Semistructured interviews

In semi-structured interviews, fully structured questions, as described above, are combined with 'open-ended' questions. These questions are easy to design and to ask, but require more of the respondent in answering, and of the interviewer in recording those answers. Structure is still present from the interviewer's point of view, in that the question wording shown on the questionnaire may not be departed from. The respondent is free to answer in whatever way he or she pleases, since no direction or structure is implied by the question. For example, 'What factors would you personally take into account when considering purchase of a camcorder? This is followed by a space in which the interviewer is instructed to write down exactly what the respondent says. The interviewer may be required to encourage the respondent to think about the question by using probing questions like 'What other factors are there?' after one or two have been given. The use of interview 'probes' demands a higher level of technical expertise from the interviewer than in fully structured questioning. The use of open-ended questions and probes in questionnaire surveys goes some way towards making it possible to collect both qualitative and quantitative data in the same survey. The main difficulty lies in analysing and interpreting the responses to open-ended questions. This is discussed more fully in Chapter 8.

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