A semi-structured interview is a qualitative method of inquiry that combines a pre-determined set of open questions (questions that prompt discussion) with the opportunity for the interviewer to explore particular themes or responses further.
A semi-structured interview does not limit respondents to a set of pre-determined answers (unlike a structured questionnaire).
Semi-structured interviews are used to understand how interventions work and how they could be improved. It also allows respondents to discuss and raise issues that you may not have considered.
|Provides valuable information from context of participants (and stakeholder) experiences||Can be time consuming to collect and analyse data|
|Use of pre-determined questions provides uniformity||Requires some level of training or practice in order to prevent interviewer suggesting answers|
Semi-structured (Qualitative) Interview Checklist
The following information provides a checklist of what you need to consider in planning and conducting a qualitative interview. It is important to remember that a qualitative interview is not the same as delivering a questionnaire face-to-face. It rather uses open-ended questions to prompt respondents to think, express values and provide answers in their words.
|Prepare for the interview||Make sure that you are clear as to what information you want to obtain. It is important that you are clear as to who you want to speak to, how you will collect the information (recording, notes etc)|
|Inform the respondent about the reason for your questions||It is important, and ethically important, to be open and transparent with the interviewee as to why you are wanting to speak to them, and how the information will be used. If recording the interview, it is important that you gain consent. Depending on your organisation’s policies, you may need to obtain written consent.|
|Recording answers||Recording answers can be done through taking notes, audio-recording, or both. One of the constraints to audio-recording is whether the respondent will feel at ease answering questions. Taking notes is generally seen as less threatening, and it also keeps the interviewer involved in the process. Taking notes allows the interviewer to highlight key points to probe further, and also may make the production of the final notes and its evaluation quicker as there is no need to wade through large files of transcripts. If an audio-recording is used, it is important to make sure that it will work, and that transcription software is available.|
|Develop a rapport with the respondent||Obtaining meaningful information from a respondent will be easier if they are comfortable opening up to the interviewer. This can be done by asking non-probing questions such as how they are going, commenting on their garden and asking them if they spend much time gardening etc.|
|Ask questions that lead detailed answers||
It is important that you phrase questions in a way that gets respondents to provide detailed answers, rather than simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answers.
Examples of questions include:
It is good to have a set of questions at hand, but the interviewer needs to also be prepared to expand or probe on the pre-determined questions as the need arises. This is the essence of qualitative interviews.
|When to end an interview||Deciding when to end an interview may depend on a number of factors. For example, the interviewer may feel that they have exhausted their questions, and that they are no longer getting new information, or if the respondent seems tired or has other commitments to attend to. A good practice is for the interviewer to summarise the key points that they feel the respondent has provided, as this provides the respondent with a final chance to expand or clarify any points. It is important to finally thank the respondent for their time, and provide them with the interviewer’s contact details. Depending on circumstances, it may also be worth letting the respondent know how they can obtain the final evaluation report, as this will provide them with a sense of ownership of the material that they have shared.|
Analysing and making sense of the data
|Ensure that you organise and manage your responses||
It is important to have a good data collection and management process in order to be able to store, retrieve and analyse the data. You should consider allocating unique identifiers to the respondents and their transcripts or notes into a spreadsheet. Refer to the data collection and analysis template.
Enter the respondent’s details, and consider developing codes to categorise respondents by demographic or knowledge/attitude traits to help future data analysis.
|Identify and interpreting common, recurrent and emergent themes||Once all the interviews have been transcribed or the notes written up, the interviewer can review the data in order to identify common, recurrent, or emergent themes. It is advisable to have a second person also review the transcripts or notes to bring a fresh perspective as this may confirm the themes, lead to new themes, or discussion as to the interpretation of the information. This can also be where you discard information that is not relevant to the questions you need to answer. Identify relevant themes and their codes in the data collection template.|
|Entering responses and coding the data||Enter the responses into the data collection template. Responses can be entered based on the question number or question identifier. It is best to enter one theme per line to help coding, especially if respondents had both positive and negative responses to a question. In order to analyse the data you have collected, you will need to code the responses based on themes. You may have broad themes (eg. workshops), or sub-categories within themes (eg. workshop speaker, workshop handouts). You may also want to code responses into whether they were positive or negative with regards to the project.|
|Analysing patterns amongst themes||Look to see if there are similar traits between respondents who present the same themes. This can be done by sorting the columns by question number, or by respondent or response codes. For example, you may want to see if there are demographic (age, sex, household size, income etc) or pre-existing knowledge and attitude traits that lead to themes recurring. Analysing patterns allows the evaluation to move from a more descriptive role to an analysing role.|
|Present your evaluation||Present the results of your analysis by identifying patterns, what this means for the project, and what can be done next to improve or build upon the responses. It is good to add quotes from respondents to support your analysis.|