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How to carry out great interviews in qualitative research.

11 min read An interview is one of the most versatile methods used in qualitative research. Here’s what you need to know about conducting great qualitative interviews.

What is a qualitative research interview?

Qualitative research interviews are a mainstay among q ualitative research techniques, and have been in use for decades either as a primary data collection method or as an adjunct to a wider research process. A qualitative research interview is a one-to-one data collection session between a researcher and a participant. Interviews may be carried out face-to-face, over the phone or via video call using a service like Skype or Zoom.

There are three main types of qualitative research interview – structured, unstructured or semi-structured.

  • Structured interviews Structured interviews are based around a schedule of predetermined questions and talking points that the researcher has developed. At their most rigid, structured interviews may have a precise wording and question order, meaning that they can be replicated across many different interviewers and participants with relatively consistent results.
  • Unstructured interviews Unstructured interviews have no predetermined format, although that doesn’t mean they’re ad hoc or unplanned. An unstructured interview may outwardly resemble a normal conversation, but the interviewer will in fact be working carefully to make sure the right topics are addressed during the interaction while putting the participant at ease with a natural manner.
  • Semi-structured interviews Semi-structured interviews are the most common type of qualitative research interview, combining the informality and rapport of an unstructured interview with the consistency and replicability of a structured interview. The researcher will come prepared with questions and topics, but will not need to stick to precise wording. This blended approach can work well for in-depth interviews.

Free eBook: The qualitative research design handbook

What are the pros and cons of interviews in qualitative research?

As a qualitative research method interviewing is hard to beat, with applications in social research, market research, and even basic and clinical pharmacy. But like any aspect of the research process, it’s not without its limitations. Before choosing qualitative interviewing as your research method, it’s worth weighing up the pros and cons.

Pros of qualitative interviews:

  • provide in-depth information and context
  • can be used effectively when their are low numbers of participants
  • provide an opportunity to discuss and explain questions
  • useful for complex topics
  • rich in data – in the case of in-person or video interviews , the researcher can observe body language and facial expression as well as the answers to questions

Cons of qualitative interviews:

  • can be time-consuming to carry out
  • costly when compared to some other research methods
  • because of time and cost constraints, they often limit you to a small number of participants
  • difficult to standardize your data across different researchers and participants unless the interviews are very tightly structured
  • As the Open University of Hong Kong notes, qualitative interviews may take an emotional toll on interviewers

Qualitative interview guides

Semi-structured interviews are based on a qualitative interview guide, which acts as a road map for the researcher. While conducting interviews, the researcher can use the interview guide to help them stay focused on their research questions and make sure they cover all the topics they intend to.

An interview guide may include a list of questions written out in full, or it may be a set of bullet points grouped around particular topics. It can prompt the interviewer to dig deeper and ask probing questions during the interview if appropriate.

Consider writing out the project’s research question at the top of your interview guide, ahead of the interview questions. This may help you steer the interview in the right direction if it threatens to head off on a tangent.

how to conduct research interviews

Avoid bias in qualitative research interviews

According to Duke University , bias can create significant problems in your qualitative interview.

  • Acquiescence bias is common to many qualitative methods, including focus groups. It occurs when the participant feels obliged to say what they think the researcher wants to hear. This can be especially problematic when there is a perceived power imbalance between participant and interviewer. To counteract this, Duke University’s experts recommend emphasizing the participant’s expertise in the subject being discussed, and the value of their contributions.
  • Interviewer bias is when the interviewer’s own feelings about the topic come to light through hand gestures, facial expressions or turns of phrase. Duke’s recommendation is to stick to scripted phrases where this is an issue, and to make sure researchers become very familiar with the interview guide or script before conducting interviews, so that they can hone their delivery.

What kinds of questions should you ask in a qualitative interview?

The interview questions you ask need to be carefully considered both before and during the data collection process. As well as considering the topics you’ll cover, you will need to think carefully about the way you ask questions.

Open-ended interview questions – which cannot be answered with a ‘yes’ ‘no’ or ‘maybe’ – are recommended by many researchers as a way to pursue in depth information.

An example of an open-ended question is “What made you want to move to the East Coast?” This will prompt the participant to consider different factors and select at least one. Having thought about it carefully, they may give you more detailed information about their reasoning.

A closed-ended question , such as “Would you recommend your neighborhood to a friend?” can be answered without too much deliberation, and without giving much information about personal thoughts, opinions and feelings.

Follow-up questions can be used to delve deeper into the research topic and to get more detail from open-ended questions. Examples of follow-up questions include:

  • What makes you say that?
  • What do you mean by that?
  • Can you tell me more about X?
  • What did/does that mean to you?

As well as avoiding closed-ended questions, be wary of leading questions. As with other qualitative research techniques such as surveys or focus groups, these can introduce bias in your data. Leading questions presume a certain point of view shared by the interviewer and participant, and may even suggest a foregone conclusion.

An example of a leading question might be: “You moved to New York in 1990, didn’t you?” In answering the question, the participant is much more likely to agree than disagree. This may be down to acquiescence bias or a belief that the interviewer has checked the information and already knows the correct answer.

Other leading questions involve adjectival phrases or other wording that introduces negative or positive connotations about a particular topic. An example of this kind of leading question is: “Many employees dislike wearing masks to work. How do you feel about this?” It presumes a positive opinion and the participant may be swayed by it, or not want to contradict the interviewer.

Harvard University’s guidelines for qualitative interview research add that you shouldn’t be afraid to ask embarrassing questions – “if you don’t ask, they won’t tell.” Bear in mind though that too much probing around sensitive topics may cause the interview participant to withdraw. The Harvard guidelines recommend leaving sensitive questions til the later stages of the interview when a rapport has been established.

More tips for conducting qualitative interviews

Observing a participant’s body language can give you important data about their thoughts and feelings. It can also help you decide when to broach a topic, and whether to use a follow-up question or return to the subject later in the interview.

Be conscious that the participant may regard you as the expert, not themselves. In order to make sure they express their opinions openly, use active listening skills like verbal encouragement and paraphrasing and clarifying their meaning to show how much you value what they are saying.

Remember that part of the goal is to leave the interview participant feeling good about volunteering their time and their thought process to your research. Aim to make them feel empowered , respected and heard.

Unstructured interviews can demand a lot of a researcher, both cognitively and emotionally. Be sure to leave time in between in-depth interviews when scheduling your data collection to make sure you maintain the quality of your data, as well as your own well-being .

Recording and transcribing interviews

Historically, recording qualitative research interviews and then transcribing the conversation manually would have represented a significant part of the cost and time involved in research projects that collect qualitative data.

Fortunately, researchers now have access to digital recording tools, and even speech-to-text technology that can automatically transcribe interview data using AI and machine learning. This type of tool can also be used to capture qualitative data from qualitative research (focus groups,ect.) making this kind of social research or market research much less time consuming.

how to conduct research interviews

Data analysis

Qualitative interview data is unstructured, rich in content and difficult to analyze without the appropriate tools. Fortunately, machine learning and AI can once again make things faster and easier when you use qualitative methods like the research interview.

Text analysis tools and natural language processing software can ‘read’ your transcripts and voice data and identify patterns and trends across large volumes of text or speech. They can also perform k

which assesses overall trends in opinion and provides an unbiased overall summary of how participants are feeling.

how to conduct research interviews

Another feature of text analysis tools is their ability to categorize information by topic, sorting it into groupings that help you organize your data according to the topic discussed.

All in all, interviews are a valuable technique for qualitative research in business, yielding rich and detailed unstructured data. Historically, they have only been limited by the human capacity to interpret and communicate results and conclusions, which demands considerable time and skill.

When you combine this data with AI tools that can interpret it quickly and automatically, it becomes easy to analyze and structure, dovetailing perfectly with your other business data. An additional benefit of natural language analysis tools is that they are free of subjective biases, and can replicate the same approach across as much data as you choose. By combining human research skills with machine analysis, qualitative research methods such as interviews are more valuable than ever to your business.

Related resources

Market intelligence 10 min read, marketing insights 11 min read, ethnographic research 11 min read, qualitative vs quantitative research 13 min read, qualitative research questions 11 min read, qualitative research design 12 min read, primary vs secondary research 14 min read, request demo.

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How to conduct qualitative interviews (tips and best practices)

Last updated

18 May 2023

Reviewed by

Miroslav Damyanov

However, conducting qualitative interviews can be challenging, even for seasoned researchers. Poorly conducted interviews can lead to inaccurate or incomplete data, significantly compromising the validity and reliability of your research findings.

When planning to conduct qualitative interviews, you must adequately prepare yourself to get the most out of your data. Fortunately, there are specific tips and best practices that can help you conduct qualitative interviews effectively.

  • What is a qualitative interview?

A qualitative interview is a research technique used to gather in-depth information about people's experiences, attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions. Unlike a structured questionnaire or survey, a qualitative interview is a flexible, conversational approach that allows the interviewer to delve into the interviewee's responses and explore their insights and experiences.

In a qualitative interview, the researcher typically develops a set of open-ended questions that provide a framework for the conversation. However, the interviewer can also adapt to the interviewee's responses and ask follow-up questions to understand their experiences and views better.

  • How to conduct interviews in qualitative research

Conducting interviews involves a well-planned and deliberate process to collect accurate and valid data. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to conduct interviews in qualitative research, broken down into three stages:

1. Before the interview

The first step in conducting a qualitative interview is determining your research question . This will help you identify the type of participants you need to recruit. Once you have your research question, you can start recruiting participants by identifying potential candidates and contacting them to gauge their interest in participating in the study. 

After that, it's time to develop your interview questions. These should be open-ended questions that will elicit detailed responses from participants. You'll also need to get consent from the participants, ideally in writing, to ensure that they understand the purpose of the study and their rights as participants. Finally, choose a comfortable and private location to conduct the interview and prepare the interview guide.

2. During the interview

Start by introducing yourself and explaining the purpose of the study. Establish a rapport by putting the participants at ease and making them feel comfortable. Use the interview guide to ask the questions, but be flexible and ask follow-up questions to gain more insight into the participants' responses. 

Take notes during the interview, and ask permission to record the interview for transcription purposes. Be mindful of the time, and cover all the questions in the interview guide.

3. After the interview

Once the interview is over, transcribe the interview if you recorded it. If you took notes, review and organize them to make sure you capture all the important information. Then, analyze the data you collected by identifying common themes and patterns. Use the findings to answer your research question. 

Finally, debrief with the participants to thank them for their time, provide feedback on the study, and answer any questions they may have.

  • What kinds of questions should you ask in a qualitative interview?

Qualitative interviews involve asking questions that encourage participants to share their experiences, opinions, and perspectives on a particular topic. These questions are designed to elicit detailed and nuanced responses rather than simple yes or no answers.

Effective questions in a qualitative interview are generally open-ended and non-leading. They avoid presuppositions or assumptions about the participant's experience and allow them to share their views in their own words. 

In customer research , you might ask questions such as:

What motivated you to choose our product/service over our competitors?

How did you first learn about our product/service?

Can you walk me through your experience with our product/service?

What improvements or changes would you suggest for our product/service?

Have you recommended our product/service to others, and if so, why?

The key is to ask questions relevant to the research topic and allow participants to share their experiences meaningfully and informally. 

  • How to determine the right qualitative interview participants

Choosing the right participants for a qualitative interview is a crucial step in ensuring the success and validity of the research . You need to consider several factors to determine the right participants for a qualitative interview. These may include:

Relevant experiences : Participants should have experiences related to the research topic that can provide valuable insights.

Diversity : Aim to include diverse participants to ensure the study's findings are representative and inclusive.

Access : Identify participants who are accessible and willing to participate in the study.

Informed consent : Participants should be fully informed about the study's purpose, methods, and potential risks and benefits and be allowed to provide informed consent.

You can use various recruitment methods, such as posting ads in relevant forums, contacting community organizations or social media groups, or using purposive sampling to identify participants who meet specific criteria.

  • How to make qualitative interview subjects comfortable

Making participants comfortable during a qualitative interview is essential to obtain rich, detailed data. Participants are more likely to share their experiences openly when they feel at ease and not judged. 

Here are some ways to make interview subjects comfortable:

Explain the purpose of the study

Start the interview by explaining the research topic and its importance. The goal is to give participants a sense of what to expect.

Create a comfortable environment

Conduct the interview in a quiet, private space where the participant feels comfortable. Turn off any unnecessary electronics that can create distractions. Ensure your equipment works well ahead of time. Arrive at the interview on time. If you conduct a remote interview, turn on your camera and mute all notetakers and observers.

Build rapport

Greet the participant warmly and introduce yourself. Show interest in their responses and thank them for their time.

Use open-ended questions

Ask questions that encourage participants to elaborate on their thoughts and experiences.

Listen attentively

Resist the urge to multitask . Pay attention to the participant's responses, nod your head, or make supportive comments to show you’re interested in their answers. Avoid interrupting them.

Avoid judgment

Show respect and don't judge the participant's views or experiences. Allow the participant to speak freely without feeling judged or ridiculed.

Offer breaks

If needed, offer breaks during the interview, especially if the topic is sensitive or emotional.

Creating a comfortable environment and establishing rapport with the participant fosters an atmosphere of trust and encourages open communication. This helps participants feel at ease and willing to share their experiences.

  • How to analyze a qualitative interview

Analyzing a qualitative interview involves a systematic process of examining the data collected to identify patterns, themes, and meanings that emerge from the responses. 

Here are some steps on how to analyze a qualitative interview:

1. Transcription

The first step is transcribing the interview into text format to have a written record of the conversation. This step is essential to ensure that you can refer back to the interview data and identify the important aspects of the interview.

2. Data reduction

Once you’ve transcribed the interview, read through it to identify key themes, patterns, and phrases emerging from the data. This process involves reducing the data into more manageable pieces you can easily analyze.

The next step is to code the data by labeling sections of the text with descriptive words or phrases that reflect the data's content. Coding helps identify key themes and patterns from the interview data.

4. Categorization

After coding, you should group the codes into categories based on their similarities. This process helps to identify overarching themes or sub-themes that emerge from the data.

5. Interpretation

You should then interpret the themes and sub-themes by identifying relationships, contradictions, and meanings that emerge from the data. Interpretation involves analyzing the themes in the context of the research question.

6. Comparison

The next step is comparing the data across participants or groups to identify similarities and differences. This step helps to ensure that the findings aren’t just specific to one participant but can be generalized to the wider population.

7. Triangulation

To ensure the findings are valid and reliable, you should use triangulation by comparing the findings with other sources, such as observations or interview data.

8. Synthesis

The final step is synthesizing the findings by summarizing the key themes and presenting them clearly and concisely. This step involves writing a report that presents the findings in a way that is easy to understand, using quotes and examples from the interview data to illustrate the themes.

  • Tips for transcribing a qualitative interview

Transcribing a qualitative interview is a crucial step in the research process. It involves converting the audio or video recording of the interview into written text. 

Here are some tips for transcribing a qualitative interview:

Use transcription software

Transcription software can save time and increase accuracy by automatically transcribing audio or video recordings.

Listen carefully

When manually transcribing, listen carefully to the recording to ensure clarity. Pause and rewind the recording as necessary.

Use appropriate formatting

Use a consistent format for transcribing, such as marking pauses, overlaps, and interruptions. Indicate non-verbal cues such as laughter, sighs, or changes in tone.

Edit for clarity

Edit the transcription to ensure clarity and readability. Use standard grammar and punctuation, correct misspellings, and remove filler words like "um" and "ah."

Proofread and edit

Verify the accuracy of the transcription by listening to the recording again and reviewing the notes taken during the interview.

Use timestamps

Add timestamps to the transcription to reference specific interview sections.

Transcribing a qualitative interview can be time-consuming, but it’s essential to ensure the accuracy of the data collected. Following these tips can produce high-quality transcriptions useful for analysis and reporting.

  • Why are interview techniques in qualitative research effective?

Unlike quantitative research methods, which rely on numerical data, qualitative research seeks to understand the richness and complexity of human experiences and perspectives. 

Interview techniques involve asking open-ended questions that allow participants to express their views and share their stories in their own words. This approach can help researchers to uncover unexpected or surprising insights that may not have been discovered through other research methods.

Interview techniques also allow researchers to establish rapport with participants, creating a comfortable and safe space for them to share their experiences. This can lead to a deeper level of trust and candor, leading to more honest and authentic responses.

  • What are the weaknesses of qualitative interviews?

Qualitative interviews are an excellent research approach when used properly, but they have their drawbacks. 

The weaknesses of qualitative interviews include the following:

Subjectivity and personal biases

Qualitative interviews rely on the researcher's interpretation of the interviewee's responses. The researcher's biases or preconceptions can affect how the questions are framed and how the responses are interpreted, which can influence results.

Small sample size

The sample size in qualitative interviews is often small, which can limit the generalizability of the results to the larger population.

Data quality

The quality of data collected during interviews can be affected by various factors, such as the interviewee's mood, the setting of the interview, and the interviewer's skills and experience.

Socially desirable responses

Interviewees may provide responses that they believe are socially acceptable rather than truthful or genuine.

Conducting qualitative interviews can be expensive, especially if the researcher must travel to different locations to conduct the interviews.


The data analysis process can be time-consuming and labor-intensive, as researchers need to transcribe and analyze the data manually.

Despite these weaknesses, qualitative interviews remain a valuable research tool. You can take steps to mitigate the impact of these weaknesses by incorporating the perspectives of other researchers or participants in the analysis process, using multiple data sources , and critically analyzing your biases and assumptions.

Mastering the art of qualitative interviews is an essential skill for businesses looking to gain deep insights into their customers' needs, preferences, and behaviors. By following the tips and best practices outlined in this article, you can conduct interviews that provide you with rich data that you can use to make informed decisions about your products, services, and marketing strategies. 

Remember that effective communication, active listening, and proper analysis are critical components of successful qualitative interviews. By incorporating these practices into your customer research, you can gain a competitive edge and build stronger customer relationships.

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Research Methods Guide: Interview Research

  • Introduction
  • Research Design & Method
  • Survey Research
  • Data Analysis
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Tutorial Videos: Interview Method

Interview as a Method for Qualitative Research

how to conduct research interviews

Goals of Interview Research

  • Preferences
  • They help you explain, better understand, and explore research subjects' opinions, behavior, experiences, phenomenon, etc.
  • Interview questions are usually open-ended questions so that in-depth information will be collected.

Mode of Data Collection

There are several types of interviews, including:

  • Face-to-Face
  • Online (e.g. Skype, Googlehangout, etc)

FAQ: Conducting Interview Research

What are the important steps involved in interviews?

