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



Social Research Glossary

About Researching the Real World



© Lee Harvey 2012–2019

Page updated 25 June, 2019

Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012–2019, Researching the Real World, available at
All rights belong to author.


A Guide to Methodology

4. In-depth interviews

4.1 Introduction to in-depth interviewing
4.2 Types of in-depth interview
4.3 Methodological approaches to in-depth interviews
4.4 Doing in-depth interviews

4.4.1 Constructing an interview guide
4.4.2 Setting up the interviews Sequence Locating respondents Explaining the research Hiding the purpose of the interview Seeking permission Interview setting

4.4.3 Interviewing
4.4.4 Recording interview data

4.5 Analysing in-depth interview data
4.6 Summary and conclusion

4.4 Doing in-depth interviews Sequence
Using an interview or conversation to try to uncover the point of view of the respondent often requires that the researcher talks to the respondent on more than one occasion. Often, in-depth interviewing consists of a series of interviews. This may be a series of conversations and unstructured in-depth interviews, or an ever-more specific set of interviews ranging from conversations through unstructured in-depth interviews to a semi-structured or formal structured in-depth interview.

Often, second and subsequent interviews are likely to be more focused than preliminary interviews. Researchers approach follow-up interviews with more knowledge of the person and with a clearer understanding of what they want to know and the direction the research should take. Discussion on particular themes may be stimulated by referring to comments or ideas that arose during the first interview. With the benefit of preliminary interviews the interviewer will be able to interject questions where information is ambiguous or unclear and even politely stop and redirect informants if they are pursuing an area irrelevant to the research.

It might be necessary to increase the directiveness of questions throughout a final interview, to ensure that the informant's conceptions are clarified and all major areas of interest are addressed. At the end of the interview you may wish to ask direct questions about your original research ideas. The informant's responses may provide an interesting comparison to the data obtained by less direct questioning.

For example, in the 1930s, Clifford Shaw and associates at the Institute for Juvenile Research in Chicago used a sequence of interviews when collecting life histories. An initial interview generated a chronological list of major events in the research subject's life. This was used as a guide to the writing of the subject's 'own story', the elaboration of which was accomplished through further interviews (Shaw, 1930).


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