Depth interviews

This approach to the interview situation has been borrowed from the methods of psychoanalysis. It is called 'depth research' because the pattern of questioning encourages respondents to go deeper and deeper into their levels of thought. Respondents move beyond the first thoughts generated by structured and semi-structured interviews, on to second and further thoughts, where the real motives and explanations for behaviour often lie. This is why depth research is used as one of the tools of motivation research.

It is obvious from the description given that the quality of depth research is largely in the hands of the interviewer, and depth research interviewers need to be experts in using the technique. They normally have specialist, and often psychological, training in the methods of depth interviewing. Since the method is so time-consuming and requires such a high calibre of specialist skill, it is usual for fewer than 15 depth interviews to be carried out in any particular survey, particularly if it is a survey of consumers. Costs per completed interview of this type of research are very much higher than for fully or semi-structured interviews, at around £500-700 per interview in 2002. Analysis of depth interviews, which are often recorded on tape with the agreement of the respondent, is also a specialist task, usually carried out by the same person who conducted the interviews. This individual has both the behavioural science expertise to interpret the findings, and the advantage of having been present at the interview, which means that nuances of the interview situation can be included in its interpretation. The costs quoted would include all preparation and design of the fieldwork and subsequent analysis and reporting.

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