6R. Depth interviews

A. Preparation

  • Familiarise yourself with relevant literature as well as identifying the focal phenomenon of interest.
    • Require conformity to group norms
  • Never interject your own opinions or beliefs
  • Thought should be given to interviewing adequate cross-section of the group to be studied


  • Get recorder with fresh batteries and a spare
    • A spare recorder is a good idea too
  • Optional: a video camera
  • Get the necessary consent forms

B. Interviews as conversations

  • differs from survey research which has fixed questions

  • a depth interview uses protocol

Protocol: A list topics instead of a list of questions.
  • Start with a general question to understand the interviewee’s background (past experiences, education, etc.)

  • Never initiall disclose the study’s specific focus

    • “tell me about” question would not be appropriate early in the interview

I. Guidelines for conducting interviews

  1. Funnel questions in a sequence from general to specific
  2. Do not ask why
    • Asking people why puts them on the defensive and makes them feel they need to justify and rationally explain their actions (even though it was not rationally motivated)
  3. Do not ask yes/no questions
    • The depth interview is intended to obtain deep reflections and thick descriptions, it is important to be relaxed and relax the interviewee.
  4. Use probes judiciously and strategically to elicit elaboration
  5. Try to circle back to earlier topics for greater depth
  6. Be willing to explore tangential topics that the interviewee brings up, but use good judgement about when to guide the interview back on-topic