In-depth interviews are qualitative research methods that involve interviewing a small group of respondents to learn about their perspectives on a specific subject (Denscombe, 2014 p. 15). However, interviews are commonplace in daily life, from classrooms and workplaces to health care facilities. They aid in gaining a better understanding of a topic or, in this case, an individual. They are the primary sources of data in science that are tested in the hypothesis to develop the basis of the claim or the study’s conclusion. They’re handy for creating the story behind participants’ experience and in the pursuance of the in-depth information around the topic of investigation. Interviews in research are among the most challenging and rewarding forms of measurement thus form an important aspect of the studies. They require adaptability, sensitivity, ability to stay within the confinements of the designed protocol among other worthy notable factors (Haahr et al., 2014 p. 9). Therefore, this essay will seek to establish the importance of interviewing process in the research, key ethical considerations and other critical aspects of the interviewing in the research methodology.
At first glance, the process of the interview seems simple and direct. The interviewing process integrates a conversation aimed at obtaining desired information (Gubrium and Holstein, 2002 p. 2). The interviewer makes the first move and contacts the interviewee then schedules the event, designates the location, sets out the ground rules and begins the process of the interview itself. The designed questions elicit the desired justifications in a more or less foreseen format until the interviewer is certified (Berg, 2004, p. 197). The respondent offers key answers that are intended to shed more light on the field of study. As such, the respondent is not obliged or required to ask questions but rather answer only the only questions asked. In this light, the respondent becomes a passive actor whose only role is to facilitate the acquisition of knowledge through offering the correct answers depending on the inquiries.
In the interview, the respondents are particularly useful for getting the story behind a participant’s experiences (Schoenberger, 1991 p. 185). The interviewer can pursue in-depth data around the topic of study. The interview further postulates a useful follow-up to certain respondents to questionnaires such further investigation on the responses to the previous questions. Evidently, interviews are significant factors of research that allows further inquiry of knowledge and issues. Additionally, through interviews, the people are involved in the process of the study, and they own the course.
Interviews take three different formats: structured, semi-structured and unstructured formats (Opdenakker, 2006, p. 4). These compositions are employed across the board in the search for knowledge or understanding in the particular area of concern. They guide the interviewer or the respondent in responding to questions in a certain way. The decision to choose any format is dependent on different factors such as the desired outcomes or results, the willingness of the participants, and logistics involved in conducting the interview. For example, it is only viable to conduct an interview using email or any other form of technology when using a population that is out of reach either because they are far away from you or there are no means to access those people physically such as when the respondents are in a different region or country.
A structured interview is made up of a series of pre-determined questions that all respondents answer in the same order (Harling et al., 2017 p. 125). Since the data collected is structured, the analysis is usually straightforward compared to other forms of interviews. The researcher can compare and contrast the opinions and responses provided. Thus, it is a common approach applied by many researchers when expounding on some studies.
The unstructured interviews are usually not very reliable because questions are not prepared in advance before the interview. The interview is conducted in a very casual or informal way which makes it unreliable. These kind of interviews are in most cases biased because it is not possible to remember all the questions asked to all the participants. Thus, when comparing the answers, it is impossible to offer conclusions that are unbiased. There is no point of reference to compare and contrasts responses from the different participants who were involved in the interview.
Semi-structured interviews are composed of both the components of structured and unstructured interviews (Pini, 2005 p. 210). The interviewer prepares some questions prior to research that he or she expects the respondents to answer. Additionally, more questions are asked that are not in the previous record of questions. They can be random or selected as a way of seeking further clarification on the subject matter.
Advantages of the structured interviews
Interviews are different from questionnaires since they involve social interaction between the interviewer and the respondents (Sala, Burton and Knies, 2012 p. 430). Therefore, depending on the kind of interview the researcher engages. In the structured, the advantage is that is fairly quick to conduct thereby making it possible to have more interviews within a short period. A large sample can be obtained using this method; thus, the large amount of data makes it possible to generalize ideas because of the large population of the respondents. Additionally, this saves time for the research as opposed to using other mechanisms of obtaining information.
Another advantage of the structured interviews is that they are easy to replicate in that they depend on closed questions that are easy to quantify. This makes the structured interviews easy to test for reliability of the information obtained from the interviewees. Essentially, research relies on the credibility of the data analyzed in coming up with the conclusion which makes the structured interview a reliable one.
Limitations of the structured interviews
One of the major setbacks of the structured interviews is that they always lacks flexibility (Kamberelis, and Dimitriadis, 2013). The researcher is limited to only questions that were previously intended, and no impromptu questions can asked during the interview. The schedule must be followed to ensure the sanity of the interview but which limits the interviewer and the respondents to earlier anticipated concerns. This might hinder the progress of finding a piece of new information that might be helpful in understanding key concepts.
Pros of the unstructured Interview
The unstructured interviews are more flexible and allow the interviewer to adapt to the situation and ask the relevant questions depending on the respondents’’ answers. Through deviating from the scheduled question, the research can seek further clarification or seek extra knowledge that will guide in making the conclusion. This flexibility is suitable in studies especially the ones emerging and demanding an extra understanding of the situation on the ground. Thus, one critical importance of the unstructured interview is its ability to cope with new challenges and offer relevant questions that offer critical solutions to the emerging issues in the research.
Additionally, unstructured interviews generate qualitative data through open questions that allow the respondents to openly talk and provide an in-depth point of view from their own perspectives (Ning, 2002 p. 718). Ideally, having the depth allows the research to focus on the understanding of the person’s understanding of the situation. Thus, unstructured interviews are insightful when handling information from a very cooperative person who is willing to provide more information in depth.
Moreover, the unstructured interviews offer and increased validity of the data collected because it gives the interviewer an opportunity to probe for deeper understanding. The interviewer has an opportunity to seek clarification and dig deeper to understand the issue at hand while steering the direction of the interview. Thus, its flexibility allows the interview to offer more insightful information that when analyzed offers a more reasonable conclusion for the research as opposed to generated data that is not questioned.
The limitations of the unstructured interviews
The limitations of the unstructured interviews range from time consumption in conducting and analyzing the qualitative data to employing and training interviewers which is a tedious and costly exercise when compared to using structured questionnaires (Walker et al., 2015 p. 473). For example, it is not clear how deep an interviewer should dig without crossing the boundaries of ethics in the process. Therefore, despite the positive attributes there numerous challenges associated with the unstructured interviews.
Ethics consideration in interviews
Owing to the fact that interviews involve human participants, it is critical for the research projects to follow rigorously ethical considerations. Cohen et al. (2007), retaliates that interviews are intrusions of interviewee’s private lives with regards to the sensitivity of the questions asked; hence, requires a high standard of ethical considerations must be maintained at all levels of the interviews process. One such ethical considerations is that the participants should be informed and their consent sort before the interview process begins. However, an ethical dilemma might emerge with regard to openness and intimacy of the interview situation since the respondent might disclose information that he or she might regret in future. The future interaction between the interviewer and the respondent might end up to become quasi-therapeutic relationship for which most research might not be familiar with in response. As such, the researcher should seek to protect all the participants and avoid causing them any harm through disclosing the confidential information of the participants. Additionally, the researcher should remind the interviewers that their participation is fully dependent on their free will and they can opt out at will anytime. Lastly, appropriate consent forms should be provided and be designated to the participants and if need be translated to their language of preferences and explanations be provided to ensure that the participants are conversant and willing to participate in the process.
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