Qualitative Interviews: Unlocking the Hidden treasures of Participant perspectives

Qualitative interviews are the cornerstone of research methods used in anthropology, linguistics, and other fields in the humanities and social sciences.

They’re also quite useful to those conducting research in business or the STEM fields, but that’s less common than you might think; even though qualitative interviews have been around since the 1940s, they don’t get as much attention as other data collection tools.

Qualitative interviews can be expensive (because so much time goes into them), but they have proven to be worth it: interviewees can give you rich, insightful information that you would never get any other way.

Definition of qualitative interviewing

Qualitative interviewing is a research method used by researchers to gather information from participants in order to gain insight into their perspectives and experiences. The primary goal of qualitative interviewing is to understand the experiences and perspectives of the interviewee as deeply as possible, without the imposition of researcher assumptions or preconceived ideas.

Qualitative interviews are often semi-structured or unstructured and allow the interviewer to explore topics with the interviewee in an open-ended way.

Unlike quantitative interviews, which are typically limited in scope, the purpose of qualitative interviewing is to gain a deeper understanding of a participant’s experience and perspective through the use of open-ended questions. Interviewers ask broad, open-ended questions that encourage participants to give detailed and elaborate responses.

Qualitative interviews are conversational in nature and may be conducted in person or virtually via telephone or video conference.

In addition to collecting data about a particular topic or issue, qualitative interviews also provide valuable information about how individuals view and interpret certain situations or topics. This helps researchers gain a better understanding of how participants experience and interact with the world around them. By gaining this understanding, researchers can then more effectively design interventions, programs, and policies that address the needs of specific communities.

For example, after conducting qualitative interviews with young people who had experienced homelessness, one researcher discovered a lack of access to computers among her interviewees. With this knowledge, she was able to develop a mobile computer program that was delivered by a local youth centre and helped youth find employment opportunities online.

Qualitative interviewing has been used in many different areas including sociology, anthropology, education policy analysis, public health research and more. Qualitative interviewing is especially useful for studies focused on exploring emerging topics or issues within complex contexts where there is no established framework or current paradigm for conducting research.

In these cases, the goal of qualitative interviewers becomes providing rich insights about individual perspectives instead of building generalizable conclusions based on statistical evidence alone.qualitative interviews

Key characteristics of qualitative interviews

Qualitative interviews are an important tool used by researchers in various fields to better understand their participants’ perspectives. While quantitative research offers numerical results that can be more easily compared and evaluated, qualitative research provides a much deeper level of insight that is unique to the person being interviewed.

There are several key characteristics that make qualitative interviews valuable for research purposes.
First, qualitative interviews tend to be more open-ended than quantitative studies, giving participants the freedom to express themselves without feeling constrained by predetermined questions. This allows the researcher to gain access to an individual’s true thoughts and feelings that they may not have otherwise been able to articulate.

Second, qualitative interviews often take place in a one-on-one setting, creating an intimate atmosphere between the interviewer and the participant. This helps to establish trust between the two parties, which can make participants feel more comfortable in discussing sensitive topics or experiences.

Third, the results of qualitative interviews often provide more comprehensive and detailed information than those obtained through quantitative methods. This can be invaluable in providing the researcher with a comprehensive understanding of a particular topic or phenomenon.

Finally, qualitative interviews are often conducted over a longer period of time than quantitative studies. This allows the researcher to develop a greater understanding of the individual and to explore a wide range of topics or issues related to the research topic.

Qualitative interviews are an invaluable tool for researchers looking to gain access to participants’ perspectives and beliefs on a given topic or issue. By utilizing these key characteristics, researchers can unlock the hidden treasures of participant perspectives and gain a deeper understanding of their findings.

Qualitative interviews offer personal narratives, complex layers of meaning, and new insights into human behaviour–all things that cannot be captured through traditional quantitative methods.

Types of qualitative interviews

Qualitative interviews are a powerful research tool for researchers as they allow them to gain insight into how participants view their experiences.

There are several different types of qualitative interviews that researchers can use to gain access to the hidden treasures of participants’ perspectives.

The most common type of qualitative interview is the semi-structured interview.

This type of interview is used when the researcher has some idea about what topics will be discussed in advance but leaves room for spontaneous dialogue. The interviewee is given some guiding questions, but the interviewer can also ask follow-up questions and explore topics that arise during the conversation.

Narrative interviews are another type of qualitative interview. This type of interview allows participants to tell their stories in their own words. Interviewees are encouraged to elaborate on their experiences and provide details that may not be initially included in their answers.

By allowing participants to tell their stories, researchers can gain a more holistic understanding of their experiences.

In-depth interviews are also a popular qualitative interview technique.

This type of interview is characterized by more in-depth probing and active exploration of the participants’ thoughts and feelings. Interviewers can use a combination of open-ended and directed questions to gain a more detailed understanding of the participant’s views and experiences.

Another type of qualitative interview is a focus group interview.

In this type of interview, multiple participants are interviewed together in order to provide a more dynamic environment for the discussion. Participants can share their views with each other and bounce ideas off one another. Focus groups are great for getting multiple perspectives on an issue and can lead to new insights that individual interviews may not have uncovered.

Finally, there is the one-on-one interview. This type of interview is often used when researchers need to understand the unique experience of an individual participant. By interviewing participants one-on-one, researchers can gain access to personal stories and detailed accounts that might not be accessible in a group setting.

Uses of qualitative interviews in research

Qualitative interviews are an invaluable tool for researchers in many different fields. They provide researchers with an opportunity to gain an in-depth understanding of people’s views and experiences by allowing them to explore topics in greater detail.

