Qualitative research & evaluation methods:

In-depth interviews

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.

re:search newsletter

More info

Keep in touch. Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter, re:search, and be the first to know about our reports, articles, professional dialogues, and more.

Our blog. Your comments. Jump in.

March 14, 2014 | Nicole Baltazar

Multiculturalism is key for creating inclusive arts experiences

 »

Last month, Coca-Cola aired its now-famous Super Bowl ad depicting people from various racial, ethnic, and cultural groups singing “America the Beautiful” together in different languages. Among the instant outpouring of polarized reactions to this ad rang much praise for its depiction of a multicultural America. Yet the ad provoked a slew of negative responses as well. Many of the ad’s detractors questioned whether this multicultural America could ever feel as cohesive as an America whose citizens speak a common language, and therefore have taken great strides toward assimilating into a common culture.

More »

In practice...

In-depth interviews (IDIs) can be conducted with any audience whose opinions, thoughts and feelings you need to understand. For example...

  • education program attendees at an art museum
  • donors to a symphony
  • alumni of a university about their feelings of connectedness
  • botanical garden members and donors about their membership benefits
  • admittees to a graduate program about why they decided to attend a different university
  • zoo visitors about their conservation attitudes

...and many other cultural and educational audiences.