Interview Method of Data Collection in Research

Interview is one of the popular methods of research data collection. The term interview can be dissected into two terms as, ‘inter’ and ‘view’. The essence of interview is that one mind tries to read the other. The interviewer tries to assess the interviewed in terms of the aspects studied or issues analyzed.

Purpose and Importance of Interview

The main purpose of interview as a tool of data collection, is to gather data extensively and intensively. As Pauline V.Young pointed out that the objectives of the interview may be exchange of ideas and experiences, eliciting of information pertaining to a very wide range of data in which the interviewee may wish to rehearse his past, define his present and canvass his future possibilities. Thus, in brief, the objectives of interviewee are  two fold:

  1. To exchange ideas and experience and
  2. To elicit information.

The importance of interview may be known through these points,

  • It is the method best suited for the assessment of personal qualities.
  • It has definite values for diagnosis of emotional problems and for therapeutic treatments.
  • It is one of the major bases upon which counseling procedures are carried out.
  • It provides information to supplement other methods of collecting data.
  • It may be used, in addition to observation, to verify information obtained through correspondence methods.

Types of Interview used in Research

There are different types of interviews used in the research data collection. An interview is either structured or unstructured, depending upon whether a formal questionnaire has bean formulated and the questions asked in a prearranged order or not. An interview is also either direct or indirect as a result of whether the purposes of the questions asked are plainly stated or intentionally disguised. Cross-classifying these two characteristics provides four different types of interviews. That is, an interview may be: (1) structured and direct, (2) unstructured and direct, (3) structured and indirect, or (4) unstructured and indirect. Types (1) and (2) are basically objective types; (3) and (4) are subjective types.

  1. Structured-Direct Interview: The usual type of interview conducted during a consumer survey to obtain descriptive information is one using a formal questionnaire consisting of non-disguised questions, a questionnaire designed to “get the facts”. If the marketing search manager of a television set manufacturer wants to find out how many and what kinds of people prefer various styles of television cabinets, for example, he may have a set of questions drawn up that asks for these facts directly. Assuming that personal interviewing is being used, each interviewer will be instructed to ask the questions in the order given on the questionnaire and to ask only those questions. The resulting interviews will be structured-direct in nature.
  2. Unstructured-Direct Interview: In the unstructured-direct method of interviewing, the interviewer is given only general instructions on the type of information desired. He is left to ask the necessary direct questions to obtain this information, using the warding and the order that seems most appropriate in the context of each interview. Unstructured-direct interviews are often used in exploratory studies. Many research projects that use a formal questionnaire for the final interviews go through an exploratory phase in which respondents are contacted and unstructured interviews are held. These interviews are useful in obtaining a clearer understanding of the problem and determining what areas should be investigated.
  3. Structured-indirect interview: In the case of structured indirect interview the questions are pre-decided and arranged in a structured way. However the purpose of the study is not revealed.
  4. Unstructured-indirect interview: In the case of unstructured indirect interview the questions aren’t pre-decided and neither the purpose of the study made known explicitly.

There are other types of interviews, like focus-group interview, depth interview, etc. All these are dealt here.

  1. Focus-Group Interviews: Perhaps the best-known and most widely used type of indirect interview is the one conducted with a focus group. A focus-group interview is one in which a group of people jointly participate in an unstructured-indirect interview. The group, usually consisting of 8 to 12 people, is generally selected purposively to include persons who have a common background or similar buying or use experience that relates to the problem to be researched. The interviewer, moderator, as he or she is more often called, attempts to focus the discussion on the problem areas in a relaxed, nondirected manner. The objective is to foster involvement and interaction among the group members during the interview will lead to spontaneous discussion and the disclosure of attitudes, opinions, information on present or prospective buying and use behavior.
  2. Focused Interviews: This is a semi-structured interview where the investigator attempts to focus the discussion on the actual effects of a given experience to which the respondents have been exposed. It takes place with the respondents known to have involved in a particular experience, e.g, seeing a particular film, viewing a particular program on TV., involved in a train/bus accident, etc. The situation is analyzed prior to the interview. An interview guide specifying topics relating to the research hypothesis used. The interview is focused on the subjective experiences of the respondent, i.e., his attitudes and emotional responses regarding the situation under study. The focused interview permits the interviewer to obtain details of personal reactions, specific emotions and the like. The merits of using this type of interview is that, it’s free from the inflexibility of formal methods, yet gives the interview a set form and insured adequate coverage of all the relevant topics. The respondent is asked for certain information, yet he has plenty of opportunity to present his views. The interviewer is also free to choose the sequence of questions and determine the extent of probing.
  3. The Third-Person Technique: The simplest way of obtaining information through indirect questioning of a respondent is to ask for the view of a neighbor, an (unnamed) associate, or some other person whose views on the subject at hand might reasonably be known. This permits the respondent to project his own views with no feeling of social pressure to give an “acceptable” answer.
  4. The Depth Interview: There is substantial use of the unstructured, informal interview in marketing research to explore the underlying predispositions, needs, desires, feelings, and emotions of the consumer toward products and services. This method of interviewing is referred to as a “depth interview”. The depth interview in marketing research may consist of either direct or indirect questions, or some combination of the two. The skilled interviewer will generally employ both types of questions, A direct, free answer question such as “What are the major reasons why you bought your iPhone? Might well be followed up, for example, with an indirect question such as “Why do you think people who own smart phones bought them?” By following leads and cues provided by respondents, phrasing questions to continue the flow and pattern of the conversation and to maintain the rapport established, the competent interviewer can explore and probe the underlying motivations of the respondent.
  5. The Personal Interview: As the name implies, the personal interview consists of an interviewer asking questions of one or more respondents in a face-to-face situation. The interviewer’s role is to get in touch with the respondent(s), ask the desired questions, and to record the answers obtained. The recording of the information obtained may be done either during or after the interview. In either case, it is a part of the interviewer’s responsibility to ensure that the content of the answers is clear and unambiguous and that it has been recorded correctly.
  6. The Telephone Interview: Telephone interviews are sometimes used in lieu of personal interviews, especially when the information must be collected quickly and inexpensively and the amount of information required is limited. The telephone interview is well suited to such research problems as determining “coincidental” viewing of television or listening to radio programmes. In this type of study, calls are placed to a sample of telephone subscribers during the time the programme is on the air. The person received the call is simply asked “Are you now watching television?” and, if so, “What programme you are watching?” Other questions such as “How often do you watch this programme?” “Who sponsors this programme?” and the like may also be asked. The result is a rapid and inexpensive measurement of audience level. Either a structured or an unstructured interview may be held. Since the amount of information sought is usually well defined, non-confidential in nature, and limited in amount, virtually all telephone interviews are structured in nature. This medium does not lend itself well to indirect interviews and has not been used for this purpose.

Credit: Research Methodology-MGU

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