  • Think about who you will interview
  • Think about what kind of information you want to obtain from interviews
  • Think about why you want to pursue in-depth information around your research topic
  • Introduce yourself and explain the aim of the interview
  • Devise your questions so interviewees can help answer your research question
  • Have a sequence to your questions / topics by grouping them in themes
  • Make sure you can easily move back and forth between questions / topics
  • Make sure your questions are clear and easy to understand
  • Do not ask leading questions
  • Do you want to bring a second interviewer with you?
  • Do you want to bring a notetaker?
  • Do you want to record interviews? If so, do you have time to transcribe interview recordings?
  • Where will you interview people? Where is the setting with the least distraction?
  • How long will each interview take?
  • Do you need to address terms of confidentiality?

Do I have to choose either a survey or interviewing method?

No.  In fact, many researchers use a mixed method - interviews can be useful as follow-up to certain respondents to surveys, e.g., to further investigate their responses.

Is training an interviewer important?

Yes, since the interviewer can control the quality of the result, training the interviewer becomes crucial.  If more than one interviewers are involved in your study, it is important to have every interviewer understand the interviewing procedure and rehearse the interviewing process before beginning the formal study.

  • << Previous: Survey Research
  • Next: Data Analysis >>
  • Last Updated: Aug 21, 2023 10:42 AM

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Research Interviews: An effective and insightful way of data collection

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Research interviews play a pivotal role in collecting data for various academic, scientific, and professional endeavors. They provide researchers with an opportunity to delve deep into the thoughts, experiences, and perspectives of an individual, thus enabling a comprehensive understanding of complex phenomena. It is important for researchers to design an effective and insightful method of data collection on a particular topic. A research interview is typically a two-person meeting conducted to collect information on a certain topic. It is a qualitative data collection method to gain primary information.

The three key features of a research interview are as follows:

Features of Research Interviews

Table of Contents

The Significance of Research Interviews in Gathering Primary Data

The role of research interviews in gathering first-hand information is invaluable. Additionally, they allow researchers to interact directly with participants, enabling them to collect unfiltered primary data.

Significance of Research Interviews

1. Subjective Experience

Research interviews facilitate in-depth exploration of a research topic. Thus, by engaging in one-to-one conversation with participants, researchers can delve into the nuances and complexities of their experiences, perspectives, and opinions. This allows comprehensive understanding of the research subject that may not be possible through other methods. Also, research interviews offer the unique advantage of capturing subjective experiences through personal narratives. Moreover, participants can express their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs, which add depth to the findings.

2. Personal Insights

Research interviews offer an opportunity for participants to share their views and opinions on the objective they are being interviewed for. Furthermore, participants can express their thoughts and experiences, providing rich qualitative data . Consequently, these personal narratives add a human element to the research, thus enhancing the understanding of the topic from the participants’ perspectives. Research interviews offer the opportunity to uncover unanticipated insights or emerging themes. Additionally, open-ended questions and active listening can help the researchers to identify new perspectives, ideas, or patterns that may not have been initially considered. As a result, these factors can lead to new avenues for exploration.

3. Clarification and Validation

Researchers can clarify participants’ responses and validate their understanding during an interview. This ensures accurate data collection and interpretation. Additionally, researchers can probe deeper into participants’ statements and seek clarification on any ambiguity in the information.

4. Contextual Information

Research interviews allow researchers to gather contextual information that offers a comprehensive understanding of the research topic. Additionally, participants can provide insights into the social, cultural, or environmental factors that shape their experiences, behaviors, and beliefs. This contextual information helps researchers place the data in a broader context and facilitates a more nuanced analysis.

5. Non-verbal Cues

In addition to verbal responses, research interviews allow researchers to observe non-verbal cues such as body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. Additionally, non-verbal cues can convey information, such as emotions, attitudes, or levels of comfort. Furthermore, integrating non-verbal cues with verbal responses provides a more holistic understanding of participants’ experiences and enriches the data collection process.

Research interviews offer several advantages, making them a reliable tool for collecting information. However, choosing the right type of research interview is essential for collecting useful data.

Types of Research Interviews

There are several types of research interviews that researchers can use based on their research goals , the nature of their study, and the data they aim to collect. Here are some common types of research interviews:

Types of Research Interviews

1. Structured Interviews

  • Structured interviews are standardized and follow a fixed format.
  • Therefore, these interviews have a pre-determined set of questions.
  • All the participants are asked the same set of questions in the same order.
  • Therefore, this type of interview facilitates standardization and allows easy comparison and quantitative analysis of responses.
  • As a result, structured interviews are used in surveys or studies which aims for a high level of standardization and comparability.

2. Semi-structured Interviews

  • Semi-structured interviews offer a flexible framework by combining pre-determined questions.
  • So, this gives an opportunity for follow-up questions and open-ended discussions.
  • Researchers have a list of core questions but can adapt the interview depending on the participant’s responses.
  • Consequently, this allows for in-depth exploration while maintaining some level of consistency across interviews.
  • As a result, semi-structured interviews are widely used in qualitative research, where content-rich data is desired.

3. Unstructured Interviews

  • Unstructured interviews provide the greatest flexibility and freedom in the interview process.
  • This type do not have a pre-determined set of questions.
  • Thus, the conversation flows naturally based on the participant’s responses and the researcher’s interests.
  • Moreover, this type of interview allows for open-ended exploration and encourages participants to share their experiences, thoughts, and perspectives freely.
  • Unstructured interviews useful to explore new or complex research topics, with limited preconceived questions.

4. Group Interviews (Focus Groups)

  • Group interviews involve multiple participants who engage in a facilitated discussion on a specific topic.
  • This format allows the interaction and exchange of ideas among participants, generating a group dynamic.
  • Therefore, group interviews are beneficial for capturing diverse perspectives, and generating collective insights.
  • They are often used in market research, social sciences, or studies demanding shared experiences.

5. Narrative Interviews

  • Narrative interviews focus on eliciting participants’ personal stories, views, experiences, and narratives. Researchers aim to look into the individual’s life journey.
  • As a result, this type of interview allows participants to construct and share their own narratives, providing rich qualitative data.
  • Qualitative research, oral history, or studies focusing on individual experiences and identities uses narrative interviews.

6. Ethnographic Interviews

  • Ethnographic interviews are conducted within the context of ethnographic research, where researchers immerse themselves in a specific social or cultural setting.
  • These interviews aim to understand participants’ experiences, beliefs, and practices within their cultural context, thereby understanding diversity in different ethnic groups.
  • Furthermore, ethnographic interviews involve building rapport, observing the participants’ daily lives, and engaging in conversations that capture the nuances of the culture under study.

It must be noted that these interview types are not mutually exclusive. Therefore, researchers often employ a combination of approaches to gather the most comprehensive data for their research. The choice of interview type depends on the research objectives and the nature of the research topic.

Steps of Conducting a Research Interview

Research interviews offer several benefits, and thus careful planning and execution of the entire process are important to gather in-depth information from the participants. While conducting an interview, it is essential to know the necessary steps to follow for ensuring success. The steps to conduct a research interview are as follows:

  • Identify the objectives and understand the goals
  • Select an appropriate interview format
  • Organize the necessary materials for the interview
  • Understand the questions to be addressed
  • Analyze the demographics of interviewees
  • Select the interviewees
  • Design the interview questions to gather sufficient information
  • Schedule the interview
  • Explain the purpose of the interview
  • Analyze the interviewee based on his/her responses

Considerations for Research Interviews

Since the flexible nature of research interviews makes them an invaluable tool for data collection, researchers must consider certain factors to make the process effective. They should avoid bias and preconceived notion against the participants. Furthermore, researchers must comply with ethical considerations and respect the cultural differences between them and the participants. Also, they should ensure careful tailoring of the questions to avoid making them offensive or derogatory. The interviewers must respect the privacy of the participants and ensure the confidentiality of their details.

Considerations for Research Interviews

By ensuring due diligence of these considerations associated with research interviews, researchers can maximize the validity and reliability of the collected data, leading to robust and meaningful research outcomes.

Have you ever conducted a research interview? What was your experience? What factors did you consider when conducting a research interview? Share it with researchers worldwide by submitting your thought piece on Enago Academy’s Open Blogging Platform .

Frequently Asked Questions

• Identify the objectives of the interview • State and explain the purpose of the interview • Select an appropriate interview format • Organize the necessary materials for the Interview • Check the demographics of the participants • Select the Interviewees or the participants • Prepare the list of questions to gather maximum useful data from the participants • Schedule the Interview • Analyze the participant based on his/ her Responses

Interviews are important in research as it helps to gather elaborative first-hand information. It helps to draw conclusions from the non-verbal views and personal experiences. It reduces the ambiguity of data through detailed discussions.

The advantages of research interviews are: • It offers first-hand information • Offers detailed assessment which can result in elaborate conclusions • It is easy to conduct • Provides non-verbal cues The disadvantages of research interviews are: • There is a risk of personal bias • It can be time consuming • The outcomes might be unpredictable

The difference between structured and unstructured interview are: • Structured interviews have well-structured questions in a pre-determined order; while unstructured interviews are flexible and do not have a pre-planned set of questions. • Structured interview is more detailed; while unstructured interviews are exploratory in nature. • Structured interview is easier to replicate as compared to unstructured interview.

Focus groups is a group of multiple participants engaging in a facilitated discussion on a specific topic. This format allows for interaction and exchange of ideas among participants.

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Qualitative Research 101: Interviewing

5 Common Mistakes To Avoid When Undertaking Interviews

By: David Phair (PhD) and Kerryn Warren (PhD) | March 2022

Undertaking interviews is potentially the most important step in the qualitative research process. If you don’t collect useful, useable data in your interviews, you’ll struggle through the rest of your dissertation or thesis.  Having helped numerous students with their research over the years, we’ve noticed some common interviewing mistakes that first-time researchers make. In this post, we’ll discuss five costly interview-related mistakes and outline useful strategies to avoid making these.

Overview: 5 Interviewing Mistakes

  • Not having a clear interview strategy /plan
  • Not having good interview techniques /skills
  • Not securing a suitable location and equipment
  • Not having a basic risk management plan
  • Not keeping your “ golden thread ” front of mind

1. Not having a clear interview strategy

The first common mistake that we’ll look at is that of starting the interviewing process without having first come up with a clear interview strategy or plan of action. While it’s natural to be keen to get started engaging with your interviewees, a lack of planning can result in a mess of data and inconsistency between interviews.

There are several design choices to decide on and plan for before you start interviewing anyone. Some of the most important questions you need to ask yourself before conducting interviews include:

  • What are the guiding research aims and research questions of my study?
  • Will I use a structured, semi-structured or unstructured interview approach?
  • How will I record the interviews (audio or video)?
  • Who will be interviewed and by whom ?
  • What ethics and data law considerations do I need to adhere to?
  • How will I analyze my data? 

Let’s take a quick look at some of these.

The core objective of the interviewing process is to generate useful data that will help you address your overall research aims. Therefore, your interviews need to be conducted in a way that directly links to your research aims, objectives and research questions (i.e. your “golden thread”). This means that you need to carefully consider the questions you’ll ask to ensure that they align with and feed into your golden thread. If any question doesn’t align with this, you may want to consider scrapping it.

Another important design choice is whether you’ll use an unstructured, semi-structured or structured interview approach . For semi-structured interviews, you will have a list of questions that you plan to ask and these questions will be open-ended in nature. You’ll also allow the discussion to digress from the core question set if something interesting comes up. This means that the type of information generated might differ a fair amount between interviews.

Contrasted to this, a structured approach to interviews is more rigid, where a specific set of closed questions is developed and asked for each interviewee in exactly the same order. Closed questions have a limited set of answers, that are often single-word answers. Therefore, you need to think about what you’re trying to achieve with your research project (i.e. your research aims) and decided on which approach would be best suited in your case.

It is also important to plan ahead with regards to who will be interviewed and how. You need to think about how you will approach the possible interviewees to get their cooperation, who will conduct the interviews, when to conduct the interviews and how to record the interviews. For each of these decisions, it’s also essential to make sure that all ethical considerations and data protection laws are taken into account.

Finally, you should think through how you plan to analyze the data (i.e., your qualitative analysis method) generated by the interviews. Different types of analysis rely on different types of data, so you need to ensure you’re asking the right types of questions and correctly guiding your respondents.

Simply put, you need to have a plan of action regarding the specifics of your interview approach before you start collecting data. If not, you’ll end up drifting in your approach from interview to interview, which will result in inconsistent, unusable data.

Your interview questions need to directly  link to your research aims, objectives and  research questions - your "golden thread”.

2. Not having good interview technique

While you’re generally not expected to become you to be an expert interviewer for a dissertation or thesis, it is important to practice good interview technique and develop basic interviewing skills .

Let’s go through some basics that will help the process along.

Firstly, before the interview , make sure you know your interview questions well and have a clear idea of what you want from the interview. Naturally, the specificity of your questions will depend on whether you’re taking a structured, semi-structured or unstructured approach, but you still need a consistent starting point . Ideally, you should develop an interview guide beforehand (more on this later) that details your core question and links these to the research aims, objectives and research questions.

Before you undertake any interviews, it’s a good idea to do a few mock interviews with friends or family members. This will help you get comfortable with the interviewer role, prepare for potentially unexpected answers and give you a good idea of how long the interview will take to conduct. In the interviewing process, you’re likely to encounter two kinds of challenging interviewees ; the two-word respondent and the respondent who meanders and babbles. Therefore, you should prepare yourself for both and come up with a plan to respond to each in a way that will allow the interview to continue productively.

To begin the formal interview , provide the person you are interviewing with an overview of your research. This will help to calm their nerves (and yours) and contextualize the interaction. Ultimately, you want the interviewee to feel comfortable and be willing to be open and honest with you, so it’s useful to start in a more casual, relaxed fashion and allow them to ask any questions they may have. From there, you can ease them into the rest of the questions.

As the interview progresses , avoid asking leading questions (i.e., questions that assume something about the interviewee or their response). Make sure that you speak clearly and slowly , using plain language and being ready to paraphrase questions if the person you are interviewing misunderstands. Be particularly careful with interviewing English second language speakers to ensure that you’re both on the same page.

Engage with the interviewee by listening to them carefully and acknowledging that you are listening to them by smiling or nodding. Show them that you’re interested in what they’re saying and thank them for their openness as appropriate. This will also encourage your interviewee to respond openly.

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3. Not securing a suitable location and quality equipment

Where you conduct your interviews and the equipment you use to record them both play an important role in how the process unfolds. Therefore, you need to think carefully about each of these variables before you start interviewing.

Poor location: A bad location can result in the quality of your interviews being compromised, interrupted, or cancelled. If you are conducting physical interviews, you’ll need a location that is quiet, safe, and welcoming . It’s very important that your location of choice is not prone to interruptions (the workplace office is generally problematic, for example) and has suitable facilities (such as water, a bathroom, and snacks).

If you are conducting online interviews , you need to consider a few other factors. Importantly, you need to make sure that both you and your respondent have access to a good, stable internet connection and electricity. Always check before the time that both of you know how to use the relevant software and it’s accessible (sometimes meeting platforms are blocked by workplace policies or firewalls). It’s also good to have alternatives in place (such as WhatsApp, Zoom, or Teams) to cater for these types of issues.

Poor equipment: Using poor-quality recording equipment or using equipment incorrectly means that you will have trouble transcribing, coding, and analyzing your interviews. This can be a major issue , as some of your interview data may go completely to waste if not recorded well. So, make sure that you use good-quality recording equipment and that you know how to use it correctly.

To avoid issues, you should always conduct test recordings before every interview to ensure that you can use the relevant equipment properly. It’s also a good idea to spot check each recording afterwards, just to make sure it was recorded as planned. If your equipment uses batteries, be sure to always carry a spare set.

Where you conduct your interviews and the equipment you use to record them play an important role in how the process unfolds.

4. Not having a basic risk management plan

Many possible issues can arise during the interview process. Not planning for these issues can mean that you are left with compromised data that might not be useful to you. Therefore, it’s important to map out some sort of risk management plan ahead of time, considering the potential risks, how you’ll minimize their probability and how you’ll manage them if they materialize.

Common potential issues related to the actual interview include cancellations (people pulling out), delays (such as getting stuck in traffic), language and accent differences (especially in the case of poor internet connections), issues with internet connections and power supply. Other issues can also occur in the interview itself. For example, the interviewee could drift off-topic, or you might encounter an interviewee who does not say much at all.

You can prepare for these potential issues by considering possible worst-case scenarios and preparing a response for each scenario. For instance, it is important to plan a backup date just in case your interviewee cannot make it to the first meeting you scheduled with them. It’s also a good idea to factor in a 30-minute gap between your interviews for the instances where someone might be late, or an interview runs overtime for other reasons. Make sure that you also plan backup questions that could be used to bring a respondent back on topic if they start rambling, or questions to encourage those who are saying too little.

In general, it’s best practice to plan to conduct more interviews than you think you need (this is called oversampling ). Doing so will allow you some room for error if there are interviews that don’t go as planned, or if some interviewees withdraw. If you need 10 interviews, it is a good idea to plan for 15. Likely, a few will cancel , delay, or not produce useful data.

You should consider all the potential risks, how you’ll reduce their probability and how you'll respond if they do indeed materialize.

5. Not keeping your golden thread front of mind

We touched on this a little earlier, but it is a key point that should be central to your entire research process. You don’t want to end up with pages and pages of data after conducting your interviews and realize that it is not useful to your research aims . Your research aims, objectives and research questions – i.e., your golden thread – should influence every design decision and should guide the interview process at all times. 

A useful way to avoid this mistake is by developing an interview guide before you begin interviewing your respondents. An interview guide is a document that contains all of your questions with notes on how each of the interview questions is linked to the research question(s) of your study. You can also include your research aims and objectives here for a more comprehensive linkage. 

You can easily create an interview guide by drawing up a table with one column containing your core interview questions . Then add another column with your research questions , another with expectations that you may have in light of the relevant literature and another with backup or follow-up questions . As mentioned, you can also bring in your research aims and objectives to help you connect them all together. If you’d like, you can download a copy of our free interview guide here .

Recap: Qualitative Interview Mistakes

In this post, we’ve discussed 5 common costly mistakes that are easy to make in the process of planning and conducting qualitative interviews.

