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

CASE STUDY: Preparing an interview guide (Arhinful et al., 1996, p. 3-7ff)

Prepare an Interview Guide for Each Category of Respondents

The guide consists of a list of questions or topics to be discussed by interviewers with respondents in the field. The quality of data obtained depends to a large extent on the quality of questions in the guide. A good guide uses general, non-directive questions or phrases instead of direct questions that may end up in "Yes" or "No" answers. The task of the investigator or team of investigators involves reviewing the study topics to develop questions that will yield relevant responses.

The following are suggested stages in developing the questions in an interview guide:

1. List the most important topics to be explored in the study.

For example, for a study investigating the overuse of antibiotics in the treatment of ARI in children, we could list some of the specific topics for in-depth interviews with health workers:

  • which particular antibiotics are being used;
  • symptoms associated with perceived need for antibiotics;
  • reasons for prescribing antibiotics for the common cold;
  • reported patient preference for drugs;
  • sources of information about antibiotics.

2. Identify relevant subtopics for each of the study topics. Each major topic can be broken into specific subtopics that can be explored during the interviews.

For example, in relation to reasons for prescribing antibiotics to treat common colds, we can list the following sub-themes:

  • beliefs about respiratory infections;
  • efficacy of antibiotics in treating infections.

3. Make a draft of possible questions that could be explored with respondents about these sub-topics.

4. Check each question against the overall study questions and take out those that are not needed to answer one or more of the study questions.

5. Check the questions again to ensure that they can help initiate discussion. Ensure that your questions are:

  • clear and unambiguous;
  • simple and easy to understand;
  • not answerable by a simple 'yes' or 'no';
  • reasonable and within the experience of the targeted respondents.


Return to Interviewing (Section 4.4.3)