Interviews are a data collection technique where data is gathered interactively, usually one-on-one, from the participants. The goal of the interview is to understand the meaning of a phenomenon to or about the participants or for an individual account about a process or practice. Interviews can help explore a phenomenon and as a basis for a future quantitative study. Interviews can also be utilized to understand or verify the results of a prior quantitative study.

The structure the interview might take is part of the study design [BD12].

  • Structured interviews - follow a formal script of questions and answers are chosen from a predetermined set.
  • Semi-structured interviews - asks a standard set of open-ended questions
  • Conversational interviews - informal with no predetermined questions

A group interview is called a focus group.


The key data in the interview is the response of the participant. The data may be collected via notes taken during the interview and/or a recording. If a recording is made, the audio is transcribed. Annotations about behavior may be made with video recordings.

When interviewing, it can be helpful to have two researchers participate in the interview: one to lead the interview and another to take notes.


There are several things to consider when conducting interviews.


Interviews require a time investment in the interview itself and later in the transcription and analysis of the data. Additionally, multiple researcher may be involved.


When interviewing a participant, the researcher should consider the goals of the study and provide guidance on the degree of disclosure that the participant should make. For example, if the interview asks about others on a team, the interviewee may be requested not to use names.


Before interviewing a participant, there may be some type or pre- or post-interview survey, questionnaire, or activity. Ensure that all materials needed for the interview, including recording medium are set up for the interview. Since interviews can be in person, over the phone, or in an online call, there are lots of possible ways to record the interview.

To help with recording notes, create a form with the questions that are asked to help with quickly taking the notes. Give participants identifiers so you can identify the participant quickly. And distinguish between participant responses and your observations.

Pilot Study & Practice

Run a pilot study to refine and practice the interview protocol before running the actual study.


As the interviewer, you should engage with the participant. Pay attention to what they are saying; listen more than you speak. Also, don’t appear bored!

Prepare for possible difficult interviewees. Have a process for how you might handle challenging sessions.


The phrasing of questions and the way they are asked can lead to bias in the interview. Keep questions neutral, and phrase them in a straightforward, clear, and non-threatening way. Questions should not be leading to a specific type of answer.

Focus Groups

Ensure that all focus group participants have the opportunity to engage in the discussion. A benefit of focus groups is that you can learn more about a topic in depth from several people (keep the number to fewer than 10) and a comment from one participant may lead to interesting insights from others. However, dominant personalities may crowd out other views or opinions. The key is appropriate moderation.

Previous submodule:
Next submodule: