4.1 Introduction to in-depth interviewing In-depth interviewing is a generic name for a technique that engages with the research subject in a way that encourages a detailed exchange of information.
There are several variations that fall under the general umbrella of ‘in-depth interviewing’, ranging from free-form conversations through semi-structured and more formalised approaches including interrogtion and cross-examination.
The approach, in its widest sense, also includes group interviews and focus groups (see Section 18.104.22.168), which are structured around a discussion format.
This general purpose of in-depth interviewing is to discover the respondents’ perceptions or to probe into a subject to explore nuances and detail.
In-depth interviews are also referred to as ‘depth-interviews’ and sometimes as ‘ethnographic interviews’ or, misleadingly as ‘unstructured’, ‘open-ended’ or ‘qualitative’ interviews (discussed below).
In specific circumstances, in-depth interviews are called ‘life-history interviews’, because they focus on a detailed account of the life of a respondent (see Section 22.214.171.124). The ultimate life history interview is the autobiography, although its value as sociological data is contentious (Section 126.96.36.199.1). In some cases, where life history is linked to a broader historical study, such interviews are referred to as ‘oral history interviews’ (see for example, Nick Crossley, 1999, p. 811).
Some in-depth interviews are also referred to as ‘case study interviews’, when they focus on exploring aspects of a particular case, which might be, for example, a single organisation, community or group that is being used as a detailed illustration of a particular phenomenon.