To recap, these include:

If you have any questions about these interviewing mistakes, drop a comment below. Alternatively, if you’re interested in getting 1-on-1 help with your thesis or dissertation , check out our dissertation coaching service or book a free initial consultation with one of our friendly Grad Coaches.

how to conduct research interviews

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How to Conduct Interviews in Qualitative Research: Interview Guidelines for Qualitative Research

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Rev › Blog › Market Research › How to Conduct Interviews in Qualitative Research: Interview Guidelines for Qualitative Research

Qualitative research interviews are depth interviews. They elicit detailed feedback from your leads and customers. Unstructured interviews reveal why people react in a certain way or make certain decisions. According to The Hartford , qualitative research provides an anecdotal look into your business. That provides an important form of data.

Why Your Business Should Use a Qualitative Interview Process

Qualitative research helps business owners:

  • Identify customer needs
  • Clarify marketing messages
  • Generate ideas for improvements of a product
  • Decide to extend a line or brand
  • Gain perspective on how a product fits into a customer’s lifestyle

How Is Conducting Qualitative Research & Quantitative Research Different?

Quantitative research concerns measurable quantities and numbers. It involves close-ended questions. Answer possibilities include yes or no, true or false, or various set choices. Qualitative research is descriptive and concerned with understanding behavior. It invites people to tell their stories in their own words.

Examples of Qualitative Research

Qualitative research helps researchers understand the social reality of individuals, groups and cultures. Qualitative research for businesses involves understanding consumer behavior. It can involve ethnographic techniques, including participant observation and field research. It also includes phenomenology, understanding life experiences using written or recorded narratives. Qualitative research also includes in-depth interviews.

What Is a Qualitative Interview?

A qualitative interview is a more personal form of research compared to questionnaires. The interviewer can probe or ask follow-up research questions of the interview participant. In some cases, subjects may start to interview the interviewer. This fosters deep discussion of the interview topic.

Why Are Interview Techniques in Qualitative Research Effective?

Qualitative research interviews help you explain, understand and explore opinions, behavior and experiences. Qualitative research can provide insights into a phenomenon. Qualitative research discoveries can be further researched and analyzed to influence business decisions.

How Are Interviews in Qualitative Research Formatted?

Qualitative research interviews may take place one-on-one or in focus groups. Learn how to run a successful focus group . Interviews span around 30 to 90 minutes. The interview can take place in person, over the phone or through video chat. The interviewer collects information about opinions, behavior, attitudes, feelings, preferences and knowledge.

How to Conduct Interviews in Qualitative Research

1. determine your goal., 2. target people to interview., 3. design interview questions., 4. prep the interview., 5. conduct the interview., 6. transcribe and analyze the interview., 7. optimize and evolve your interview guide., the first step in qualitative research: determine your goal.

Determine what you want to study:

  • A current or potential product, service or brand positioning
  • Strengths and weaknesses in products
  • Purchasing decisions
  • Reactions to advertising or marketing campaigns
  • Usability of a website or other interactive services
  • Perceptions about the company, brand or product
  • Reactions to packaging and design

How Can You Decide a Goal for a Qualitative Interview?

Have your business team ask the following questions: 

  • What information do you want to get?
  • Why do you want to pursue in-depth information about this research topic?
  • Why is a qualitative interview process the best solution for this research?
  • How will you use qualitative data to improve your business? 

How to Determine the Right Interview Participants

When looking for people to talk to for a qualitative interview, consider your goal. If you want to expand a product line, interview existing customers about their needs. If you’re researching marketing, ask new customers how they found your business. Match interview subjects with the goal of the interview.

How to Design Interview Questions for Qualitative Research

When you’re creating an interview guide, it’s a good idea to: 

  • Plan structured interviews with open ended questions.
  • Avoid leading questions.
  • Create interview questions that are clear and easy to understand.
  • Make research questions focused but flexible.
  • Design questions that align with data collection and data analysis goals.

Tips for Preparing a Qualitative Research Interview

Preparation improves interview effectiveness. Tips to prepare include:

  • Create an interview guide. The guide should include questions, question intent and answer-based paths to take.
  • Choose a setting where the subject feels comfortable.
  • Build rapport with interview participants.
  • Have a reliable way to record the interview.
  • Rehearse the interview first.

Environmental Concerns for Qualitative Interviews

The setting of a qualitative interview also affects the quality of the interview. Consider the needs of the subject. For example, if you’re interviewing a teenager, a formal boardroom may not be the best setting. Some cultures may not value direct eye contact. An interview that’s non-face-to-face may be better.

How to Make Qualitative Interview Subjects Comfortable

For long interviews, offer water and breaks to participants. Be polite and respectful when interacting with interview subjects. Let interview participants know the purpose of the research. Explain exactly how you’ll use their answers. Address terms of confidentiality if necessary. Thank participants after the interview and let them know what to expect next.

What Are Interview Techniques in Qualitative Research?

Qualitative research techniques include:

  • Start interviews with “get-to-know-you” questions to put the interview participant at ease.
  • Pay attention.
  • Use active listening techniques.
  • Watch for body language cues.
  • Pivot questions as needed.
  • Acknowledge emotions.
  • Avoid interrogation.
  • Ending interviews, ask subjects if they have anything to add.

What Is Active Listening in Interviews in Qualitative Research?

Active listening techniques include: 

  • Make eye contact.
  • Lean in and use body language to show you’re listening.
  • Don’t get distracted by devices.
  • Use verbal affirmation.
  • Paraphrase answers for reflection.
  • Reference earlier answers.
  • Avoid interrupting.
  • Embrace pauses.
  • Ask for clarification.
  • Pay attention in the moment.

Tips for Transcribing a Qualitative Interview

It’s best to transcribe and analyze a qualitative research interview right away. This helps you optimize future interviews. Transcribe the interview word for word. Note non-verbal interactions in your transcription. Interactions like pauses and laughter can provide deeper insights into responses.

How to Analyze a Qualitative Interview

Analyze your qualitative research data early. That way, you can identify emerging themes to shape future interviews. Consider adding these to each interview report:

  • The goal of the interview
  • Details about the interview participant
  • Questions asked, summarized responses and key findings
  • Recommendations

Relate the analysis to the goal of the qualitative research interview.

Optimize the Interview Guide for Qualitative Research

Each interview can help you improve the efficiency and effectiveness of future ones. Adjust your interview guide based on insights from each previous interview. Keep all versions of your transcriptions and interview guides with notes on them. You can reference these for future qualitative research.

Get Reliable Transcription Services for Qualitative Research Interviews

As mentioned, you should transcribe qualitative research interviews as soon as possible. There are several reasons for this.

  • You can gain insights that help you shape your interview guide. You might identify questions to add or questions to clarify.
  • Your interview participants may not be appropriate for this type of qualitative research. Finding more targeted interview subjects may be better.
  • Answers may evolve the qualitative research goal and/or data analysis.
At Rev, we understand the need for fast transcription for accurate market research. We provide a turnaround time of as few as 12 hours, no matter how big your project is. We guarantee 99%+ accuracy. Learn about Rev’s market research transcription . We can help make your qualitative research project a success.

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  • Harvard Library
  • Research Guides
  • Faculty of Arts & Sciences Libraries

Library Support for Qualitative Research

  • Interview Research
  • Resources for Methodology
  • Remote Research & Virtual Fieldwork

Resources for Research Interviewing

Nih-funded qualitative research.

  • Oral History
  • Data Management & Repositories
  • Campus Access

Types of Interviews

  • Engaging Participants

Interview Questions

  • Conducting Interviews
  • Transcription
  • Coding and Analysis
  • Managing & Finding Interview Data
  • UX & Market Research Interviews

Textbooks, Guidebooks, and Handbooks  

  • The Ethnographic Interview by James P. Spradley  “Spradley wrote this book for the professional and student who have never done ethnographic fieldwork (p. 231) and for the professional ethnographer who is interested in adapting the author’s procedures (p. iv). Part 1 outlines in 3 chapters Spradley’s version of ethnographic research, and it provides the background for Part 2 which consists of 12 guided steps (chapters) ranging from locating and interviewing an informant to writing an ethnography. Most of the examples come from the author’s own fieldwork among U.S. subcultures . . . Steps 6 and 8 explain lucidly how to construct a domain and a taxonomic analysis” (excerpted from book review by James D. Sexton, 1980).  
  • Fundamentals of Qualitative Research by Johnny Saldana (Series edited by Patricia Leavy)  Provides a soup-to-nuts overview of the qualitative data collection process, including interviewing, participant observation, and other methods.  
  • InterViews by Steinar Kvale  Interviewing is an essential tool in qualitative research and this introduction to interviewing outlines both the theoretical underpinnings and the practical aspects of the process. After examining the role of the interview in the research process, Steinar Kvale considers some of the key philosophical issues relating to interviewing: the interview as conversation, hermeneutics, phenomenology, concerns about ethics as well as validity, and postmodernism. Having established this framework, the author then analyzes the seven stages of the interview process - from designing a study to writing it up.  
  • Practical Evaluation by Michael Quinn Patton  Surveys different interviewing strategies, from, a) informal/conversational, to b) interview guide approach, to c) standardized and open-ended, to d) closed/quantitative. Also discusses strategies for wording questions that are open-ended, clear, sensitive, and neutral, while supporting the speaker. Provides suggestions for probing and maintaining control of the interview process, as well as suggestions for recording and transcription.  
  • The SAGE Handbook of Interview Research by Amir B. Marvasti (Editor); James A. Holstein (Editor); Jaber F. Gubrium (Editor); Karyn D. McKinney (Editor)  The new edition of this landmark volume emphasizes the dynamic, interactional, and reflexive dimensions of the research interview. Contributors highlight the myriad dimensions of complexity that are emerging as researchers increasingly frame the interview as a communicative opportunity as much as a data-gathering format. The book begins with the history and conceptual transformations of the interview, which is followed by chapters that discuss the main components of interview practice. Taken together, the contributions to The SAGE Handbook of Interview Research: The Complexity of the Craft encourage readers simultaneously to learn the frameworks and technologies of interviewing and to reflect on the epistemological foundations of the interview craft.  
  • The SAGE Handbook of Online Research Methods by Nigel G. Fielding, Raymond M. Lee and Grant Blank (Editors) Bringing together the leading names in both qualitative and quantitative online research, this new edition is organised into nine sections: 1. Online Research Methods 2. Designing Online Research 3. Online Data Capture and Data Collection 4. The Online Survey 5. Digital Quantitative Analysis 6. Digital Text Analysis 7. Virtual Ethnography 8. Online Secondary Analysis: Resources and Methods 9. The Future of Online Social Research


  • Interviews as a Method for Qualitative Research (video) This short video summarizes why interviews can serve as useful data in qualitative research.  
  • Companion website to Bloomberg and Volpe's  Completing Your Qualitative Dissertation: A Road Map from Beginning to End,  4th ed Provides helpful templates and appendices featured in the book, as well as links to other useful dissertation resources.
  • International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry Annual conference hosted by the International Center for Qualitative Inquiry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which aims to facilitate the development of qualitative research methods across a wide variety of academic disciplines, among other initiatives.  
  • METHODSPACE ​​​​​​​​An online home of the research methods community, where practicing researchers share how to make research easier.  
  • SAGE researchmethods ​​​​​​​Researchers can explore methods concepts to help them design research projects, understand particular methods or identify a new method, conduct their research, and write up their findings. A "methods map" facilitates finding content on methods.

The decision to conduct interviews, and the type of interviewing to use, should flow from, or align with, the methodological paradigm chosen for your study, whether that paradigm is interpretivist, critical, positivist, or participative in nature (or a combination of these).


  • Structured Interview. Entry in The SAGE Encyclopedia of Social Science Research Methodsby Floyd J. Fowler Jr., Editors: Michael S. Lewis-Beck; Alan E. Bryman; Tim Futing Liao (Editor)  A concise article noting standards, procedures, and recommendations for developing and testing structured interviews. For an example of structured interview questions, you may view the Current Population Survey, May 2008: Public Participation in the Arts Supplement (ICPSR 29641), Apr 15, 2011 at (To see the survey questions, preview the user guide, which can be found under the "Data and Documentation" tab. Then, look for page 177 (attachment 8).


  • Semi-Structured Interview. Entry in The SAGE Encyclopedia of Qualitative Research Methodsby Lioness Ayres; Editor: Lisa M. Given  The semi-structured interview is a qualitative data collection strategy in which the researcher asks informants a series of predetermined but open-ended questions. The researcher has more control over the topics of the interview than in unstructured interviews, but in contrast to structured interviews or questionnaires that use closed questions, there is no fixed range of responses to each question.


  • Unstructured Interview. Entry in The SAGE Encyclopedia of Qualitative Research Methodsby Michael W. Firmin; Editor: Lisa M. Given  Unstructured interviews in qualitative research involve asking relatively open-ended questions of research participants in order to discover their percepts on the topic of interest. Interviews, in general, are a foundational means of collecting data when using qualitative research methods. They are designed to draw from the interviewee constructs embedded in his or her thinking and rationale for decision making. The researcher uses an inductive method in data gathering, regardless of whether the interview method is open, structured, or semi-structured. That is, the researcher does not wish to superimpose his or her own viewpoints onto the person being interviewed. Rather, inductively, the researcher wishes to understand the participant's perceptions, helping him or her to articulate percepts such that they will be understood clearly by the journal reader.

Genres and Uses

Focus groups:.

  • "Focus Groups." Annual Review of Sociology 22 (1996): David L. Morgan  Discusses the use of focus groups and group interviews as methods for gathering qualitative data used by sociologists and other academic and applied researchers. Focus groups are recommended for giving voice to marginalized groups and revealing the group effect on opinion formation.  
  • Qualitative Research Methods: A Data Collector's Field Guide (See Module 4: "Focus Groups")by Mack, N., et al.  This field guide is based on an approach to doing team-based, collaborative qualitative research that has repeatedly proven successful in research projects sponsored by Family Health International (FHI) throughout the developing world. With its straightforward delivery of information on the main qualitative methods being used in public health research today, the guide speaks to the need for simple yet effective instruction on how to do systematic and ethically sound qualitative research. The aim of the guide is thus practical. In bypassing extensive discussion on the theoretical underpinnings of qualitative research, it distinguishes itself as a how-to guide to be used in the field.

In-Depth (typically One-on-One):

  • A Practical Introduction to in-Depth Interviewingby Alan Morris  Are you new to qualitative research or a bit rusty and in need of some inspiration? Are you doing a research project involving in-depth interviews? Are you nervous about carrying out your interviews? This book will help you complete your qualitative research project by providing a nuts and bolts introduction to interviewing. With coverage of ethics, preparation strategies and advice for handling the unexpected in the field, this handy guide will help you get to grips with the basics of interviewing before embarking on your research. While recognising that your research question and the context of your research will drive your approach to interviewing, this book provides practical advice often skipped in traditional methods textbooks.  
  • Qualitative Research Methods: A Data Collector's Field Guide (See Module 3: "In-Depth Interviews")by Mack, N., et al.  This field guide is based on an approach to doing team-based, collaborative qualitative research that has repeatedly proven successful in research projects sponsored by Family Health International (FHI) throughout the developing world. With its straightforward delivery of information on the main qualitative methods being used in public health research today, the guide speaks to the need for simple yet effective instruction on how to do systematic and ethically sound qualitative research. The aim of the guide is thus practical. In bypassing extensive discussion on the theoretical underpinnings of qualitative research, it distinguishes itself as a how-to guide to be used in the field.

Folklore Research and Oral Histories:

In addition to the following resource, see the  Oral History   page of this guide for helpful resources on Oral History interviewing.

American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Folklife and Fieldwork: A Layman’s Introduction to Field Techniques Interviews gathered for purposes of folklore research are similar to standard social science interviews in some ways, but also have a good deal in common with oral history approaches to interviewing. The focus in a folklore research interview is on documenting and trying to understand the interviewee's way of life relative to a culture or subculture you are studying. This guide includes helpful advice and tips for conducting fieldwork in folklore, such as tips for planning, conducting, recording, and archiving interviews.

An interdisciplinary scientific program within the Institute for Quantitative Social Science which encourages and facilitates research and instruction in the theory and practice of survey research. The primary mission of PSR is to provide survey research resources to enhance the quality of teaching and research at Harvard.

  • Internet, Phone, Mail, and Mixed-Mode Surveysby Don A. Dillman; Jolene D. Smyth; Leah Melani Christian  The classic survey design reference, updated for the digital age. The new edition is thoroughly updated and revised, and covers all aspects of survey research. It features expanded coverage of mobile phones, tablets, and the use of do-it-yourself surveys, and Dillman's unique Tailored Design Method is also thoroughly explained. This new edition is complemented by copious examples within the text and accompanying website. It includes: Strategies and tactics for determining the needs of a given survey, how to design it, and how to effectively administer it. How and when to use mail, telephone, and Internet surveys to maximum advantage. Proven techniques to increase response rates. Guidance on how to obtain high-quality feedback from mail, electronic, and other self-administered surveys. Direction on how to construct effective questionnaires, including considerations of layout. The effects of sponsorship on the response rates of surveys. Use of capabilities provided by newly mass-used media: interactivity, presentation of aural and visual stimuli. The Fourth Edition reintroduces the telephone--including coordinating land and mobile.

User Experience (UX) and Marketing:

  • See the  "UX & Market Research Interviews"  tab on this guide, above. May include  Focus Groups,  above.

Screening for Research Site Selection:

  • Research interviews are used not only to furnish research data for theoretical analysis in the social sciences, but also to plan other kinds of studies. For example, interviews may allow researchers to screen appropriate research sites to conduct empirical studies (such as randomized controlled trials) in a variety of fields, from medicine to law. In contrast to interviews conducted in the course of social research, such interviews do not typically serve as the data for final analysis and publication.


Research ethics  .