Qualitative interviews are particularly useful for capturing the perspectives of hard-to-reach groups or those who are less likely to take part in more traditional research methods such as surveys.

One of the primary uses of qualitative interviews is to explore how people think, feel, and act in relation to a particular issue or topic. This type of research method can be used to study beliefs and values, as well as attitudes and behaviours, and how these might differ depending on the respondent’s background or context.

Qualitative interviews also allow researchers to ask open-ended questions and probe further, meaning they are able to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the respondent’s opinion.

Qualitative interviews also offer the researcher the ability to capture information that might otherwise remain hidden. Through probing questions and follow-up comments, researchers can uncover deeper meanings and nuances that can help explain why certain behaviours or opinions are held by a group of people. This can provide valuable insights into wider social phenomena.

Qualitative interviews can also be used to measure changes over time.

By returning to the same group of respondents at regular intervals, researchers can track any changes in attitudes or beliefs and explore the factors behind them. This could be particularly useful for exploring how a particular policy intervention has impacted a group of people or understanding how a certain event has shaped people’s opinions.

Finally, qualitative interviews are an effective way to collect data from diverse groups.

As these types of interviews involve direct communication with participants, it allows researchers to gain access to a range of voices that may not be accessible through other means. This is especially beneficial when attempting to understand complex issues or looking at specific minorities and underrepresented groups.

Overall, qualitative interviews offer many advantages for researchers looking to gain a better understanding of an issue or population. By providing a platform for rich dialogue and exploration, they offer valuable insight into the perspectives of participants that cannot be captured using other research methods.

Advantages and disadvantages of qualitative interviews


Why is a qualitative interview important?

Qualitative interviews are a valuable tool for researchers seeking to gain insight into the opinions, thoughts, and feelings of participants. By engaging in deep conversations with participants, researchers can collect information that would otherwise remain hidden. However, there are certain advantages and disadvantages to this approach that should be taken into account when deciding whether to use qualitative interviews for research

Another advantage of qualitative interviews is that they allow researchers to explore topics in greater depth than might be possible with other methods. Through probing conversations, researchers can uncover details about participants’ experiences and beliefs that would not necessarily be revealed through surveys or focus groups.

As such, qualitative interviews provide an opportunity to gain insight into the lived realities of participants.

Disadvantages of Qualitative Interviews

One potential disadvantage of qualitative interviews is that they are heavily reliant on the skill of the interviewer. If the researcher is not skilled in asking the right questions or creating a comfortable atmosphere for participants, they may not obtain the desired information from the interview. As such, it is important for researchers to have adequate training before attempting qualitative interviews.

Additionally, qualitative interviews can be subject to bias due to the researcher’s preconceptions about the topic. While this is an issue for any form of research, it is particularly problematic with qualitative interviews as the researcher may subconsciously prompt participants in a certain direction.

What are examples of qualitative interview questions?

The right questions can unlock valuable insights into the study topic, which can be used to shape further research or inform policy decisions.

When designing qualitative interview questions, it is important to consider the type of information you want to gather from participants.

Questions should be framed in an open-ended manner so as to elicit detailed and descriptive answers.

Below are some examples of qualitative interview questions:

  •  What were the main challenges you faced during this experience?
  •  How did you feel about this situation when it was happening?
  • What were your biggest worries during the process?
  •  What did you learn from this experience?
  •  Could you describe a time when you had to make a difficult decision related to this issue?
  • What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out with this process?
  •  What do you think are the most important factors to consider when dealing with this issue?
  • Are there any strategies or techniques that have been particularly successful in addressing this issue?
  •  What have been your biggest successes related to this issue?
  • What have been your biggest disappointments or frustrations related to this issue?

Asking these types of questions will help researchers gain a deeper understanding of participants’ experiences, providing a more complete and accurate picture of the research topic.

What should you not do in a qualitative interview?

When conducting a qualitative interview, it is important to remember to treat your participants with respect and to be mindful of the questions you ask. Asking questions that are too broad, too narrow, too personal, or too probing can put your participants in an uncomfortable position and can lead to unreliable data.

One of the worst things you can do in a qualitative interview is to ask leading questions. This type of question implies the answer you want your participant to give, instead of allowing them to express their own thoughts and ideas freely.

For example, instead of asking Do you think climate change is bad?, try asking an open-ended question like What are your thoughts on climate change?.

Another mistake to avoid in a qualitative interview is asking questions that are too vague or broad. Such questions may cause confusion and frustration for participants, leading to unreliable responses. Instead, focus on asking more specific and targeted questions that allow your participants to provide detailed answers.

Finally, when interviewing someone, it is important to respect their boundaries and not ask overly personal questions.

Asking intrusive questions about a person’s beliefs, opinions, or lifestyle choices can put them in an uncomfortable position and make them feel uncomfortable sharing their thoughts. It is best to focus on open-ended, non-threatening questions that allow your participants to express themselves freely.

By avoiding these common mistakes and taking the time to craft thoughtful questions, you will be able to gain meaningful insights from your qualitative interviews.


The qualitative Interview is undoubtedly a powerful research technique that has the potential to provide researchers with unique insights into the thoughts and feelings of research participants.

By allowing participants to express their own views and experiences, the Qualitative Interview can give researchers an intimate understanding of their research topic that they may not have been able to obtain through other methods The Qualitative Interview also offers access to respondents who would be difficult or impossible for other researchers to reach, including those without internet access or literacy skills.

Furthermore, interviews are a cost-effective data collection strategy as interviewers require less training than surveyors and field workers.

Finally, qualitative interviews are often less expensive than quantitative surveys because there is no need for expensive equipment such as laptops or mobile phones (though this depends on how much time you spend interviewing).

Author: Kate B

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