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
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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
4.3 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
4.4.3 Interviewing Rapport Exploitation The male paradigm Dialogic interviewing Limits of shared experience Power relations Empowering Objectivication of subject cannot be avoided Probing Foreign language complications Remote interviewing Telephone interviewing Asynchronous interviews Follow-up interviews Focus groups

4.4.4 Recording interview data

4.5 Analysing in-depth interview data
4.6 Summary and conclusion

4.4 Doing in-depth interviews

4.4.3 Interviewing

When interviewing, it is usually important to do three things. First, ensure you are prepared. Second, check to make sure your questioning is not likely to irritate, lead or mislead the respondent; in most cases avoid ambiguous or leading questions. Third, establish rapport with the respondent; being prepared with appropriate questions will aid rapport.

Being prepared means that you are fully cognizant with the subject area of the interview and the questions or list of areas that you want to explore. Make sure you know what the research is attempting to find out so that when conversations go off at a tangent you can be confident in letting them run (in case they develop interesting angles on the research topic) or returning them to the main areas of interest. Make, sure, also that you have appropriate means to record the responses: notebook and pens, recording device or both.

Make sure that you have an appropriate opening statement that is not too long but that is likely to provide the respondent with an appropriate context before asking the first question. Usually the first question needs to be something the respondent can relate to easily. Check the phrasing of potential questions to make sure they are appropriate to the respondent. Draw up an initial list of topics and subtopics and nframe them as questions. See, for example, CASE STUDY Preparing an interview guide.

You may adjust questions in the light of previous interviews. For example, Tang (2002) reported her experience of people adjusting or querying words used in questions is commonplace.

In one interview with a mother from a social science background, when I asked the question 'do you think your attachment to your daughter is weakened when you have commitments to your academic work?', she said: What do you mean by 'attachment'? . . . I think I'm definitely a lot more comfortable in talking about my relationship with my daughter. I'm very sceptical about talking about 'attachment' because of the political load that word has carried for the last two and three decades. This made me aware of the difference of using the two words in the question: while 'attachment' sounded emotional and politically disputable, 'relationship' seemed more professional and generally acceptable.

The predominant view is that in-depth interviews work best if there is a good rapport between interviewer and interviewee. A good atmosphere, mutual respect and a friendly conversational style are assumed to be important for getting the best out of an in-depth interview.

Four issues arise here. First what is 'rapport'? Second, does rapport ensure that the data collected is the 'best' that could be achieved? Three, if so, is rapport another way of saying that the interviewer is manipulating the interviewee? Four, should the aim be to establish dialogue rather than extract information? First, though, what is rapport?


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