  • Human Subjects (IRB) The Committee on the Use of Human Subjects (CUHS) serves as the Institutional Review Board for the University area which includes the Cambridge and Allston campuses at Harvard. Find your IRB  contact person , or learn about  required ethics training.  You may also find the  IRB Lifecycle Guide  helpful. This is the preferred IRB portal for Harvard graduate students and other researchers. IRB forms can be downloaded via the  ESTR Library  (click on the "Templates and Forms" tab, then navigate to pages 2 and 3 to find the documents labelled with “HUA” for the Harvard University Area IRB. Nota bene: You may use these forms only if you submit your study to the Harvard University IRB). The IRB office can be reached through email at [email protected] or by telephone at (617) 496-2847.  
  • Undergraduate Research Training Program (URTP) Portal The URTP at Harvard University is a comprehensive platform to create better prepared undergraduate researchers. The URTP is comprised of research ethics training sessions, a student-focused curriculum, and an online decision form that will assist students in determining whether their project requires IRB review. Students should examine the  URTP's guide for student researchers: Introduction to Human Subjects Research Protection.  
  • Ethics reports From the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR)  
  • Respect, Beneficence, and Justice: QDR General Guidance for Human Participants If you are hoping to share your qualitative interview data in a repository after it has been collected, you will need to plan accordingly via informed consent, careful de-identification procedures, and data access controls. Consider  consulting with the Qualitative Research Support Group at Harvard Library  and consulting with  Harvard's Dataverse contacts  to help you think through all of the contingencies and processes.  
  • "Conducting a Qualitative Child Interview: Methodological Considerations." Journal of Advanced Nursing 42/5 (2003): 434-441 by Kortesluoma, R., et al.  The purpose of this article is to illustrate the theoretical premises of child interviewing, as well as to describe some practical methodological solutions used during interviews. Factors that influence data gathered from children and strategies for taking these factors into consideration during the interview are also described.  
  • "Crossing Cultural Barriers in Research Interviewing." Qualitative Social Work 63/3 (2007): 353-372 by Sands, R., et al.  This article critically examines a qualitative research interview in which cultural barriers between a white non-Muslim female interviewer and an African American Muslim interviewee, both from the USA, became evident and were overcome within the same interview.  
  • Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples by Linda Tuhiwai Smith  This essential volume explores intersections of imperialism and research - specifically, the ways in which imperialism is embedded in disciplines of knowledge and tradition as 'regimes of truth.' Concepts such as 'discovery' and 'claiming' are discussed and an argument presented that the decolonization of research methods will help to reclaim control over indigenous ways of knowing and being. The text includes case-studies and examples, and sections on new indigenous literature and the role of research in indigenous struggles for social justice.  

This resource, sponsored by University of Oregon Libraries, exemplifies the use of interviewing methodologies in research that foregrounds traditional knowledge. The methodology page summarizes the approach.

  • Ethics: The Need to Tread Carefully. Chapter in A Practical Introduction to in-Depth Interviewing by Alan Morris  Pay special attention to the sections in chapter 2 on "How to prevent and respond to ethical issues arising in the course of the interview," "Ethics in the writing up of your interviews," and "The Ethics of Care."  
  • Handbook on Ethical Issues in Anthropology by Joan Cassell (Editor); Sue-Ellen Jacobs (Editor)  This publication of the American Anthropological Association presents and discusses issues and sources on ethics in anthropology, as well as realistic case studies of ethical dilemmas. It is meant to help social science faculty introduce discussions of ethics in their courses. Some of the topics are relevant to interviews, or at least to studies of which interviews are a part. See chapters 3 and 4 for cases, with solutions and commentary, respectively.  
  • Research Ethics from the Chanie Wenjack School for Indigenous Studies, Trent University  (Open Access) An overview of Indigenous research ethics and protocols from the across the globe.  
  • Resources for Equity in Research Consult these resources for guidance on creating and incorporating equitable materials into public health research studies that entail community engagement.

The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research Ethics by Ron Iphofen (Editor); Martin Tolich (Editor)  This handbook is a much-needed and in-depth review of the distinctive set of ethical considerations which accompanies qualitative research. This is particularly crucial given the emergent, dynamic and interactional nature of most qualitative research, which too often allows little time for reflection on the important ethical responsibilities and obligations. Contributions from leading international researchers have been carefully organized into six key thematic sections: Part One: Thick Descriptions Of Qualitative Research Ethics; Part Two: Qualitative Research Ethics By Technique; Part Three: Ethics As Politics; Part Four: Qualitative Research Ethics With Vulnerable Groups; Part Five: Relational Research Ethics; Part Six: Researching Digitally. This Handbook is a one-stop resource on qualitative research ethics across the social sciences that draws on the lessons learned and the successful methods for surmounting problems - the tried and true, and the new.


Research Compliance Program for FAS/SEAS at Harvard : The Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), including the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), and the Office of the Vice Provost for Research (OVPR) have established a shared Research Compliance Program (RCP). An area of common concern for interview studies is international projects and collaboration . RCP is a resource to provide guidance on which international activities may be impacted by US sanctions on countries, individuals, or entities and whether licenses or other disclosure are required to ship or otherwise share items, technology, or data with foreign collaborators.

  • Harvard Global Support Services (GSS) is for students, faculty, staff, and researchers who are studying, researching, or working abroad. Their services span safety and security, health, culture, outbound immigration, employment, financial and legal matters, and research center operations. These include travel briefings and registration, emergency response, guidance on international projects, and managing in-country operations.

Generative AI: Harvard-affiliated researchers should not enter data classified as confidential ( Level 2 and above ), including non-public research data, into publicly-available generative AI tools, in accordance with the University’s Information Security Policy. Information shared with generative AI tools using default settings is not private and could expose proprietary or sensitive information to unauthorized parties.

Privacy Laws: Be mindful of any potential privacy laws that may apply wherever you conduct your interviews. The General Data Protection Regulation is a high-profile example (see below):

  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) This Regulation lays down rules relating to the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and rules relating to the free movement of personal data. It protects fundamental rights and freedoms of natural persons and in particular their right to the protection of personal data. The free movement of personal data within the Union shall be neither restricted nor prohibited for reasons connected with the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data. For a nice summary of what the GDPR requires, check out the GDPR "crash course" here .


If you would like to see examples of consent forms, ask your local IRB, or take a look at these resources:

  • Model consent forms for oral history, suggested by the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling at Concordia University  
  • For NIH-funded research, see this  resource for developing informed consent language in research studies where data and/or biospecimens will be stored and shared for future use.


If you wish to assemble resources to aid in sampling, such as the USPS Delivery Sequence File, telephone books, or directories of organizations and listservs, please contact our  data librarian  or write to  [email protected] .

  • Research Randomizer   A free web-based service that permits instant random sampling and random assignment. It also contains an interactive tutorial perfect for students taking courses in research methods.  
  • Practical Tools for Designing and Weighting Survey Samples by Richard Valliant; Jill A. Dever; Frauke Kreuter  Survey sampling is fundamentally an applied field. The goal in this book is to put an array of tools at the fingertips of practitioners by explaining approaches long used by survey statisticians, illustrating how existing software can be used to solve survey problems, and developing some specialized software where needed. This book serves at least three audiences: (1) Students seeking a more in-depth understanding of applied sampling either through a second semester-long course or by way of a supplementary reference; (2) Survey statisticians searching for practical guidance on how to apply concepts learned in theoretical or applied sampling courses; and (3) Social scientists and other survey practitioners who desire insight into the statistical thinking and steps taken to design, select, and weight random survey samples. Several survey data sets are used to illustrate how to design samples, to make estimates from complex surveys for use in optimizing the sample allocation, and to calculate weights. Realistic survey projects are used to demonstrate the challenges and provide a context for the solutions. The book covers several topics that either are not included or are dealt with in a limited way in other texts. These areas include: sample size computations for multistage designs; power calculations related to surveys; mathematical programming for sample allocation in a multi-criteria optimization setting; nuts and bolts of area probability sampling; multiphase designs; quality control of survey operations; and statistical software for survey sampling and estimation. An associated R package, PracTools, contains a number of specialized functions for sample size and other calculations. The data sets used in the book are also available in PracTools, so that the reader may replicate the examples or perform further analyses.  
  • Sampling: Design and Analysis by Sharon L. Lohr  Provides a modern introduction to the field of sampling. With a multitude of applications from a variety of disciplines, the book concentrates on the statistical aspects of taking and analyzing a sample. Overall, the book gives guidance on how to tell when a sample is valid or not, and how to design and analyze many different forms of sample surveys.  
  • Sampling Techniques by William G. Cochran  Clearly demonstrates a wide range of sampling methods now in use by governments, in business, market and operations research, social science, medicine, public health, agriculture, and accounting. Gives proofs of all the theoretical results used in modern sampling practice. New topics in this edition include the approximate methods developed for the problem of attaching standard errors or confidence limits to nonlinear estimates made from the results of surveys with complex plans.  
  • "Understanding the Process of Qualitative Data Collection" in Chapter 13 (pp. 103–1162) of 30 Essential Skills for the Qualitative Researcher by John W. Creswell  Provides practical "how-to" information for beginning researchers in the social, behavioral, and health sciences with many applied examples from research design, qualitative inquiry, and mixed methods.The skills presented in this book are crucial for a new qualitative researcher starting a qualitative project.  
  • Survey Methodology by Robert M. Groves; Floyd J. Fowler; Mick P. Couper; James M. Lepkowski; Eleanor Singer; Roger Tourangeau; Floyd J. Fowler  coverage includes sampling frame evaluation, sample design, development of questionnaires, evaluation of questions, alternative modes of data collection, interviewing, nonresponse, post-collection processing of survey data, and practices for maintaining scientific integrity.

The way a qualitative researcher constructs and approaches interview questions should flow from, or align with, the methodological paradigm chosen for the study, whether that paradigm is interpretivist, critical, positivist, or participative in nature (or a combination of these).

Constructing Your Questions

Helpful texts:.

  • "Developing Questions" in Chapter 4 (pp. 98–108) of Becoming Qualitative Researchers by Corrine Glesne  Ideal for introducing the novice researcher to the theory and practice of qualitative research, this text opens students to the diverse possibilities within this inquiry approach, while helping them understand how to design and implement specific research methods.  
  • "Learning to Interview in the Social Sciences" Qualitative Inquiry, 9(4) 2003, 643–668 by Roulston, K., deMarrais, K., & Lewis, J. B. See especially the section on "Phrasing and Negotiating Questions" on pages 653-655 and common problems with framing questions noted on pages 659 - 660.  
  • Qualitative Research Interviewing: Biographic Narrative and Semi-Structured Methods (See sections on “Lightly and Heavily Structured Depth Interviewing: Theory-Questions and Interviewer-Questions” and “Preparing for any Interviewing Sequence") by Tom Wengraf  Unique in its conceptual coherence and the level of practical detail, this book provides a comprehensive resource for those concerned with the practice of semi-structured interviewing, the most commonly used interview approach in social research, and in particular for in-depth, biographic narrative interviewing. It covers the full range of practices from the identification of topics through to strategies for writing up research findings in diverse ways.  
  • "Scripting a Qualitative Purpose Statement and Research Questions" in Chapter 12 (pp. 93–102) of 30 Essential Skills for the Qualitative Researcher by John W. Creswell  Provides practical "how-to" information for beginning researchers in the social, behavioral, and health sciences with many applied examples from research design, qualitative inquiry, and mixed methods.The skills presented in this book are crucial for a new qualitative researcher starting a qualitative project.  
  • Some Strategies for Developing Interview Guides for Qualitative Interviews by Sociology Department, Harvard University Includes general advice for conducting qualitative interviews, pros and cons of recording and transcription, guidelines for success, and tips for developing and phrasing effective interview questions.  
  • Tip Sheet on Question Wording by Harvard University Program on Survey Research

Let Theory Guide You:

The quality of your questions depends on how you situate them within a wider body of knowledge. Consider the following advice:

A good literature review has many obvious virtues. It enables the investigator to define problems and assess data. It provides the concepts on which percepts depend. But the literature review has a special importance for the qualitative researcher. This consists of its ability to sharpen his or her capacity for surprise (Lazarsfeld, 1972b). The investigator who is well versed in the literature now has a set of expectations the data can defy. Counterexpectational data are conspicuous, readable, and highly provocative data. They signal the existence of unfulfilled theoretical assumptions, and these are, as Kuhn (1962) has noted, the very origins of intellectual innovation. A thorough review of the literature is, to this extent, a way to manufacture distance. It is a way to let the data of one's research project take issue with the theory of one's field.

McCracken, G. (1988), The Long Interview, Sage: Newbury Park, CA, p. 31

When drafting your interview questions, remember that everything follows from your central research question. Also, on the way to writing your "operationalized" interview questions, it's  helpful to draft broader, intermediate questions, couched in theory. Nota bene:  While it is important to know the literature well before conducting your interview(s), be careful not to present yourself to your research participant(s) as "the expert," which would be presumptuous and could be intimidating. Rather, the purpose of your knowledge is to make you a better, keener listener.

If you'd like to supplement what you learned about relevant theories through your coursework and literature review, try these sources:

  • Annual Reviews   Review articles sum up the latest research in many fields, including social sciences, biomedicine, life sciences, and physical sciences. These are timely collections of critical reviews written by leading scientists.  
  • HOLLIS - search for resources on theories in your field   Modify this example search by entering the name of your field in place of "your discipline," then hit search.  
  • Oxford Bibliographies   Written and reviewed by academic experts, every article in this database is an authoritative guide to the current scholarship in a variety of fields, containing original commentary and annotations.  
  • ProQuest Dissertations & Theses (PQDT)   Indexes dissertations and masters' theses from most North American graduate schools as well as some European universities. Provides full text for most indexed dissertations from 1990-present.  
  • Very Short Introductions   Launched by Oxford University Press in 1995, Very Short Introductions offer concise introductions to a diverse range of subjects from Climate to Consciousness, Game Theory to Ancient Warfare, Privacy to Islamic History, Economics to Literary Theory.


Equipment and software:  .

  • Lamont Library  loans microphones and podcast starter kits, which will allow you to capture audio (and you may record with software, such as Garage Band). 
  • Cabot Library  loans digital recording devices, as well as USB microphones.

If you prefer to use your own device, you may purchase a small handheld audio recorder, or use your cell phone.

  • Audio Capture Basics (PDF)  - Helpful instructions, courtesy of the Lamont Library Multimedia Lab.
  • Getting Started with Podcasting/Audio:  Guidelines from Harvard Library's Virtual Media Lab for preparing your interviewee for a web-based recording (e.g., podcast, interview)
  • ​ Camtasia Screen Recorder and Video Editor
  • Zoom: Video Conferencing, Web Conferencing
  • Visit the Multimedia Production Resources guide! Consult it to find and learn how to use audiovisual production tools, including: cameras, microphones, studio spaces, and other equipment at Cabot Science Library and Lamont Library.
  • Try the virtual office hours offered by the Lamont Multimedia Lab!


Quick handout:  .

  • Research Interviewing Tips (Courtesy of Dr. Suzanne Spreadbury)

Remote Interviews:  

  • For Online or Distant Interviews, See "Remote Research & Virtual Fieldwork" on this guide .  
  • Deborah Lupton's Bibliography: Doing Fieldwork in a Pandemic

Seeking Consent:

Books and articles:  .

  • "App-Based Textual Interviews: Interacting With Younger Generations in a Digitalized Social Reallity."International Journal of Social Research Methodology (12 June 2022). Discusses the use of texting platforms as a means to reach young people. Recommends useful question formulations for this medium.  
  • "Learning to Interview in the Social Sciences." Qualitative Inquiry, 9(4) 2003, 643–668 by Roulston, K., deMarrais, K., & Lewis, J. B. See especially the section on "Phrasing and Negotiating Questions" on pages 653-655 and common problems with framing questions noted on pages 659-660.  
  • "Slowing Down and Digging Deep: Teaching Students to Examine Interview Interaction in Depth." LEARNing Landscapes, Spring 2021 14(1) 153-169 by Herron, Brigette A. and Kathryn Roulston. Suggests analysis of videorecorded interviews as a precursor to formulating one's own questions. Includes helpful types of probes.  
  • Using Interviews in a Research Project by Nigel Joseph Mathers; Nicholas J Fox; Amanda Hunn; Trent Focus Group.  A work pack to guide researchers in developing interviews in the healthcare field. Describes interview structures, compares face-to-face and telephone interviews. Outlines the ways in which different types of interview data can be analysed.  
  • “Working through Challenges in Doing Interview Research.” International Journal of Qualitative Methods, (December 2011), 348–66 by Roulston, Kathryn.  The article explores (1) how problematic interactions identified in the analysis of focus group data can lead to modifications in research design, (2) an approach to dealing with reported data in representations of findings, and (3) how data analysis can inform question formulation in successive rounds of data generation. Findings from these types of examinations of interview data generation and analysis are valuable for informing both interview practice as well as research design.


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The way a qualitative researcher transcribes interviews should flow from, or align with, the methodological paradigm chosen for the study, whether that paradigm is interpretivist, critical, positivist, or participative in nature (or a combination of these).


Before embarking on a transcription project, it's worthwhile to invest in the time and effort necessary to capture good audio, which will make the transcription process much easier. If you haven't already done so, check out the  audio capture guidelines from Harvard Library's Virtual Media Lab , or  contact a media staff member  for customized recommendations. First and foremost, be mindful of common pitfalls by watching this short video that identifies  the most common errors to avoid!


  • Adobe Premiere Pro Speech-To-Text  automatically generates transcripts and adds captions to your videos. Harvard affiliates can download Adobe Premiere in the Creative Cloud Suite.  
  • GoTranscript  provides cost-effective human-generated transcriptions.  
  • pyTranscriber  is an app for generating automatic transcription and/or subtitles for audio and video files. It uses the Google Cloud Speech-to-Text service, has a friendly graphical user interface, and is purported to work nicely with Chinese.   
  • Otter  provides a new way to capture, store, search and share voice conversations, lectures, presentations, meetings, and interviews. The startup is based in Silicon Valley with a team of experienced Ph.Ds and engineers from Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Nuance (à la Dragon). Free accounts available. This is the software that  Zoom  uses to generate automated transcripts, so if you have access to a Zoom subscription, you have access to Otter transcriptions with it (applicable in several  languages ). As with any automated approach, be prepared to correct any errors after the fact, by hand.  
  • Panopto  is available to Harvard affiliates and generates  ASR (automated speech recognition) captions . You may upload compatible audio files into it. As with any automatically generated transcription, you will need to make manual revisions. ASR captioning is available in several  languages . Panopto maintains robust security practices, including strong authentication measures and end-to-end encryption, ensuring your content remains private and protected.  
  • REV.Com  allows you to record and transcribe any calls on the iPhone, both outgoing and incoming. It may be useful for recording phone interviews. Rev lets you choose whether you want an AI- or human-generated transcription, with a fast turnaround. Rev has Service Organization Controls Type II (SOC2) certification (a SOC2 cert looks at and verifies an organization’s processing integrity, privacy practices, and security safeguards).   
  • Scribie Audio/Video Transcription  provides automated or manual transcriptions for a small fee. As with any transcription service, some revisions will be necessary after the fact, particularly for its automated transcripts.  
  • Sonix  automatically transcribes, translates, and helps to organize audio and video files in over 40 languages. It's fast and affordable, with good accuracy. The free trial includes 30 minutes of free transcription.  
  • TranscriptionWing  uses a human touch process to clean up machine-generated transcripts so that the content will far more accurately reflect your audio recording.   
  • Whisper is a tool from OpenAI that facilitates transcription of sensitive audiovisual recordings (e.g., of research interviews) on your own device. Installation and use depends on your operating system and which version you install. Important Note: The Whisper API, where audio is sent to OpenAI to be processed by them and then sent back (usually through a programming language like Python) is NOT appropriate for sensitive data. The model should be downloaded with tools such as those described in this FAQ , so that audio is kept to your local machine. For assistance, contact James Capobianco .


