Unstructured interviews

Depth interviews

These are usually prolonged interviews in which the interviewer has the freedom to phrase the questions as seems most appropriate and to order them and probe them according to the respondent's responses. In this type of interview the interviewer often has only a checklist of points or topics, and will be using mainly open-ended questions. Depth interviews often use indirect and projective techniques, and call on specialized interviewing skills.

Group discussions or focus groups

These are interviews in which one interviewer or moderator asks questions of a group of respondents, usually comprising six to eight persons. The essence of a group discussion is that group dynamics are used to draw out individual beliefs that might not be so freely expressed in a one-to-one interview situation. Once again, an advanced degree of interviewer skill is called upon.

Qualitative techniques of depth interview and group discussion or focus groups are most demanding from the interviewer's point of view. Often the interviewer will have a degree of psychological training, since it requires considerable skill to manage both depth interviews and group discussion or focus groups in such a way as to elicit the detail and freedom of response required. In order to do this the interviewer is free to insert questions as seems most appropriate. Since depth interviews are commonly used in industrial, trade or professional research studies, depth interviewers may be required to have some subject qualifications in addition to their research expertise. In group discussion or focus groups the role of the moderator is often simply to act as a catalyst to the generation of appropriate conversation between members of the group. A good moderator may intervene very little in the discussion process except to keep it on the right lines and to ensure that all required topics are covered.

Interpretation of depth interview and group discussion or focus group sessions is also a highly skilled task and is normally carried out by the interviewer or moderator. For this reason, in this type of research, the quality of data obtained is almost entirely in the hands of the interviewer or moderator selected. These are highly specialist individuals, often working independently and far better paid than the normal interviewer.

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