interview, the discussions that are facilitated within the groups often result in useful data in a shorter space of time than that required by one-to-one interviews. All too often, however, researchers eager to identify usability problems quickly throw together a questionnaire, interview or focus group that, when analysed, produces very little of interest. What is often lacking is an understanding of how the research method design fits with the research questions (Creswell, 2003) and how to appropriately utilise these different approaches for specific HCI needs. The methods described in this chapter can be useful when used alone but are most useful when used together with other methods. Creswell (2003) provides a comprehensive analysis of the different quantitative and qualitative methods and howthey can be mixed and matched for overall better quality research. Depending on what we are investigating, sometimes it is useful to start with a questionnaire and then, for example, follow up some specific points with an experiment, or a series of interviews, in order to fully explore some aspect of the phenomenon under study. This chapter describes how to choose between and design questionnaires, interviews and focus group studies and using two examples illustrates the advantages of combining a number of approaches when conducting HCI research.
How to Conduct a Research Interview: A Brief Introduction to the Research Method
  • A Crossman
Crossman, A. (2017). How to Conduct a Research Interview: A Brief Introduction to the Research Method.ThoughtCo. Retrieved from