  • Transcription pedals  are in circulation and available to borrow from the Circulation desk at Lamont, or use at Lamont Library's Media Lab on level B. For hand-transcribing your interviews, they work in conjunction with software such as  Express Scribe , which is loaded on Media Lab computers, or you may download for free on your own machine (Mac or PC versions; scroll down the downloads page for the latter). The pedals are plug-and-play USB, allow a wide range of playback speeds, and have 3 programmable buttons, which are typically set to rewind/play/fast-forward. Instructions are included in the bag that covers installation and set-up of the software, and basic use of the pedals.


  • Try the virtual office hours offered by the Lamont Multimedia Lab!    
  • If you're creating podcasts, login to  Canvas  and check out the  Podcasting/Audio guide . 

Helpful Texts:  

  • "Transcription as a Crucial Step of Data Analysis" in Chapter 5 of The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Data Analysisby Uwe Flick (Editor)  Covers basic terminology for transcription, shares caveats for transcribers, and identifies components of vocal behavior. Provides notation systems for transcription, suggestions for transcribing turn-taking, and discusses new technologies and perspectives. Includes a bibliography for further reading.  
  • "Transcribing the Oral Interview: Part Art, Part Science " on p. 10 of the Centre for Community Knowledge (CCK) newsletter: TIMESTAMPby Mishika Chauhan and Saransh Srivastav


Software  .

  • Free download available for Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) affiliates
  • Desktop access at Lamont Library Media Lab, 3rd floor
  • Desktop access at Harvard Kennedy School Library (with HKS ID)
  • Remote desktop access for Harvard affiliates from  IQSS Computer Labs . Email them at  [email protected] and ask for a new lab account and remote desktop access to NVivo.
  • Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) access available to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health affiliates


Data analysis methods should flow from, or align with, the methodological paradigm chosen for your study, whether that paradigm is interpretivist, critical, positivist, or participative in nature (or a combination of these). Some established methods include Content Analysis, Critical Analysis, Discourse Analysis, Gestalt Analysis, Grounded Theory Analysis, Interpretive Analysis, Narrative Analysis, Normative Analysis, Phenomenological Analysis, Rhetorical Analysis, and Semiotic Analysis, among others. The following resources should help you navigate your methodological options and put into practice methods for coding, themeing, interpreting, and presenting your data.

  • Users can browse content by topic, discipline, or format type (reference works, book chapters, definitions, etc.). SRM offers several research tools as well: a methods map, user-created reading lists, a project planner, and advice on choosing statistical tests.  
  • Abductive Coding: Theory Building and Qualitative (Re)Analysis by Vila-Henninger, et al.  The authors recommend an abductive approach to guide qualitative researchers who are oriented towards theory-building. They outline a set of tactics for abductive analysis, including the generation of an abductive codebook, abductive data reduction through code equations, and in-depth abductive qualitative analysis.  
  • Analyzing and Interpreting Qualitative Research: After the Interview by Charles F. Vanover, Paul A. Mihas, and Johnny Saldana (Editors)   Providing insight into the wide range of approaches available to the qualitative researcher and covering all steps in the research process, the authors utilize a consistent chapter structure that provides novice and seasoned researchers with pragmatic, "how-to" strategies. Each chapter author introduces the method, uses one of their own research projects as a case study of the method described, shows how the specific analytic method can be used in other types of studies, and concludes with three questions/activities to prompt class discussion or personal study.   
  • "Analyzing Qualitative Data." Theory Into Practice 39, no. 3 (2000): 146-54 by Margaret D. LeCompte   This article walks readers though rules for unbiased data analysis and provides guidance for getting organized, finding items, creating stable sets of items, creating patterns, assembling structures, and conducting data validity checks.  
  • "Coding is Not a Dirty Word" in Chapter 1 (pp. 1–30) of Enhancing Qualitative and Mixed Methods Research with Technology by Shalin Hai-Jew (Editor)   Current discourses in qualitative research, especially those situated in postmodernism, represent coding and the technology that assists with coding as reductive, lacking complexity, and detached from theory. In this chapter, the author presents a counter-narrative to this dominant discourse in qualitative research. The author argues that coding is not necessarily devoid of theory, nor does the use of software for data management and analysis automatically render scholarship theoretically lightweight or barren. A lack of deep analytical insight is a consequence not of software but of epistemology. Using examples informed by interpretive and critical approaches, the author demonstrates how NVivo can provide an effective tool for data management and analysis. The author also highlights ideas for critical and deconstructive approaches in qualitative inquiry while using NVivo. By troubling the positivist discourse of coding, the author seeks to create dialogic spaces that integrate theory with technology-driven data management and analysis, while maintaining the depth and rigor of qualitative research.   
  • The Coding Manual for Qualitative Researchers by Johnny Saldana   An in-depth guide to the multiple approaches available for coding qualitative data. Clear, practical and authoritative, the book profiles 32 coding methods that can be applied to a range of research genres from grounded theory to phenomenology to narrative inquiry. For each approach, Saldaña discusses the methods, origins, a description of the method, practical applications, and a clearly illustrated example with analytic follow-up. Essential reading across the social sciences.  
  • Flexible Coding of In-depth Interviews: A Twenty-first-century Approach by Nicole M. Deterding and Mary C. Waters The authors suggest steps in data organization and analysis to better utilize qualitative data analysis technologies and support rigorous, transparent, and flexible analysis of in-depth interview data.  
  • From the Editors: What Grounded Theory is Not by Roy Suddaby Walks readers through common misconceptions that hinder grounded theory studies, reinforcing the two key concepts of the grounded theory approach: (1) constant comparison of data gathered throughout the data collection process and (2) the determination of which kinds of data to sample in succession based on emergent themes (i.e., "theoretical sampling").  
  • “Good enough” methods for life-story analysis, by Wendy Luttrell. In Quinn N. (Ed.), Finding culture in talk (pp. 243–268). Demonstrates for researchers of culture and consciousness who use narrative how to concretely document reflexive processes in terms of where, how and why particular decisions are made at particular stages of the research process.   
  • Presentation slides on coding and themeing your data, derived from Saldana, Spradley, and LeCompte Click to request access.  
  • Qualitative Data Analysis by Matthew B. Miles; A. Michael Huberman   A practical sourcebook for researchers who make use of qualitative data, presenting the current state of the craft in the design, testing, and use of qualitative analysis methods. Strong emphasis is placed on data displays matrices and networks that go beyond ordinary narrative text. Each method of data display and analysis is described and illustrated.  
  • "A Survey of Qualitative Data Analytic Methods" in Chapter 4 (pp. 89–138) of Fundamentals of Qualitative Research by Johnny Saldana   Provides an in-depth introduction to coding as a heuristic, particularly focusing on process coding, in vivo coding, descriptive coding, values coding, dramaturgical coding, and versus coding. Includes advice on writing analytic memos, developing categories, and themeing data.   
  • "Thematic Networks: An Analytic Tool for Qualitative Research." Qualitative Research : QR, 1(3), 385–405 by Jennifer Attride-Stirling Details a technique for conducting thematic analysis of qualitative material, presenting a step-by-step guide of the analytic process, with the aid of an empirical example. The analytic method presented employs established, well-known techniques; the article proposes that thematic analyses can be usefully aided by and presented as thematic networks.  
  • Using Thematic Analysis in Psychology by Virginia Braun and Victoria Clark Walks readers through the process of reflexive thematic analysis, step by step. The method may be adapted in fields outside of psychology as relevant. Pair this with One Size Fits All? What Counts as Quality Practice in Reflexive Thematic Analysis? by Virginia Braun and Victoria Clark


The quality of your data analysis depends on how you situate what you learn within a wider body of knowledge. Consider the following advice:

Once you have coalesced around a theory, realize that a theory should  reveal  rather than  color  your discoveries. Allow your data to guide you to what's most suitable. Grounded theory  researchers may develop their own theory where current theories fail to provide insight.  This guide on Theoretical Models  from Alfaisal University Library provides a helpful overview on using theory.


Managing your elicited interview data, general guidance:  .

  • Research Data Management @ Harvard A reference guide with information and resources to help you manage your research data. See also: Harvard Research Data Security Policy , on the Harvard University Research Data Management website.  
  • Data Management For Researchers: Organize, Maintain and Share Your Data for Research Success by Kristin Briney. A comprehensive guide for scientific researchers providing everything they need to know about data management and how to organize, document, use and reuse their data.  
  • Open Science Framework (OSF) An open-source project management tool that makes it easy to collaborate within and beyond Harvard throughout a project's lifecycle. With OSF you can manage, store, and share documents, datasets, and other information with your research team. You can also publish your work to share it with a wider audience. Although data can be stored privately, because this platform is hosted on the Internet and designed with open access in mind, it is not a good choice for highly sensitive data.  
  • Free cloud storage solutions for Harvard affiliates to consider include:  Google Drive ,  DropBox , or  OneDrive ( up to DSL3 )  

Data Confidentiality and Secure Handling:  

  • Data Security Levels at Harvard - Research Data Examples This resource provided by Harvard Data Security helps you determine what level of access is appropriate for your data. Determine whether it should be made available for public use, limited to the Harvard community, or be protected as either "confidential and sensitive," "high risk," or "extremely sensitive." See also:  Harvard Data Classification Table  
  • Harvard's Best Practices for Protecting Privacy and  Harvard Information Security Collaboration Tools Matrix Follow the nuts-and-bolts advice for privacy best practices at Harvard. The latter resource reveals the level of security that can be relied upon for a large number of technological tools and platforms used at Harvard to conduct business, such as email, Slack, Accellion Kiteworks, OneDrive/SharePoint, etc.  
  • “Protecting Participant Privacy While Maintaining Content and Context: Challenges in Qualitative Data De‐identification and Sharing.” Proceedings of the ASIST Annual Meeting 57 (1) (2020): e415-420 by Myers, Long, and Polasek Presents an informed and tested protocol, based on the De-Identification guidelines published by the Qualitative Data Repository (QDR) at Syracuse University. Qualitative researchers may consult it to guide their data de-identification efforts.  
  • QDS Qualitative Data Sharing Toolkit The Qualitative Data Sharing (QDS) project and its toolkit was funded by the NIH National Human Genome Research Institute (R01HG009351). It provides tools and resources to help researchers, especially those in the health sciences, share qualitative research data while protecting privacy and confidentiality. It offers guidance on preparing data for sharing through de-identification and access control. These health sciences research datasets in ICPSR's Qualitative Data Sharing (QDS) Project Series were de-identified using the QuaDS Software and the project’s QDS guidelines.  
  • Table of De-Identification Techniques  
  • Generative AI Harvard-affiliated researchers should not enter data classified as confidential ( Level 2 and above ), including non-public research data, into publicly-available generative AI tools, in accordance with the University’s Information Security Policy. Information shared with generative AI tools using default settings is not private and could expose proprietary or sensitive information to unauthorized parties.  
  • Harvard Information Security Quick Reference Guide Storage guidelines, based on the data's security classification level (according to its IRB classification) is displayed on page 2, under "handling."  
  • Email Encryption Harvard Microsoft 365 users can now send encrypted messages and files directly from the Outlook web or desktop apps. Encrypting an email adds an extra layer of security to the message and its attachments (up to 150MB), and means only the intended recipient (and their inbox delegates with full access) can view it. Message encryption in Outlook is approved for sending high risk ( level 4 ) data and below.  

Sharing Qualitative Data:  

  • Repositories for Qualitative Data If you have cleared this intention with your IRB, secured consent from participants, and properly de-identified your data, consider sharing your interviews in one of the data repositories included in the link above. Depending on the nature of your research and the level of risk it may present to participants, sharing your interview data may not be appropriate. If there is any chance that sharing such data will be desirable, you will be much better off if you build this expectation into your plans from the beginning.  
  • Guide for Sharing Qualitative Data at ICPSR The Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) has created this resource for investigators planning to share qualitative data at ICPSR. This guide provides an overview of elements and considerations for archiving qualitative data, identifies steps for investigators to follow during the research life cycle to ensure that others can share and reuse qualitative data, and provides information about exemplars of qualitative data  

International Projects:

  • Research Compliance Program for FAS/SEAS at Harvard The Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), including the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), and the Office of the Vice Provost for Research (OVPR) have established a shared Research Compliance Program (RCP). An area of common concern for interview studies is international projects and collaboration . RCP is a resource to provide guidance on which international activities may be impacted by US sanctions on countries, individuals, or entities and whether licenses or other disclosure are required to ship or otherwise share items, technology, or data with foreign collaborators.

Finding Extant Interview Data

Finding journalistic interviews:  .

  • Academic Search Premier This all-purpose database is great for finding articles from magazines and newspapers. In the Advanced Search, it allows you to specify "Document Type":  Interview.  
  • Guide to Newspapers and Newspaper Indexes Use this guide created to Harvard Librarians to identify newspapers collections you'd like to search. To locate interviews, try adding the term  "interview"  to your search, or explore a database's search interface for options to  limit your search to interviews.  Nexis Uni  and  Factiva  are the two main databases for current news.   
  • Listen Notes Search for podcast episodes at this podcast aggregator, and look for podcasts that include interviews. Make sure to vet the podcaster for accuracy and quality! (Listen Notes does not do much vetting.)  
  • NPR  and  ProPublica  are two sites that offer high-quality long-form reporting, including journalistic interviews, for free.

Finding Oral History and Social Research Interviews:  

  • To find oral histories, see the Oral History   page of this guide for helpful resources on Oral History interviewing.  
  • Repositories for Qualitative Data It has not been a customary practice among qualitative researchers in the social sciences to share raw interview data, but some have made this data available in repositories, such as the ones listed on the page linked above. You may find published data from structured interview surveys (e.g., questionnaire-based computer-assisted telephone interview data), as well as some semi-structured and unstructured interviews.  
  • If you are merely interested in studies interpreting data collected using interviews, rather than finding raw interview data, try databases like  PsycInfo ,  Sociological Abstracts , or  Anthropology Plus , among others. 

Finding Interviews in Archival Collections at Harvard Library:

In addition to the databases and search strategies mentioned under the  "Finding Oral History and Social Research Interviews" category above,  you may search for interviews and oral histories (whether in textual or audiovisual formats) held in archival collections at Harvard Library.

  • HOLLIS searches all documented collections at Harvard, whereas HOLLIS for Archival Discovery searches only those with finding aids. Although HOLLIS for Archival Discovery covers less material, you may find it easier to parse your search results, especially when you wish to view results at the item level (within collections). Try these approaches:

Search in  HOLLIS :  

  • To retrieve items available online, do an Advanced Search for  interview* OR "oral histor*" (in Subject), with Resource Type "Archives/Manuscripts," then refine your search by selecting "Online" under "Show Only" on the right of your initial result list.  Revise the search above by adding your topic in the Keywords or Subject field (for example:  African Americans ) and resubmitting the search.  
  •  To enlarge your results set, you may also leave out the "Online" refinement; if you'd like to limit your search to a specific repository, try the technique of searching for  Code: Library + Collection on the "Advanced Search" page .   

Search in  HOLLIS for Archival Discovery :  

  • To retrieve items available online, search for   interview* OR "oral histor*" limited to digital materials . Revise the search above by adding your topic (for example:  artist* ) in the second search box (if you don't see the box, click +).  
  • To preview results by collection, search for  interview* OR "oral histor*" limited to collections . Revise the search above by adding your topic (for example:  artist* ) in the second search box (if you don't see the box, click +). Although this method does not allow you to isolate digitized content, you may find the refinement options on the right side of the screen (refine by repository, subject or names) helpful.  Once your select a given collection, you may search within it  (e.g., for your topic or the term interview).


Ux at harvard library  .

  • User Experience and Market Research interviews can inform the design of tangible products and services through responsive, outcome-driven insights. The  User Research Center  at Harvard Library specializes in this kind of user-centered design, digital accessibility, and testing. They also offer guidance and  resources  to members of the Harvard Community who are interested in learning more about UX methods. Contact [email protected] or consult the URC website for more information.


  • User Interviews: The Beginner’s Guide (Chris Mears)  
  • Interviewing Users (Jakob Nielsen)


  • Interviewing Users: How to Uncover Compelling Insights by Steve Portigal; Grant McCracken (Foreword by)  Interviewing is a foundational user research tool that people assume they already possess. Everyone can ask questions, right? Unfortunately, that's not the case. Interviewing Users provides invaluable interviewing techniques and tools that enable you to conduct informative interviews with anyone. You'll move from simply gathering data to uncovering powerful insights about people.  
  • Rapid Contextual Design by Jessamyn Wendell; Karen Holtzblatt; Shelley Wood  This handbook introduces Rapid CD, a fast-paced, adaptive form of Contextual Design. Rapid CD is a hands-on guide for anyone who needs practical guidance on how to use the Contextual Design process and adapt it to tactical projects with tight timelines and resources. Rapid Contextual Design provides detailed suggestions on structuring the project and customer interviews, conducting interviews, and running interpretation sessions. The handbook walks you step-by-step through organizing the data so you can see your key issues, along with visioning new solutions, storyboarding to work out the details, and paper prototype interviewing to iterate the design all with as little as a two-person team with only a few weeks to spare *Includes real project examples with actual customer data that illustrate how a CD project actually works.



Instructional Presentations on Interview Skills  

  • Interview/Oral History Research for RSRA 298B: Master's Thesis Reading and Research (Spring 2023) Slideshow covers: Why Interviews?, Getting Context, Engaging Participants, Conducting the Interview, The Interview Guide, Note Taking, Transcription, File management, and Data Analysis.  
  • Interview Skills From an online class on February 13, 2023:  Get set up for interview research. You will leave prepared to choose among the three types of interviewing methods, equipped to develop an interview schedule, aware of data management options and their ethical implications, and knowledgeable of technologies you can use to record and transcribe your interviews. This workshop complements Intro to NVivo, a qualitative data analysis tool useful for coding interview data.

