Dissertation Research Interview Designs

How your dissertation research interview goes depends on whether the interview is structured, semi-structured or unstructured. Which method you choose depends on what you want to find out, who you’re talking to and your own personal style. In the following table you can see some of the features and some of the advantages and disadvantages of the different approaches to interviewing.

Features of Different Kinds of Interviews
Structured Semi-structured Unstructured
Uses direct and specific questions only Some key questions planned, with allowance for other issues to be raised Free-flowing discussion; no fixed agenda
Specific order of questions Indicative order of questions, but okay to depart from the order No specific order for questions
The focus on how many people make the same points rather than individual views Supplementary questions are offered to collate people’s different viewpoints, but all are expected to answer the main questions The interviewer is seeking depth of response and follows the interests of the interviewee
Must follow fixed schedule Can leave out some questions as appropriate Difficult to replicate as follows interests of interviewee and these will differ from person to person
Rather rigid style Relaxed style Conversational

When you’re deciding which of the interview styles is best for you, you also need to take into account whether the style of interview is going to affect your note-taking or transcribing when you’re doing your data analysis after the interview.

It’s possible that an unstructured interview wanders so widely that it’s going to be more difficult to analyse. Or a highly structured interview, although giving you the necessary data, may not allow for illustrative examples or richness of response.

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