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Types of interviews

  1. Informal interviews
  2. The interviewer improvises questions, adapting to the interviewee's personality and priorities. Because the interview is highly individualized and unstructured, it can elicit unanticipated information and insights. The interviewer must have a great deal of knowledge and experience in the content area and strong interpersonal skills to draw out information. Analyzing data and making comparisons is difficult because the interviewer gathers different information from each respondent.

  3. Guided interviews
  4. The interviewer begins with a list of general questions and probes but also improvises questions, adapting to the interviewee's personality and priorities. Although the interview is guided, it is still open-ended enough to provide opportunity for eliciting unanticipated information and insights. The interviewer should have the discipline to ask all the questions listed but be adaptable enough to follow fruitful lines of questioning that are unplanned. The more systematic nature of guided interviews makes data analysis more efficient while allowing for the discovery of unanticipated themes.

  5. Standardized interviews
  6. The interviewer asks the same questions in the same order of all interviewees, facilitating comparisons between respondents. Questions may be open- or close-ended (see Types of survey questions ). This approach allows for more efficient interviews and data analysis, but limits exploration of unanticipated topics or individual concerns. This may be the best choice if time and money are limited or you must rely on volunteer or inexperienced interviewers.

Additional information

Patton, M. Q. (1990). Qualitative evaluation and research methods (2nd ed.). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Page last updated: Sep 21 2011
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