Orientation Observation In-depth interviews Document analysis and semiology Conversation and discourse analysis Secondary Data Surveys Experiments Ethics Research outcomes



Social Research Glossary

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© Lee Harvey 2012–2017

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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012–2017, Researching the Real World, available at
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A Guide to Methodology

4. In-depth interviews

4.1 Introduction to in-depth interviewing
4.2 Types of in-depth interview

4.2.1 Unstructured in-depth interviews
4.2.2 Semi-structured in-depth interview
4.2.3 Structured in-depth interview

4.3 Methodological approaches to in-depth interviews
4.4 Doing in-depth interviews
4.5 Analysing in-depth interview data
4.6 Summary and conclusion

4.2 Types of in-depth interview
In-depth interviews vary from informal conversations to more formal interviews, which may be unstructured, semi-structured or structured (see Table 4.2).


Table 4.2 Types of in-depth interview Individual Group
Structured Set of broad questions asked more or less in order but flexible to adjust to respondent’s answers. Primarily a one-way data collection technique Focus group (structured discussion)
Semi-structured Broad topics for discussion respondent allowed to develop ideas and interviewer uses prompt to probe and keep the conversation covering the broad areas. Interviewer may contribute but mainly one-way infornation flow. Questions posed and any group member can answer. Respondents may elaborate based on responses of other group members. Eg., football terrace
Unstructured More of a conversation with little evident direction to the interview just the broad topic area. These are referred to as ‘open ended’. In some cases the conversation, which is often one-sided, develops into a dialogue where the interviewer contributes as much as the respondent. A guided conversation with the group leading the situation and the interviewer in a position of almost overhearing the exchanges, prompting further discussion amongst the group.

Most in-depth interviews are one-to-one interactions but sometimes the interview may include two respondents, such as a married couple, or parent and child, or even a small group of respondents. Lee Harvey, Michael Little and David Turner (1982), for example, interviewed football supporters on the terraces prior to matches and although they focused their questions at one respondent, the setting was such that other members of the group listened in and often provided contributions to the interview.

However, most in-depth group interviewing is done via more structured group interview techniques, such as focus groups(see Section

Different types of in-depth interview span different formats (Figure 4.2).

Figure 4.2 Individual and group in-depth interviews



Next 4.2.1 Unstructured in-depth interviews