NIH Data Management & Sharing Policy (DMSP) This policy, effective January 25, 2023, applies to all research, funded or conducted in whole or in part by NIH, that results in the generation of  scientific data , including NIH-funded qualitative research. Click here to see some examples of how the DMSP policy has been applied in qualitative research studies featured in the 2021 Qualitative Data Management Plan (DMP) Competition . As a resource for the community, NIH has developed a resource for developing informed consent language in research studies where data and/or biospecimens will be stored and shared for future use. It is important to note that the DMS Policy does NOT require that informed consent obtained from research participants must allow for broad sharing and the future use of data (either with or without identifiable private information). See the FAQ for more information.

  • << Previous: Remote Research & Virtual Fieldwork
  • Next: Oral History >>

Except where otherwise noted, this work is subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , which allows anyone to share and adapt our material as long as proper attribution is given. For details and exceptions, see the Harvard Library Copyright Policy ©2021 Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College.

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  • Structured Interview | Definition, Guide & Examples

Structured Interview | Definition, Guide & Examples

Published on January 27, 2022 by Tegan George and Julia Merkus. Revised on June 22, 2023.

A structured interview is a data collection method that relies on asking questions in a set order to collect data on a topic. It is one of four types of interviews .

In research, structured interviews are often quantitative in nature. They can also be used in qualitative research if the questions are open-ended, but this is less common.

While structured interviews are often associated with job interviews, they are also common in marketing, social science, survey methodology, and other research fields.

  • Semi-structured interviews : A few questions are predetermined, whereas the other questions aren’t planned.
  • Unstructured interviews : None of the questions are predetermined.
  • Focus group interviews : The questions are presented to a group instead of one individual.

Table of contents

What is a structured interview, when to use a structured interview, advantages of structured interviews, disadvantages of structured interviews, structured interview questions, how to conduct a structured interview, how to analyze a structured interview, presenting your results, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about structured interviews.

Structured interviews are the most systematized type of interview. In contrast to semi-structured or unstructured interviews, the interviewer uses predetermined questions in a set order.

Structured interviews are often closed-ended. They can be dichotomous, which means asking participants to answer “yes” or “no” to each question, or multiple-choice. While open-ended structured interviews do exist, they are less common.

Asking set questions in a set order allows you to easily compare responses between participants in a uniform context. This can help you see patterns and highlight areas for further research, and it can be a useful explanatory or exploratory research tool.

Structured interviews are best used when:

  • You already have a very clear understanding of your topic, so you possess a baseline for designing strong structured questions.
  • You are constrained in terms of time or resources and need to analyze your data efficiently.
  • Your research question depends on strong parity between participants, with environmental conditions held constant.

A structured interview is straightforward to conduct and analyze. Asking the same set of questions mitigates potential biases and leads to fewer ambiguities in analysis. It is an undertaking you can likely handle as an individual, provided you remain organized.

Differences between different types of interviews

Make sure to choose the type of interview that suits your research best. This table shows the most important differences between the four types.

Reduced bias

Increased credibility, reliability and validity, simple, cost-effective and efficient, formal in nature, limited flexibility, limited scope.

It can be difficult to write structured interview questions that approximate exactly what you are seeking to measure. Here are a few tips for writing questions that contribute to high internal validity :

  • Define exactly what you want to discover prior to drafting your questions. This will help you write questions that really zero in on participant responses.
  • Avoid jargon, compound sentences, and complicated constructions.
  • Be as clear and concise as possible, so that participants can answer your question immediately.
  • Do you think that employers should provide free gym memberships?
  • Did any of your previous employers provide free memberships?
  • Does your current employer provide a free membership?
  • a) 1 time; b) 2 times; c) 3 times; d) 4 or more times
  • Do you enjoy going to the gym?

Structured interviews are among the most straightforward research methods to conduct and analyze. Once you’ve determined that they’re the right fit for your research topic , you can proceed with the following steps.

Step 1: Set your goals and objectives

Start with brainstorming some guiding questions to help you conceptualize your research question, such as:

  • What are you trying to learn or achieve from a structured interview?
  • Why are you choosing a structured interview as opposed to a different type of interview, or another research method?

If you have satisfying reasoning for proceeding with a structured interview, you can move on to designing your questions.

Step 2: Design your questions

Pay special attention to the order and wording of your structured interview questions . Remember that in a structured interview they must remain the same. Stick to closed-ended or very simple open-ended questions.

Step 3: Assemble your participants

Depending on your topic, there are a few sampling methods you can use, such as:

  • Voluntary response sampling : For example, posting a flyer on campus and finding participants based on responses
  • Convenience sampling of those who are most readily accessible to you, such as fellow students at your university
  • Stratified sampling of a particular age, race, ethnicity, gender identity, or other characteristic of interest to you
  • Judgment sampling of a specific set of participants that you already know you want to include

Step 4: Decide on your medium

Determine whether you will be conducting your interviews in person or whether your interview will take pen-and-paper format. If conducted live, you need to decide if you prefer to talk with participants in person, over the phone, or via video conferencing.

Step 5: Conduct your interviews

As you conduct your interviews, be very careful that all conditions remain as constant as possible.

  • Ask your questions in the same order, and try to moderate your tone of voice and any responses to participants as much as you can.
  • Pay special attention to your body language (e.g., nodding, raising eyebrows), as this can bias responses.

After you’re finished conducting your interviews, it’s time to analyze your results.

  • Assign each of your participants a number or pseudonym for organizational purposes.
  • Transcribe the recordings manually or with the help of transcription software.
  • Conduct a content or thematic analysis to look for categories or patterns of responses. In most cases, it’s also possible to conduct a statistical analysis to test your hypotheses .

Transcribing interviews

If you have audio-recorded your interviews, you will likely have to transcribe them prior to conducting your analysis. In some cases, your supervisor might ask you to add the transcriptions in the appendix of your paper.

First, you will have to decide whether to conduct verbatim transcription or intelligent verbatim transcription. Do pauses, laughter, or filler words like “umm” or “like” affect your analysis and research conclusions?

  • If so, conduct verbatim transcription and include them.
  • If not, conduct intelligent verbatim transcription, which excludes fillers and fixes any grammar issues, and is often easier to analyze.

The transcription process is a great opportunity for you to cleanse your data as well, spotting and resolving any inconsistencies or errors that come up as you listen.

Coding and analyzing structured interviews

After transcribing, it’s time to conduct your thematic or content analysis . This often involves “coding” words, patterns, or themes, separating them into categories for more robust analysis.

Due to the closed-ended nature of many structured interviews, you will most likely be conducting content analysis, rather than thematic analysis.

  • You quantify the categories you chose in the coding stage by counting the occurrence of the words, phrases, subjects or concepts you selected.
  • After coding, you can organize and summarize the data using descriptive statistics .
  • Next, inferential statistics allows you to come to conclusions about your hypotheses and make predictions for future research. 

When conducting content analysis, you can take an inductive or a deductive approach. With an inductive approach, you allow the data to determine your themes. A deductive approach is the opposite, and involves investigating whether your data confirm preconceived themes or ideas.

Content analysis has a systematic procedure that can easily be replicated , yielding high reliability to your results. However, keep in mind that while this approach reduces bias, it doesn’t eliminate it. Be vigilant about remaining objective here, even if your analysis does not confirm your hypotheses .

After your data analysis, the next step is to combine your findings into a research paper .

  • Your methodology section describes how you collected the data (in this case, describing your structured interview process) and explains how you justify or conceptualize your analysis.
  • Your discussion and results sections usually address each of your coded categories, describing each in turn, as well as how often they occurred.

If you conducted inferential statistics in addition to descriptive statistics, you would generally report the test statistic , p -value , and effect size in your results section. These values explain whether your results justify rejecting your null hypothesis and whether the result is practically significant .

You can then conclude with the main takeaways and avenues for further research.

Example of interview methodology for a research paper

Let’s say you are interested in healthcare on your campus. You attend a large public institution with a lot of international students, and you think there may be a difference in perceptions based on country of origin.

Specifically, you hypothesize that students coming from countries with single-payer or socialized healthcare will find US options less satisfying.

There is a large body of research available on this topic, so you decide to conduct structured interviews of your peers to see if there’s a difference between international students and local students.

You are a member of a large campus club that brings together international students and local students, and you send a message to the club to ask for volunteers.

Here are some questions you could ask:

  • Do you find healthcare options on campus to be: excellent; good; fair; average; poor?
  • Does your home country have socialized healthcare? Yes/No
  • Are you on the campus healthcare plan? Yes/No
  • Have you ever worried about your health insurance? Yes/No
  • Have you ever had a serious health condition that insurance did not cover? Yes/No
  • Have you ever been surprised or shocked by a medical bill? Yes/No

After conducting your interviews and transcribing your data, you can then conduct content analysis, coding responses into different categories. Since you began your research with the theory that international students may find US healthcare lacking, you would use the deductive approach to see if your hypotheses seem to hold true.

If you want to know more about statistics , methodology , or research bias , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • Student’s  t -distribution
  • Normal distribution
  • Null and Alternative Hypotheses
  • Chi square tests
  • Confidence interval
  • Quartiles & Quantiles
  • Cluster sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Data cleansing
  • Reproducibility vs Replicability
  • Peer review
  • Prospective cohort study

Research bias

  • Implicit bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Placebo effect
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Hindsight bias
  • Affect heuristic
  • Social desirability bias

A structured interview is a data collection method that relies on asking questions in a set order to collect data on a topic. They are often quantitative in nature. Structured interviews are best used when: 

  • You already have a very clear understanding of your topic. Perhaps significant research has already been conducted, or you have done some prior research yourself, but you already possess a baseline for designing strong structured questions.
  • You are constrained in terms of time or resources and need to analyze your data quickly and efficiently.

More flexible interview options include semi-structured interviews , unstructured interviews , and focus groups .

The four most common types of interviews are:

  • Structured interviews : The questions are predetermined in both topic and order. 
  • Semi-structured interviews : A few questions are predetermined, but other questions aren’t planned.

The interviewer effect is a type of bias that emerges when a characteristic of an interviewer (race, age, gender identity, etc.) influences the responses given by the interviewee.

There is a risk of an interviewer effect in all types of interviews , but it can be mitigated by writing really high-quality interview questions.

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How to Conduct Interviews for Research

Last Updated: July 7, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Jeremiah Kaplan . Jeremiah Kaplan is a Research and Training Specialist at the Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy at Arizona State University. He has extensive knowledge and experience in motivational interviewing. In addition, Jeremiah has worked in the mental health, youth engagement, and trauma-informed care fields. Using his expertise, Jeremiah supervises Arizona State University’s Motivational Interviewing Coding Lab. Jeremiah has also been internationally selected to participate in the Motivational Interviewing International Network of Trainers sponsored Train the Trainer event. Jeremiah holds a BS in Human Services with a concentration in Family and Children from The University of Phoenix. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 30,138 times.

If you’re putting together a news report, a documentary film, or gathering oral history for any kind of personal project, you’ll likely need to perform 1 or more research interviews to gather the information you need. While these interviews can be relatively informal (unless they’re being broadcast live), you’ll need to make a few preparations beforehand, including having a written list of questions to ask. Let the interviewee answer the questions as they see fit, and guide the interview so that all of your questions are adequately answered.

Laying Groundwork for an Interview

Step 1 Research the interview topic to prepare yourself before the interview.

  • For example, if you’re interviewing a local biologist about declining frog populations, read up on what types of frogs and frog predators inhabit the area, and find out how much of the frog population has died off.

Step 2 Explain the purpose of the interview at least a week beforehand.

  • If you set up the interview over the phone or via email, say something like, “Thank you for agreeing to answer a few questions. I’m mostly interested in asking you about your extensive knowledge of the publishing industry. I have about 10 questions, but I don’t think this will take more than 30 minutes.”

Step 3 Choose a setting where both you and the interviewee are comfortable.

  • If you’re conducting the interview over the phone, find a time when you and the interviewee are both free.

Step 4 Bring a video camera or voice recorder to record the interview.

  • Don’t tell yourself that you’ll remember the interview! If you don’t record the questions and answers, you’re likely to forget details.

Writing and Asking Effective Questions

Step 1 Write out 6–8 questions to ask during the interview.

  • “How did you get your start in the industry?”
  • “What’s your favorite type of book to see published?”
  • “What would you recommend for any young men or women who’d like to get into publishing?”

Step 2 Craft questions that will generate more than a yes or no answer.

  • For example, if you ask something like, “Do you think the city planners have done a good job of laying out the new downtown area?” the subject can just answer “yes” or “no.”
  • Instead, ask, “What do you think are some of the strengths and weaknesses of the ways the city planners laid out the new downtown area?”

Step 3 Structure your questions objectively and without bias.

  • For example, avoid a question like, “Isn’t it true that the publishing industry refuses to pay women as much as it pays men?”
  • Try asking instead: “What are your views on what some people perceive to be a gender pay gap in the industry?”

Step 4 Ask questions that are clear, generous, and jargon-free.

  • For example, avoid asking, “Do pay-to-print or vanity presses hurt the fiscal state of big publishing houses?”
  • Instead, ask something like, “Are there any trends within publishing that you think are harmful to the industry overall?”

Behaving During the Interview

Step 1 Obtain verbal or written permission to conduct the interview.

  • If you'd rather not ask immediately before the interview, ask the interviewee to fill out a consent form a week before the interview takes place. If the subject refuses to give their consent, you'll be unable to legally do the interview.
  • For a sample consent form, look online at: .

Step 2 Guide the interview along the sequence of questions you’ve planned.

  • If the interviewee lingers too long on a specific question, try moving things along. Say something like, “I appreciate your insights. I’d like to turn to a different topic at this point: what’s the best college major for a career in publishing?”

Step 3 Listen attentively and maintain composure as the interviewee speaks.

  • For example, even if the interviewee says something surprising like: “I think it’s good that the frogs are dying!” avoid jumping up or shouting “What!?”

Step 4 Display sensitivity and sympathy with the interviewee’s answers.

  • For example, say that the interviewee says, “I became interested in city planning after a friend was killed in a poorly-designed intersection.” It would be inappropriate to say, “So what?” or “That sucks.” Instead, say something like, “I’m sorry to hear that; it’s a real tragedy.”

Step 5 Jot down any final notes after the interview has concluded.

  • This would also be a good time to scroll through the audio or video file that you recorded and make sure that it’s all clear and audible.

Expert Q&A

  • Always speak clearly when you ask questions and speak to the interviewee, especially if you’re recording with a tape recorder. Ask the interviewee to do the same. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Give your interviewee enough time to answer each question. Don’t rush them on to answer another question while they’re still thinking of an answer for the first one. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Always interview your subjects face-to-face when it’s possible. If a face-to-face interview is impractical, a telephone interview is a decent substitute. Avoid conducting interviews over email except as a last resort. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

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Conducting Research Interviews

The interviewer mindset, quick tips for preparing, developing questions.

  • Conducting the Interview
  • Applying & Using the Interview

While the research interview is a one-on-one interaction, it's not a normal conversation. As the interviewer, it's expected that you:

  • Are knowledgeable on the topic of the interview (this may require some background research)
  • Are able to structure and guide the interview to keep it relevant but flexible
  • Are able to remember and interpret the information gained in the interview
  • Are sensitive to the interviewee's position and their rights
  • Do preliminary research on the topic and the interviewee so that you enter the interview with an understanding of what will be discussed.
  • Reflect on your goals. What should the interview accomplish? What is important to have recorded in the interview, and why is it important? How can you make the process easy for the interviewee?
  • Create a list of topics and questions to explore during the interview. This should not be a strict checklist or a script; rather, it should function as a guide to ensure that you cover all of the content and that the interview stays focused.
  • Create an open line of dialog with your interviewee before the interview so that you are comfortable with each other. This can involve going over the process, offering to answer any of their questions, verifying your time and place for the interview, etc.
  • Choose and thoroughly familiarize yourself with your recording equipment to minimize any potential issues that may arise during the actual interview.
  • Choose an interview space that is relaxed, comfortable, and quiet. You are having a conversation with your interviewee, not an interrogation.
  • If you have never interviewed before, feel free to practice for the interview with friends, family, or peers. This will make sure you are prepared for the real thing.

Characteristics of good interview questions

  • Open-ended and elicit a long response from the interviewee (can't be answered yes/no or with one word)
  • Focus on the experience of the interviewee
  • Don't lead the interviewee toward a particular response
  • Address a single issue/point (i.e. don't ask multi-part questions)

Writing interview questions

Harvard's Department of Sociology provides some steps to help guide you in the process of writing interview questions (see the link to the guide below).

  • Write down the larger research questions of the study. Outline the broad areas of knowledge that are relevant to answering these questions.
  • Develop questions within each of these major areas, shaping them to fit particular kinds of respondents. The goal here is to tap into their experiences and expertise.
  • Adjust the language of the interview according to the respondent (child, professional, etc.).
  • Take care to word questions so that respondents are motivated to answer as completely and honestly as possible.
  • Ask “how” questions rather than “why” questions to get stories of process rather than acceptable “accounts” of behavior. “How did you come to join this group . . .?”
  • Develop probes that will elicit more detailed and elaborate responses to key questions. The more detail, the better!
  • Begin the interview with a “warm-up” question—something that the respondent can answer easily and at some length (though not too long). It doesn’t have to pertain directly to what you are trying to find out (although it might), but this initial rapport-building will put you more at ease with one another and thus will make the rest of the interview flow more smoothly.
  • Think about the logical flow of the interview. What topics should come first? What follows more or less “naturally”? This may take some adjustment after several interviews.
  • Difficult or potentially embarrassing questions should be asked toward the end of the interview, when rapport has been established.
  • The last question should provide some closure for the interview, and leave the respondent feeling empowered, listened to, or otherwise glad that they talked to you.
  • Strategies for Qualitative Interviews This handy guide from Harvard's Department of Sociology provides guidance on getting into the interviewer mindset as well as developing and writing interview questions.

Depending on the nature of your assignment or research, you may or may not need to record and transcribe the interview. Review the pros and cons to determine whether recording and transcribing will be worthwhile for you.

  • Helps you to recall more details of the interview
  • Helps you to thoroughly examine the interview
  • It allows other researchers to interpret and reuse the data in new ways
  • May be off-putting to interviewees or make them feel pressured
  • Transcribing is a time-consuming process; even using a transcription software requires a detailed review of the text

"Strategies for Qualitative Interviews" (n.d.) Harvard. See link above..

