The interview method of data collection involves the researcher conducting direct personal interviews in order to collect data from the respondents. Since the researcher must personally interview each subject, this method is suitable only when dealing with a small group of respondents.
The interview method is not a suitable way to collect data for extensive studies where the region of investigation is very wide. For instance, suppose we want to obtain data of many people spread over different cities. In such cases, it would be more convenient to simply email a questionnaire to the respondents rather than conduct face to face interviews.
Advantages of Interview Method:
- The information is collected by the researcher in person and is thus more reliable than data collected through other indirect methods.
- If the respondents are confused about a question, the interviewer can provide clarifications so that the correct response is provided.
- There is a much higher response rate compared to filling out a survey form.
- An illiterate person cannot be asked to fill out a questionnaire on their own. The interview method is more suitable in this case.
- The interview method is highly suitable for dealing with issues where there might be shades of different opinion. It is not the case that every question has a mechanical YES/NO response
Disadvantages of Interview Method:
- This method is very time consuming since the researcher has to personally interview each and every subject.
- If the researcher tries to save time by hiring interviewers then the cost involved increases dramatically.
- If the interviewer is not properly trained then the data may not be reliable. The personal bias of the interviewer might affect the accuracy of the data.
- The respondent might be shy and introverted, and hence might be reluctant to answer when put on the spot by the interviewer.
- The respondent has to feel comfortable in the presence of the interviewer in order to respond frankly and truthfully. Thus the success of the interview depends on the social skill and tactfullness of the interviewer.
Examples of Interview Method:
- The interview method is widely used in political science research in order to understand the nuanced views of the population on range of sensitive and controversial issues.
- The interview method is also used when conducting research in psychology. For instance, suppose a psychologist wants to study the impact of lifestyle and eating habits on the reported happiness of subjects. the interview method is most suitable to collect data in such cases.
- The population census conducted in many countries is done using the inteview method. For example, population data of every household in India is collected via interview method once every ten years.
- A bad example to use interview data collection is when you want to obtain simple YES/NO responses. For example, if you want to collect data on the sex distribution of students in your school it is a much better idea to simply email a google form/questionnaire to all students and ask them to respond.
Types of Interviews when Collecting Data:
1. Structured Interviews
The structured interview method of data collection involves preparing a list of questions well in advance of the scheduled interview. The goal of this is to ensure that the exact same questions are asked to each subject. There is no scope for the interviewer to ask questions of their own in response to the answers received from the subject.
2. Semi-Structured Interviews
The semi-structured method of data collection involves preparing a few questions beforehand. But in contrast to structured interviews, the interviewers have a free hand to ask additional questions on the basis of the answer received. For example, suppose the interviewer asks a subject about his source of income and the subject responds that he has two jobs. The interviewer can then ask the subject to separately mention the income received from each of the two jobs.
3. Unstructured Interviews
In an unstructured interview, no questions are prepared in advance. The interviewer only has a general idea of what questions to ask. The interview is conducted in conversational form with a lot of back and forth between the interviewer and the subject.