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 2012–2020

Page updated 29 April, 2020

Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012–2020, 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 Hiding the purpose of the interview
When doing in-depth interviews the intention of the enquiry may never be made clear to the informant because the researcher may feel that direct mention of the topic would bias or distort the information given in the interview. For example, if one was to explore class consciousness, rather than ask about class directly and possibly skew the results, an interviewer might seek views on life and work experiences and then subsequently analyse the extent to which they reflect awareness of class issues.

Similarly, the specific focus of the research may not be mentioned to the respondents because the researcher only has a vague idea, initially, of what is being looked for. For example, in her study of conjugal relationships, Elizabeth Bott (1971) conducted an average of thirteen in-depth interviews with each of the twenty families. Bott was interested in the relationship between wives and husbands. She began with only vague and imprecise conceptions but, from ideas that developed during her interviews, she gradually focused on the relationship between spouses' social networks and the nature of their conjugal roles. She concluded that spouses with a 'close-knit' social network, generally consisting of same-sex friends and relations, are more likely to have segregated conjugal roles than those who have a more 'loose-knit' network. There was no way, at the outset, Bott could have told her respondents that the study was about the relationships between their conjugal roles and their social networks. Vladimir Andrle's (2001) interviews with the new bourgeoisie in the Czech Republic were mainly based on a false assumption on the part of the interviewees. The interviews took place during the premiership of Václav Klaus, who:

popularised Thatcherism (by word rather than deed) and created an image of Britain as a culture in which respect for entrepreneurial propertied classes is most deeply ingrained. My respondents tended to assume that I held these views too. I avoided being drawn into ideological discussions and did little to contest this assumption. (Andrle, 2001, p. 831 footnote 6)

Donna Luff (1999) felt uncomfortable not being frank with her interviewees: as a feminist interviewing anti-feminist women, she found it difficult having to listen passively to the subject's views (CASE STUDY: Hiding opposing views).


Next Seeking permission