Another foundation of qualitative research is the one-on-one conversation between the researcher and an individual in the target population (or sometimes a family or other small, pre-existing group). Researchers call these IDIs—in-depth interviews—or sometimes “structured interviews.”
Like focus groups, in-depth interviews are useful for exploring perceptions, understanding needs, and identifying benefits, barriers, and outcomes. Done properly, interviews are about more than what the research participant says: they’re also about how and why they say it. They allow the researcher to dig deeper and follow promising leads to unexpected insights. And like most other qualitative research methods, interviews let the participants’ own ideas and priorities shine through, ensuring that the study is genuinely responsive.
In-depth interviews are a versatile tool and are used in evaluations and research studies of all kinds. At Slover Linett, we recommend interviews when it’s important to hear individuals think out loud about a complex, idiosyncratic process (like deciding what graduate school to apply to or learning about evolution from a museum exhibit) or when the issues we’re studying may be too personal for a group discussion (such as motivations for donating at higher levels to a symphony). We also conduct interviews to follow up with survey respondents about unexplained findings in that data.
A rigorous interview study starts with a carefully-designed interview guide and a representative sampling plan. The interviews may be conducted face-to-face or by telephone (each method has its advantages) and, depending on the location and context, may last between 30 and 75 minutes. If the objective of the study is to obtain audience feedback about ideas or materials your organization is developing, the interviewer may show various options to the participant. In addition, we often use game-like exercises and other “projective” techniques to reveal important emotional dynamics between the respondent and the client organization.