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  2. Understand your audience
  3. Research methods
  4. Overview of Research Methods
  5. Interviews
  6. Planning


How to plan it?

While planning the interviews, it is important to:

  • Identify the interview’s main objectives. Defining the objectives will help determine what kinds of information should be obtained (i.e., topics to cover), the amount of structure of questions and from whom the information should be obtained.


  • Create an interview guide. This should include an outline of topics and subtopics to be covered during the interview. The guide should help develop specific areas of inquiry relevant to the purpose of the study, rather than a list of questions, assuring that all important topics will be covered, that answers are recorded and suggesting follow-up questions to ask. The guide should also include general guidelines to the interviewer on how to initiate and conclude the interview.


  • Determine the amount of structure of the interview questions and create an interview schedule if necessary. Based on the interview objectives and guide it is important to decide the amount of structure imposed on the interview questions. They can be unstructured, semistructured or highly structure. For unstructured questions the guide may suffice, however for the other to types of questions it is better to create an interview schedule. Unstructured and semistructured data is analysed through qualitative data analysis (see Analyzing section). Highly structured data collected from the appropriate number of people can be analysed statistically, allowing for comparison of responses between different individuals.



  • Re-examine questions. All questions should be evaluated, specially semistructured and highly structured questions.


  • Hire and train interviewers (if necessary). When the study requires interviewing a large sample of people, widely dispersed, it might be necessary to have a team of interviewers. If that is the case, it is important to make sure that an interviewer’s supervisor (s) is(are) hired first, so that he/she/they can assist in the interviewers hiring process and training. Both supervisor(s) and interviewers should have past experience with interviewing. The supervisor(s) should be prepared to go through as many demonstrations and role-playing exercises as necessary, to train interviewers.


  • Decide the mode of interviewing. This decision should take into account the number of interviewees and where they are localized, the resources available, the degree of structure of the interview and the time required to complete it. For instance, if the study requires interviewing a large amount of people and the interview is highly structured, telephone or email should be considered. However, if the interview is rather unstructured, face-to-face interviews are more appropriate.


  • In case of face-to-face interviews, determine where they will take place. If quality of assessment and privacy can be assured, interviews should take place when and where is most convenient for the interviewee. Interviews should take place in the same setting if: it is important to control for potential interruptions and distractions; context may bias the interviewer or influence the interviewees’ responses (e.g., desirability bias); additional tests will be administered or other standardized equipment is involved.


  • Identify and recruit the interviewees. First it is important to determine who should interview and how many interviewees are needed. These should take into account the interview objectives and the available resources. If the topic of discussion requires special expertise, experience or unique knowledge, one should make sure to select interviewees that have those characteristics. When recruiting potential interviewees, it is important to mention the goal of the interview, why this particular person was selected, how his or her information was obtained, information about incentives (if applicable), and when and where the interview will take place.


  • Practice and pilot-test the interview. These will ensure that all relevant topics are covered and that questions are clearly understood. It will also help to evaluate which routes of questioning are likely to be productive, what sort of questioning structure makes sense and the time needed to complete the interview.


  • Revise the interview guide or schedule in accord with pilot-test feedback.



Methods selection decision aid

Take this short quiz to learn what are the best 3 methods to understand your audience and answer your research question(s).