Writing Dissertation and Research Methods – Types of Interviews

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Writing a Research Dissertation Proposal, writing a research project or related assignment will require students to engage with research methods. Ask Study Coach Blog is here to provide knowledge on the subject, the hope is that it will prove useful to students and others. Study Coach Blog is populated with a number of blogs on the subject of research methodology, so feel free to scroll through when seeking help. If you are working on qualitative research then the following on types of interviews should prove useful. Do try to read books on research methodology and interviewing to raise awareness of the limitations of using qualitative method, and to ensure that the chosen interviewing style will be suited to your research aim and objectives.

Broadly speaking there are four types of interviews used in social research –
1) Structured interview
2) Semi-structured interview
3) Unstructured interview
4) Group interview

Structured interview
This type of interviewing style is associated with survey research. This method relies upon the use of a questionnaire as the data collection instrument. Each person is asked questions in the same way so that any differences between answers are then assumed to be real differences, and not the result of interview bias. This method therefore permits comparability between responses, since the questions are asked in a uniformed, non-directive manner. A calculated number of research participants are interviewed so they are representative of the population for the purposes of generalisation.

Semi-structured interview
Questions are normally specified, and in using semi-structured interview, the interviewer is freer to probe beyond the initial answers given. Under other circumstances the use of probing would often seem prejudicial to the aims of standardisation and comparability.
Information about age, gender, occupation, type of household, and so on can be asked in a standardised format. This method enables the interviewer more opportunities to unearth detailed information on the topic being researched; the context of the interview is an important aspect of the process. The researcher may elect to use trained interviewers; however researchers themselves often conduct the interviews.

This interview technique is open-ended in character; it allows the interviewee to challenge any preconceptions held by the researcher. Some might regard adopting an unstructured technique as providing a licence for the interviewee to simply talk about an issue in any way they feel like. The interviewer must therefore take care to keep focussed on the research topic. An unstructured interview provides qualitative depth by allowing interviewees’ to talk about the subject in their own terms. It provides a greater understanding of the interviewee’s point of view.

Group interview
This method allows the researcher to focus upon group norms and dynamics around issues that they wish to investigate. Group number usually involves 8 – 12 individuals. The aim is to discuss a particular topic under the direction of a facilitator/moderator. A group interview should promote interaction and ensure that the discussion remains on the topic of interest. A typical group session will last one and a half to two and a half hours. Different groups may produce different perspectives on the same issues.

Consideration should also be given to what effect the facilitator/moderator might have on group members – Factors, such as age, gender, race and accent could be considered.


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