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Twelve tips for conducting qualitative research interviews


  • 1 Department of Learning, Informatics, Management and Ethics, Karolinska Institutet , Stockholm , Sweden.
  • 2 Department of Education, Stockholm University , Stockholm , Sweden.
  • 3 Primary Health Care Unit, Institute of Medicine, The Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg , Gothenburg , Sweden.
  • PMID: 30261797
  • DOI: 10.1080/0142159X.2018.1497149

The qualitative research interview is an important data collection tool for a variety of methods used within the broad spectrum of medical education research. However, many medical teachers and life science researchers undergo a steep learning curve when they first encounter qualitative interviews, both in terms of new theory but also regarding new methods of inquiry and data collection. This article introduces the concept of qualitative research interviews for novice researchers within medical education, providing 12 tips for conducting qualitative research interviews.

  • Data Collection / methods
  • Interviews as Topic*
  • Qualitative Research*
  • Research Design*

Five Tips for Conducting Effective Qualitative Interviews

CHPIR El Salvador Interview

An interviewer conducts household survey in rural El Salvador for a Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research study. Photo by Hy V. Huynh.

Published March 12, 2018 under Research News

In qualitative research, in-depth interviews can be an immensely helpful investigative tool. However, the nuances of one-on-one interviewing can sometimes make it difficult to obtain useful results. Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell , associate research professor and founding director of the Evidence Lab at the Duke Global Health Institute, frequently integrates qualitative interviews into her research. In this article, she shares five interviewing tips that have served her well.

1. Convey Intent

Proeschold-Bell says it’s important for the interviewer to know the intent behind each question so that it can be clearly conveyed to the interviewee. Understanding the intent of a question, she’s found, helps interviewers decide whether or not the participant has fully answered the question. This way, they can ask follow-up questions and not leave gaps at the time of data collection. Proeschold-Bell recommends writing the intent of each question below it in italics on the interview script. 

Proeschold-Bell also suggests a few more subtle techniques for helping interviewees understand what is really being asked and soliciting pertinent and thorough responses. Asking the question in several different ways can help clarify its meaning. Follow-up prompts such as “That’s really helpful; tell me more about that,” or “Can you describe what was unpleasant about it?” can also give interviewees helpful guidance in crafting their responses.

“You can also convey intent by explaining more broadly why you’re doing the research, so interviewees will be more likely to give you relevant information,” Proeschold-Bell said. 

2. Don’t Sway the Participants

Acquiescence bias, which occurs when interviewees agree with what they think the interviewer wants to hear instead of giving their unbiased answer, can often prevent interviewees from sharing all relevant information. Research from Focus Groups: A Practical Guide for Applied Research shows that when power dynamics are present in an interview, it may be especially difficult for an interviewee to give an honest answer.

To minimize acquiescence bias, interviewers can emphasize that the participant is the expert in the subject matter of the interview.  For example, they can start the interview by saying, “I’ve asked you to talk with me today because you are an expert in what it’s like to be a patient in Eldoret.” 

Interviewers should also avoid nodding or other body language that expresses agreement with the participant. Instead, interviewers should say, “That’s very helpful,” or “Thank you for those thoughts.” Otherwise, participants might elaborate on a point that isn’t actually very important to them just because the interviewer seemed to agree.   

Proeschold-Bell also recommends that interviewers pay attention to—and record—interviewees’ non-verbal responses, which often communicate feelings and attitudes that the verbal response doesn’t capture.

3. Eliminate Interviewer Bias

Proeschold-Bell says it’s critically important to eliminate interviewer bias through the interview process. Knowing the interview guide extremely well helps an interviewer pace the interview to avoid running out of time, and adhering to the scripted wording for each question helps maintain unbiased prompting across all interviews. Additionally, if an interviewee starts answering a question that is going to be asked later, the interviewer can ask them to wait. 

It’s best to ask interview questions in a specific order because covering certain questions first may influence how interviewees think during later questions. Finally, she recommends, “Ask all questions of all respondents, even if you think you know what they’ll say. They will surprise you sometimes!”

4. Consider a “Test Run” Period

Proeschold-Bell sees her first several interviews for a study as pilots. Learning from these first few test runs and improving questions and interview techniques for future interviews can have a significant impact on the quality of the study. This means that data quality from the first few interviews may not be as strong since some of the questions change, but the data from the interviews later on will be more useful. Proeschold-Bell recommends numbering interviews chronologically to link interviews to the phase of development in which they were conducted.

5. Make Time for Post-Interview Reflection

After an interview, Proeschold-Bell recommends immediately reviewing the data. “This helps capture good ideas that may otherwise be forgotten,” she says. In fact, she suggests creating a review form with a few open-ended questions that can help capture strong reactions and flag questions that didn’t work well or questions that should be added. 

It’s also helpful, she says, to note responses that were different from those given in previous interviews. Doing this may generate ideas to analyze more carefully later on.

Looking for more research design tools? Check out Proeschold-Bell’s recent article, “ Five Tips for Designing an Effective Survey .”

Proeschold-Bell recommends that interviewers pay attention to—and record—interviewees’ non-verbal responses, which often communicate feelings and attitudes that the verbal response doesn’t capture.
  • Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell

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Qualitative research method-interviewing and observation

Shazia jamshed.

Department of Pharmacy Practice, Kulliyyah of Pharmacy, International Islamic University Malaysia, Kuantan Campus, Pahang, Malaysia

Buckley and Chiang define research methodology as “a strategy or architectural design by which the researcher maps out an approach to problem-finding or problem-solving.”[ 1 ] According to Crotty, research methodology is a comprehensive strategy ‘that silhouettes our choice and use of specific methods relating them to the anticipated outcomes,[ 2 ] but the choice of research methodology is based upon the type and features of the research problem.[ 3 ] According to Johnson et al . mixed method research is “a class of research where the researcher mixes or combines quantitative and qualitative research techniques, methods, approaches, theories and or language into a single study.[ 4 ] In order to have diverse opinions and views, qualitative findings need to be supplemented with quantitative results.[ 5 ] Therefore, these research methodologies are considered to be complementary to each other rather than incompatible to each other.[ 6 ]

Qualitative research methodology is considered to be suitable when the researcher or the investigator either investigates new field of study or intends to ascertain and theorize prominent issues.[ 6 , 7 ] There are many qualitative methods which are developed to have an in depth and extensive understanding of the issues by means of their textual interpretation and the most common types are interviewing and observation.[ 7 ]


This is the most common format of data collection in qualitative research. According to Oakley, qualitative interview is a type of framework in which the practices and standards be not only recorded, but also achieved, challenged and as well as reinforced.[ 8 ] As no research interview lacks structure[ 9 ] most of the qualitative research interviews are either semi-structured, lightly structured or in-depth.[ 9 ] Unstructured interviews are generally suggested in conducting long-term field work and allow respondents to let them express in their own ways and pace, with minimal hold on respondents’ responses.[ 10 ]

Pioneers of ethnography developed the use of unstructured interviews with local key informants that is., by collecting the data through observation and record field notes as well as to involve themselves with study participants. To be precise, unstructured interview resembles a conversation more than an interview and is always thought to be a “controlled conversation,” which is skewed towards the interests of the interviewer.[ 11 ] Non-directive interviews, form of unstructured interviews are aimed to gather in-depth information and usually do not have pre-planned set of questions.[ 11 ] Another type of the unstructured interview is the focused interview in which the interviewer is well aware of the respondent and in times of deviating away from the main issue the interviewer generally refocuses the respondent towards key subject.[ 11 ] Another type of the unstructured interview is an informal, conversational interview, based on unplanned set of questions that are generated instantaneously during the interview.[ 11 ]

In contrast, semi-structured interviews are those in-depth interviews where the respondents have to answer preset open-ended questions and thus are widely employed by different healthcare professionals in their research. Semi-structured, in-depth interviews are utilized extensively as interviewing format possibly with an individual or sometimes even with a group.[ 6 ] These types of interviews are conducted once only, with an individual or with a group and generally cover the duration of 30 min to more than an hour.[ 12 ] Semi-structured interviews are based on semi-structured interview guide, which is a schematic presentation of questions or topics and need to be explored by the interviewer.[ 12 ] To achieve optimum use of interview time, interview guides serve the useful purpose of exploring many respondents more systematically and comprehensively as well as to keep the interview focused on the desired line of action.[ 12 ] The questions in the interview guide comprise of the core question and many associated questions related to the central question, which in turn, improve further through pilot testing of the interview guide.[ 7 ] In order to have the interview data captured more effectively, recording of the interviews is considered an appropriate choice but sometimes a matter of controversy among the researcher and the respondent. Hand written notes during the interview are relatively unreliable, and the researcher might miss some key points. The recording of the interview makes it easier for the researcher to focus on the interview content and the verbal prompts and thus enables the transcriptionist to generate “verbatim transcript” of the interview.

Similarly, in focus groups, invited groups of people are interviewed in a discussion setting in the presence of the session moderator and generally these discussions last for 90 min.[ 7 ] Like every research technique having its own merits and demerits, group discussions have some intrinsic worth of expressing the opinions openly by the participants. On the contrary in these types of discussion settings, limited issues can be focused, and this may lead to the generation of fewer initiatives and suggestions about research topic.


Observation is a type of qualitative research method which not only included participant's observation, but also covered ethnography and research work in the field. In the observational research design, multiple study sites are involved. Observational data can be integrated as auxiliary or confirmatory research.[ 11 ]

Research can be visualized and perceived as painstaking methodical efforts to examine, investigate as well as restructure the realities, theories and applications. Research methods reflect the approach to tackling the research problem. Depending upon the need, research method could be either an amalgam of both qualitative and quantitative or qualitative or quantitative independently. By adopting qualitative methodology, a prospective researcher is going to fine-tune the pre-conceived notions as well as extrapolate the thought process, analyzing and estimating the issues from an in-depth perspective. This could be carried out by one-to-one interviews or as issue-directed discussions. Observational methods are, sometimes, supplemental means for corroborating research findings.

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Conducting an interview postgraduate study skills.

Interviews provide a qualitative method of gathering evidence, data or information. Responses are not usually expressed in numerical terms, as might be the case with questionnaires.

If you're planning to carry out interviews as part of a research project, the first things to consider are who you will interview, what kind of information you want to obtain, and the type of interview that will help you to do that.

Unstructured interview . The interviewer uses at most an 'aide memoir' - notes to jog the memory - rather than a list of questions. The interview may be like a conversation, with the interviewer responding to the interviewee and letting them speak freely.

Semi-structured interview . The interviewer has a list of questions or key points to be covered and works through them in a methodical manner. Similar questions are asked of each interviewee, although supplementary questions can be asked as appropriate. The interviewee can respond how they like and does not have to 'tick a box' with their answer.

Structured interview . The interviewer asks the interviewee a series of specific questions, to which a fixed range of answers are possible ('ticking a box'). This is the typical form of interview used in social survey research, and can provide quantitative data, as in a questionnaire.

When you design your project you need to take into account how many people you need to interview to make the research valid or for 'population validity'. If you are investigating a narrow but deep subject you may not need to interview that many people. You may be interested in the opinions and experiences of experts or people with direct experience - a purposive rather than a random sample.

If you are interviewing a small number of people you must make sure that the sample is as appropriate as possible to your research.

Larger samples are normally employed in quantitative research using methods such as questionnaires.

Preparing an interview guide

When preparing an interview guide you need to keep in mind the following points.

  • Make sure you introduce yourself and explain the aim of the interview. Also adhere to academic ethics by making sure the interviewee is fully aware of the purpose of the research
  • Devise your questions so they help to answer your research question, and make sure all the questions are relevant
  • Try and have a sequence to your questions or topics by grouping them in themes that follow a logical sequence
  • That said, make sure that you can easily move back and forth between questions or topic areas, as your interviewee may naturally move on to another subject
  • Make sure your questions are clear and easy to understand - only use technical or academic language if you are sure your interviewee will understand what you mean
  • Do not ask leading questions. Make sure people are free to give their own, honest answers.

Kinds of question

Kvale (1996)* has identified nine types of question asked in qualitative interviews. Keep these in mind when you are composing your interview guide.

  • Introducing questions : 'Why did you...?' or 'Can you tell me about...?' Through these questions you introduce the topic.
  • Follow up questions : Through these you can elaborate on their initial answer. Questions may include: 'What did you mean...?' or 'Can you give more detail...?'
  • Probing questions : You can employ direct questioning to follow up what has been said and to get more detail. 'Do you have any examples?' or 'Could you say more about...?'
  • Specifying questions : Such as 'What happened when you said that?' or 'What did he say next?'
  • Direct questions : Questions with a yes or no answer are direct questions. You might want to leave these questions until the end so you don't lead the interviewee to answer a certain way.
  • Indirect questions : You can ask these to get the interviewee's true opinion.
  • Structuring questions : These move the interview on to the next subject. For example, 'Moving on to...'
  • Silence : Through pauses you can suggest to the interviewee that you want them to answer the question!
  • Interpreting questions : 'Do you mean that...?' or 'Is it correct that...?'

Recording the interview

In both unstructured and semi-structured interviews a method of recording the responses is required. This can be by digital recording or note taking (with the informed consent of the interviewee). In either case the interview process is a flexible one, with the emphasis on the answers given by the interviewee.

You should make sure that your interviewees have agreed to be interviewed. If they agree to be interviewed but decline to be recorded you can still go ahead with the interview, although your note taking would focus on writing down key points.


Once you have completed your interviews you will have to transcribe your notes by copying what was said into a word-processed document. Modern digital recorders allow you to download a recording onto a computer and then slow it down to a useful speed. Transcribing can take a very long time - a ten-minute interview could take one hour or more to transcribe, depending on how quickly you can type, how fast the interviewee speaks and how clear the recording is.

If you only have a short time in which to complete a research project make sure you do not over-estimate the number of people you can interview and transcribe.

Once you have completed the interview, reflect on how it went. Was there anything you could have done better? Do you need to add any questions or topic areas? Is there anything you should have explained to the interviewees?

Analysing interviews

Once you have transcribed your interview(s) you may have a lot of data. How are you going to analyse it?

Some of it won't be useful, perhaps because the interviewee didn't keep to the subject, or gave background information which is not needed.

Of the relevant information, you could pick out key points and quotes to illustrate your points. You could also code the information - essentially you could turn a qualitative interview into quantitative data. You would do this by identifying passages of text and applying labels to them to show that they are an example of a theme. For example, if you asked 20 people how they travelled to work and one of the answers given was 'by car' this would be one thematic code. 'By bike' could be another, as could 'walking', etc.

You could perhaps code car as '1' and 'bike' as '2' etc., and then add and analyse the data in a spreadsheet, thus giving you the chance to generate charts and graphs to better illustrate your answers.

You could also use a qualitative research tool such as Nvivo, a program that helps you to classify your data using codes. Alternatively, if you had a small sample you could simply create a table on a piece of paper listing how many people said 'car' and how many said 'bike'.

* Kvale S. (1996) InterViews: An Introduction to Qualitative Research Interviews, Sage Publications, California

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How to Conduct a Research Interview

how to conduct research interviews

How to conduct a research interview

Whether you're a business owner or an academic, qualitative research interviews are a great way of collecting detailed information, data, and feedback on a specific topic.

If you're a business owner, that topic might be a product you're developing or have recently launched. If you're an academic, that topic is likely to be the research question you're working on for your next paper.

In this guide you'll learn how to prepare for and structure a research interview, and how to transcribe the interview once it has ended.

Qualitative vs quantitative research

How to prepare for a research interview

How to structure your research interview, what to do after the interview, how to transcribe a qualitative research interview, what's the difference between qualitative and quantitative research.

In a nutshell, quantitative research focuses on numbers and statistics, whereas qualitative research focuses on words, meanings, and behavior.

The aim of qualitative research is to describe a topic, rather than measure it. And while quantitative research is typically carried out via surveys with close-ended questions (like yes or no questions), qualitative research usually involves interviews.

Preparation is key when it comes to ensuring you get the most possible out of your research interview. Here are five ways to prepare ahead of the interview:

1. Prepare a list of questions

Start by thinking about what you want to get from the interview, and plan your questions based on this. The beauty of qualitative interviews is that you can't predict how the respondent will answer, but have a think about the follow-up questions you could ask depending on the direction the interview takes.

The number of questions you should ask in a research interview will vary depending on the project and the type of interview you want to conduct. For an academic research interview you might have just one or two broad questions in addition to the main research question, while for business research, you might have a longer list of questions. It's a good idea to have a couple of priority questions, and then plenty of additional follow-up questions that you can ask when appropriate.

Check out our guide on how to interview someone for an article for tips on the type of questions you should ask.

2. Practice your interview techniques

Enlist a colleague or peer to help you rehearse the interview and practice your interview techniques so that you feel confident for the real thing. Focus on actively listening, and ask your peer to comment on your body language and demeanor. While running through the questions, notice if anything could be phrased in a better way, and make a note of any additional questions that crop up.

3. Choose a safe and comfortable meeting place

For face-to-face interviews, arrange a meeting place where you and the interviewee will both feel safe and comfortable. An office space feels professional, while a public place like a cafe might feel more relaxed and informal.

4. Be clear about the when, where, why and how

Make sure the person you're interviewing knows well in advance when and where the interview will take place, and how long it will last for. Research interviews commonly last between 20 minutes and half an hour, depending on the context.

Be clear about the purpose of the interview, and give your interviewee a good idea of what to expect from the session.

5. Have your recording equipment ready

Recording an interview is good practice, as it means you can focus on actively listening and asking relevant follow-up questions to ensure you get the most out of the interview - rather than taking notes. Make sure you have a laptop and a microphone at the ready, and check it's all working before you start the interview.

Once you've greeted the participant and made them feel at ease with some friendly chit chat, start by introducing yourself and explaining the purpose of the interview. If you're recording the interview, make sure you ask their permission before you hit record.

Then you can start working through your questions. How you structure the interview from this point onwards depends on exactly what you want from the interview:

You might want to work through a structured list of questions, keeping things on track throughout

You might want to work through your questions but allow for plenty of tangents to see what interesting information you can gather

Or you might want an entirely unstructured interview where you let the interviewee speak freely

However you choose to structure the interview, make sure you actively listen and allow the interviewee plenty of time to respond to each question. Don't be afraid of silence, as this can allow the respondent time to reflect, which might provide you with additional insight.

Show respect for interviewee's time by keeping to the agreed timeframe, and end by asking them if they have any questions or anything they'd like to add. Thank them for their time and explain how and when you will follow up, if necessary.

Soon after the interview is finished, it's a good idea to transcribe the recording and start your analysis while the information is fresh in your mind. Make a note of key points, quotes, findings and recommendations, and use insights from each interview you conduct to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of future interviews. You might want to adjust your questions slightly or allow a little more time for the next interview.

How does transcribing an interview help with your research?

Save yourself from having to take notes while the interview is in progress

Easily search for key sections and themes, and jump to important parts of the interview

Copy and paste verbatim quotes from your academic transcriptions directly into your reports

Refer back to your written notes as and when you need to

Transcribing an interview by hand is a long and time-consuming process, so consider saving yourself precious time by using an automated transcription tool like Transcribe.

Simply upload the audio file to the Transcribe app or online editor , and you'll get an automated transcription in a matter of minutes.

Take a look at our guide on how to transcribe an interview for extra guidance.

Written By Katie Garrett

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How to...conduct a walking interview


Hall, L and Pitches, C (2023) How to...conduct a walking interview. Documentation. Centre for Cultural Value, University of Leeds.

Do you or your organisation use interviews for research or evaluation? Written by Lauren Hall and Dr Ceri Pitches, this guide offers practical advice on using walking interviews and how this research methodology may help you gain deeper insights from participants.

This guide also features a case study, where researcher Lauren Hall reflects on her experience working on the Compass Live Art project as part of the Centre for Cultural Value’s Collaborate programme, interviewing participants through a series of walks in Leeds.

In line with the academic literature, we speak throughout this guide about “walking interviews”. However, it is important to state that the key notion in this methodology is around movement, not specifically walking, and therefore can be used with disabled people, including wheelchair users.

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How to Use Voice of Customer Research for Stronger Brand Messaging

What exactly is Voice of Customer Research? (… And why do we bother with it?)

Conducting interviews, sending surveys, mining testimonials and combing through social media – all adds up to hours (and sometimes hours and hours!) spent poking around behind the scenes. And not a single moment of it making a direct sale or even a pitch! 

In business, we quantify the value of an initiative by correlating efforts directly to sales, which means seldom is it possible to demonstrate and defend the direct value of VOC research. Don’t make the mistake of being misled by misleading metrics: a solid VOC strategy is critical to increasing sales because of the foundation it lays and the opportunities it unlocks. There will be no clear formula tying it to your marketing ROI, but the results will be impossible to argue. 

I see it all the time: too many businesses assume that the quality of their product speaks for itself. There is a common assumption that since how you talk about your product is just a few words here and there, spending too much effort describing what it is, what it does, and who it does it for, is a waste of time.

This is a false assumption, because subpar products outperform much higher quality ones all the time. 

Imagine you have a problem, and you’re looking to invest in a solution. You visit a site that uses lackluster language that follows a pattern of “We do [this thing] for you”. But they’re not talking about the problem the same way you do. The words they’re using don’t elicit any emotion in you. No emotion means the buying decision is not triggered. 

Then you visit a second site that is talking about the outcome you want, using the exact same language you use to talk about your own problem! 

You are going to pick that 2nd one, the one that speaks your language, even if that first one is ultimately a better fit. Humans make buying decisions with emotion and justify those decisions with logic. Uncovering Voice of Customer (VOC) is critical to stirring the right emotions at the right times.

Prospects and leads will only decide to buy when they can truly see themselves in your stuff. If the message or positioning isn’t crystal clear: that this product is meant for them , they don’t buy it, even if your product is the perfect fit for them. 

It’s been t-o-u-g-h to be in business the past few years. Volatile markets, civil unrest, wars, these all affect the way buyers and business owners alike behave. Everyone is feeling burnt out on numerous fronts. Even though your business exists to make sales, and selling more is the lifeblood of your operations, the idea of “selling” just might not feel good right now. But rest easy, because the secret is your true audience WANTS to be sold to. They have a problem, they want it fixed, and they need someone to step up and fix it for them, no matter what’s going on in the world around them. They are happy to pay for the products and services they need! What they’re burnt out on is being sold on, talked into, the things that aren’t right for them. 

Voice of customer research is all about getting to know your perfect fit audience on a more intimate level, learning how to speak their language. Once you achieve that, selling becomes unnecessary. Voice of customer data mining can turn your sales process into something more like matchmaking: you know who you’re speaking to, you know what they need, and you know how to speak about your product in ways that speak directly to them in words and phrases they themselves use.  

So what are the best practices and most effective voice of customer methodologies? Let this article serve as your introduction to voice of customer techniques and your go-to guide on voice of customer strategies. 

What is VOC research?

Voice of customer (VOC) research is a specialized data mining technique. That sounds technical, but it isn’t. VOC research is simply a process of knowing where to find opportunities to observe your best fit customers and leads in the wild, where they speak normally and naturally about their struggles, desires, fears. And then knowing what to do with that information. 

There is value in getting to be the objective observer, gathering unspoiled data on what they want, why they buy, and, just as important, why they don’t buy. 

When you prioritize finding this kind of information, it unlocks a whole new world where you get to know your audience on a deeper, more intimate level. A world where you forge more meaningful connections with the audience you exist to serve through brand positioning and messaging that resonates with them.  

Many market research experts tout customer interviews as the gold standard for voice of customer techniques, but it’s not the only way, and sometimes, it’s not even the best way.

Sometimes a survey will be a better choice. Using surveys means the subject has more time to think about their answers without the added pressure of being in a two-way conversation.

Sometimes just devoting some time to reading what people have to say is the best choice. People write reviews and testimonials from an emotional place, making them a great resource for the most natural language the audience uses directly tied to your product or service. 

Combing through social media comments and threads is like being a fly on the wall in their natural habitat.

Hit reply campaigns are like having a conversation with a friend in a familiar place (there is no more intimate place on the internet than our inbox, and that’s the whole point of email marketing: to build relationships in that familiar place). We reveal things when we’re comfortable in that way, things that could be valuable to you in your positioning and messaging. 

Read on to learn more about which voice of customer research techniques are right to use and under what circumstances. 

Getting the Interview

Interviews are great, but they’re not without their drawbacks. 

Interviewing is an in depth process typically requiring higher budgets and significant investments of time to properly coordinate, conduct, and process the results into usable data. 

Luckily there are tools available to help you speed up parts of the process. One of my personal favorites is Fireflies, an AI assistant that attends your meetings on autopilot, automating the process of creating notes, transcripts and summaries. Not only do you not miss anything, it takes a fraction of the time to analyze your interviews. Fireflies.AI is also less expensive and more accurate than just about any other solution I have found.  

Sometimes the interview just isn’t the best way to get the information you’re looking for.  

What people say when they’re asked directly typically isn’t well aligned with what they’re actually thinking or needing. 

Asking them directly leaves your data vulnerable to an array of biases, mostly subconscious on the part of your subject. There’s a certain amount of pressure when being asked in a formal setting, and sometimes interviewees are motivated to give the answers they think you want over answers that represent what they actually think and feel. 

Reciprocity is a strong psychological principle; when someone does something for us, we are compelled to return the favor. This can affect the quality of the answers, since interviewees might worry their own thoughts/ideas are not good enough, and offer you answers that don’t truly represent them but that they feel are most valuable to you. You should also keep this principle in mind anytime your interview is based on an incentive for participation. They are subconsciously motivated to give you answers that they perceive match the value of the incentive you’ve offered them.   

So once you’ve determined interviews are the right technique, how many interviews should you conduct? The answer of course is “it depends”. 

How much time do you have to work with to set them up and conduct them? How niche is your product/service? What’s the price point? What’s the time and energy investment required of the user of your product? What resources do you have allocated to market research? 

When budgets aren’t an issue, you have a very niche offer at a high price point, interviews are probably a good idea. 

Other times, surveys, review/testimonial mining, and observing social media comments can be more effective ways to uncover relevant voice of customer data. A basic principle of scientific research is that a subject who knows it’s being observed is inherently changed, which skews the data and taints the results. Luckily market research is both art and science. 

Potential Questions to Ask in an Interview

How does our product (or service) help you meet your goal of _______? Depending on how well you know your customer before the interview, the more specific you can get about their specific circumstances, the more relevant their answers will be. 

What situation would mean you don’t need our product/service anymore? You get information on what success looks like to them, because they’re prompted to forward thinking about what it looks like when they’ve achieved their desired outcome using your product. 

How would you explain our product/service in a single sentence? Prompting them to get really specific and succinct. Asking variations of this question can reveal that the way you see your product and the way they see it is very different, and that’s okay! Because now you have an opportunity to adjust your positioning and/or messaging to resonate more directly with them, and other customers just like them.  

Voice of customer case studies 

Let’s talk about real world success stories for a minute. Terrateam, an infrastructure management company, uncovered the hidden nuggets of voice of customer primarily through a combination of interviews and review mining. 

Since they offer a technically complex product (people who understand infrastructure management are best suited to talk to other people who know about infrastructure management!) it made sense for them to take the lead on their own interviews. They knew how to ask the right questions and how to answer appropriately to elicit more information. 

The interview process revealed their audience wasn’t who they thought! Before the interviews, they believed they were competing with a free product that required a ton of labor, but what they were actually competing with was a paid product. This changed their positioning and put them on a whole new level. 

Better identifying the market they were speaking to allowed us to reposition the brand messaging to better speak to that market. We also learned all about things the people in their market love, things they objected to, what they wanted, needed and also potential opportunities to improve in ways that would respond directly to those needs and wants.  

Later on, through review mining, we unlocked super cool, and totally unexpected, language that brought the brand to life in a whole new way! A way that could only come from the voice of the actual users! It would never have occurred to, or even made sense to, an outsider – no matter how creative a thinker. 

Review Mining

Reviews are the perfect place to find simplified and succinct language, so you can “come to life” in the eyes of your audience, in ways even the most seasoned writers, strategists and marketers couldn’t come up with. 

Going back to the case of the infrastructure management brand Terrateam, review mining revealed a true jewel in the crown of their brand messaging: 

“We make infrastructure management manageable” 

Which sounds wonky and repetitive to those of us on the outside, but resonates deeply with the target market. We know this for certain because those words came directly from a customer review! 

But which reviews should you mine, and where do you find them?

Your Own Offers

A good place to start is with your own customers. Where do they typically leave public reviews, feedback and testimonials? Do they use trustpilot? Your google business page? Your social media accounts?

Mining reviews and testimonials is effective, but the best place to uncover the voice of your existing customers is to be intentional about including it as part of your offboarding process. Use your offboarding process to turn their results into a case study. Ask about what went well and what didn’t go well. And if it did go well, don’t forget to ask for the testimonial. 

Getting Engagement with Surveys

Surveys allow you to ask the exact same set of questions you would in an interview, with the ability to address a larger audience. It takes less time, money and effort on your part than does interviewing, and it eliminates the locate/identify steps of the review mining process. 

To get the most out of analyzing your survey results, you need to be skilled at reading between the lines. It’s a universal human condition to struggle to describe what we really think/need. We are constantly subconsciously correcting for biases, the ways in which we think people want us to respond, protecting our egos by making sure we sound competent and confident, even when we aren’t. In this way, the interview is more effective because you can ask follow up questions to get down to the heart of it. 

There is of course always the option of following up with your survey respondents via email to ask those deeper clarifying questions typically reserved for interviewing. 

You don’t need a big budget or fancy tech or tools or complex processes to run a highly effective survey campaign. Nicole Morton from Nicole Morton Agency shares the success behind a survey campaign she ran for her client, using  With a budget of just $600 for 10 respondents, she was able to create and direct her traffic towards a Google Form and within a matter of hours had great survey data, no muss, no fuss. 

Don’t Forget to Peak at What Your Competition is Doing

Not only is it okay to take a look at what your competition is up to, it’s a vital part of market research and essential to sales and brand strategy . Sometimes we feel uncomfortable “taking a peek”. We want to be original, we don’t want to be accused of copying or emulating. We want to stay in our lane, but staying in our lane requires us to be alert and aware of everyone on the road around us. 

Knowing what your competition does really well and what they don’t do so well allows you to position yourself in the gaps and capture opportunities to speak to parts of the market they are missing. Looking at your competition is especially important when you’re emerging into a new market or if you’re newer on the scene and your competition simply has more reviews. 

Remember, the point of voice of customer research is to uncover the ways in which your target market is speaking about their problems and the solutions they need. Checking out your competition is not just getting an idea of what they’re doing. It’s about what they’re saying, and how their audience is responding to it. You can see what they’re doing that people don’t like and use that information to avoid showing up in ways your audience doesn’t respond to. 

Where to Dig for Hidden Gems

You can get creative. Think about all the places people would naturally talk about the problems they have that your products and services exist to solve. It might be creepy to try to eavesdrop on them IRL, but you can definitely do that on social media! 

Social Media Comments

Deep diving into the comments sections on the social media apps where your market spends their downtime is the perfect place to uncover some truly beautiful voice of customer gems. My friend Jess Kelly at Scribble & Brine Copywriting & Consulting warns that this process is easy to get lost in, so better start a timer! 

Why is it such a valuable resource worth investigating? Because the things people say in comments and social media threads are typically unfiltered, unedited bits of information coming from a place of emotion (you don’t bother commenting if you don’t care, you just scroll on by). The reason messaging is such a powerful tool in sales and marketing is because our emotional brain connects with the words before our intellectual brain has had the opportunity to filter and process the meaning and order of those words. Using the same emotional language they use when their guard is down is like holding up a mirror so that they can truly see themselves in your brand, establishing trust and connection instantly in a way they can’t quite explain, but they can feel. 

When you find posts that are particularly useful, you can give it a like to boost its algo juice, while also ensuring you see more like this in the future. However, beware! Sometimes the most useful posts belong to your competitors directly, and you will want to consider carefully whether or not it’s in your best interest to “boost” it. 

“Hit reply” campaigns (in your email marketing)

Why is this particularly valuable? It’s easy, cost effective and works on numerous segments of your audience. 

New sign ups are in a perfect position to tell you how they feel both about their own problem and how they perceive your solution and your ability to provide it because it’s incredibly fresh on the top of their minds. 

You can also segment your list and ask questions about why portions of your audience didn’t buy . Then you can tag respondents as possible leads for future offers you craft specifically to fill the gaps they help you identify to better meet your audience’s needs. 

These campaigns can be tricky. How do you motivate and incentivize your new subscribers to hit reply and leave a thoughtful response? 

  • Humor! People are motivated to engage with things that tickle them, so don’t be afraid to get just a little bit silly in your wording or approach. 
  • Real talk – they’re already on your list, it’s not a first impression, people connect with sincerity and authenticity even if they don’t necessarily share that viewpoint
  • Reciprocity – if you give them something, human psych 101 tells us they’ll be compelled to do something for you in return. 

Finding Your Own Hidden Gems

Even knowing what to do and where to dig, this can still feel like a daunting task. Want to find out how we could work together to mine the perfect message and language that speaks directly to them? Schedule your consult today .

What exactly is Voice of Customer Research? (… And why do we bother with it?) Conducting interviews, sending surveys, mining testimonials and combing through social media – all adds up to hours (and sometimes hours and hours!) spent poking around behind the scenes. And not a single moment of it making a direct sale or even a pitch!  In business, we quantify the value of an initiative by correlating efforts directly to sales, which means seldom is it possible to demonstrate and defend the direct value of VOC research. Don’t make the mistake of being misled by misleading metrics: a […]

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  • in memoriam: english professor and author carol gelderman


In memoriam, in memoriam: english professor and author carol gelderman.

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Carol Gelderman, former English professor and author known for her prolific writings, died March 8, 2024.

Carol Gelderman, former English professor and author known for her prolific writings, died March 8, 2024.

Carol Gelderman, an esteemed English professor at the University of New Orleans for more than three decades and the author of 10 books—including a biography of Henry Ford—died on March 8. She was 89.

After earning a doctorate from Northwestern University, Gelderman joined the University in 1972 and remained on the English faculty until her retirement in 2005. She was such a prolific and skilled writer that in 1993 she was named a Distinguished Professor, a prestigious title held by only five faculty members at any one time.  

Her 10 published books included two textbooks about business and professional writing. A passionate student of American politics, she analyzed presidential speech writing in “All the President’s Words: The Bully Pulpit and the Creation of the Virtual Presidency.” But Gelderman was best known for her biographies. A review of “Henry Ford: The Wayward Capitalist” made the cover of Business Week . Her biography of the writer Mary McCarthy, “Mary McCarthy: A Life,” was reviewed on the front page of the New York Times Book Review.    

She continued to write throughout her life. “A Free Man of Color and His Hotel: Race, Reconstruction, and the Role of the Federal Government,” was published in 2012 when she was 77. In it, she examined the life of James Wormley, a free Black man who owned and operated the most luxurious hotel in Washington, D.C., from the 1850s until the 1880s.

In his eulogy of Gelderman, former UNO provost, English professor and founder of the Creative Writing Workshop Rick Barton called her a “scholar and acclaimed writer, a cherished teacher, a caring colleague and a loyal friend.”

“Despite all the long hours of intellectual effort it took to research and write these amazingly dissimilar 10 books, Carol shined in other aspects of her life as well,” Barton said. “We all know university faculty who publish important books and articles but don’t bother to put the same effort into their teaching duties. Not Carol Gelderman. She was as devoted a teacher as she was a scholar.”

Before receiving master’s and doctoral degrees from Northwestern, Gelderman worked for the American Embassy in London for a year and in public television in Chicago, conducting on-air interviews of visiting VIPs for a show called “Profile Chicago.” In addition to her 10 books, she wrote dozens of articles on topics as varied as theatre, biography, politics and mutual funds.

“Carol Gelderman was a vivacious, gregarious and affable person. She had friends all over New Orleans,” Barton said. “Carol was beloved by so many of us because she never practiced self-aggrandizement. She was a literary star, but you’d never learn about that from her.”

Colleagues and friends are planning to hold a memorial for Gelderman on UNO’s campus. Those details are incomplete.

The 33rd annual Dr. Ivan Miestchovich Economic Outlook & Real Estate Forecast Seminar for New Orleans will be held April 9 at the University of New Orleans.

UNO Presents the 2024 Dr. Ivan Miestchovich Economic Outlook & Real Estate Forecast Seminar on April 9

The University of New Orleans and Bernhard announced the completion of a state-of-the-art solar array on the University’s campus Wednesday, March 27, which will offset UNO’s annual electric consumption.

University of New Orleans Partners With Bernhard to Launch Innovative Solar Array Installation

UNO doctoral student Krystyn Dupree accepts her student research grant award at the American College Counseling Association’s annual meeting.

Doctoral Student Wins Counseling Association Research Grant


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    how to conduct research interviews

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