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How to Conduct Interviews in Qualitative Research: Interview Guidelines for Qualitative Research


Dec 31, 2019

How to Conduct an Interview for Qualitative Research

RevBlogMarket ResearchHow to Conduct Interviews in Qualitative Research: Interview Guidelines for Qualitative Research

Qualitative research interviews are depth interviews. They elicit detailed feedback from your leads and customers. Unstructured interviews reveal why people react in a certain way or make certain decisions. According to The Hartford, qualitative research provides an anecdotal look into your business. That provides an important form of data.

Why Your Business Should Use a Qualitative Interview Process

Qualitative research helps business owners:

  • Identify customer needs
  • Clarify marketing messages
  • Generate ideas for improvements of a product
  • Decide to extend a line or brand
  • Gain perspective on how a product fits into a customer’s lifestyle

How Is Conducting Qualitative Research & Quantitative Research Different?

Quantitative research concerns measurable quantities and numbers. It involves close-ended questions. Answer possibilities include yes or no, true or false, or various set choices. Qualitative research is descriptive and concerned with understanding behavior. It invites people to tell their stories in their own words.

Examples of Qualitative Research

Qualitative research helps researchers understand the social reality of individuals, groups and cultures. Qualitative research for businesses involves understanding consumer behavior. It can involve ethnographic techniques, including participant observation and field research. It also includes phenomenology, understanding life experiences using written or recorded narratives. Qualitative research also includes in-depth interviews.

What Is a Qualitative Interview?

A qualitative interview is a more personal form of research compared to questionnaires. The interviewer can probe or ask follow-up research questions of the interview participant. In some cases, subjects may start to interview the interviewer. This fosters deep discussion of the interview topic.

Why Are Interview Techniques in Qualitative Research Effective?

Qualitative research interviews help you explain, understand and explore opinions, behavior and experiences. Qualitative research can provide insights into a phenomenon. Qualitative research discoveries can be further researched and analyzed to influence business decisions.

How Are Interviews in Qualitative Research Formatted?

Qualitative research interviews may take place one-on-one or in focus groups. Learn how to run a successful focus group. Interviews span around 30 to 90 minutes. The interview can take place in person, over the phone or through video chat. The interviewer collects information about opinions, behavior, attitudes, feelings, preferences and knowledge.

How to Conduct Interviews in Qualitative Research

1. Determine your goal.

2. Target people to interview.

3. Design interview questions.

4. Prep the interview.

5. Conduct the interview.

6. Transcribe and analyze the interview.

7. Optimize and evolve your interview guide.

The First Step in Qualitative Research: Determine Your Goal

Determine what you want to study:

  • A current or potential product, service or brand positioning
  • Strengths and weaknesses in products
  • Purchasing decisions
  • Reactions to advertising or marketing campaigns
  • Usability of a website or other interactive services
  • Perceptions about the company, brand or product
  • Reactions to packaging and design

How Can You Decide a Goal for a Qualitative Interview?

Have your business team ask the following questions: 

  • What information do you want to get?
  • Why do you want to pursue in-depth information about this research topic?
  • Why is a qualitative interview process the best solution for this research?
  • How will you use qualitative data to improve your business? 

How to Determine the Right Interview Participants

When looking for people to talk to for a qualitative interview, consider your goal. If you want to expand a product line, interview existing customers about their needs. If you’re researching marketing, ask new customers how they found your business. Match interview subjects with the goal of the interview.

How to Design Interview Questions for Qualitative Research

When you’re creating an interview guide, it’s a good idea to: 

  • Plan structured interviews with open ended questions.
  • Avoid leading questions.
  • Create interview questions that are clear and easy to understand.
  • Make research questions focused but flexible.
  • Design questions that align with data collection and data analysis goals.

Tips for Preparing a Qualitative Research Interview

Preparation improves interview effectiveness. Tips to prepare include:

  • Create an interview guide. The guide should include questions, question intent and answer-based paths to take.
  • Choose a setting where the subject feels comfortable.
  • Build rapport with interview participants.
  • Have a reliable way to record the interview.
  • Rehearse the interview first.

Environmental Concerns for Qualitative Interviews

The setting of a qualitative interview also affects the quality of the interview. Consider the needs of the subject. For example, if you’re interviewing a teenager, a formal boardroom may not be the best setting. Some cultures may not value direct eye contact. An interview that’s non-face-to-face may be better.

How to Make Qualitative Interview Subjects Comfortable

For long interviews, offer water and breaks to participants. Be polite and respectful when interacting with interview subjects. Let interview participants know the purpose of the research. Explain exactly how you’ll use their answers. Address terms of confidentiality if necessary. Thank participants after the interview and let them know what to expect next.

What Are Interview Techniques in Qualitative Research?

Qualitative research techniques include:

  • Start interviews with “get-to-know-you” questions to put the interview participant at ease.
  • Pay attention.
  • Use active listening techniques.
  • Watch for body language cues.
  • Pivot questions as needed.
  • Acknowledge emotions.
  • Avoid interrogation.
  • Ending interviews, ask subjects if they have anything to add.

What Is Active Listening in Interviews in Qualitative Research?

Active listening techniques include: 

  • Make eye contact.
  • Lean in and use body language to show you’re listening.
  • Don’t get distracted by devices.
  • Use verbal affirmation.
  • Paraphrase answers for reflection.
  • Reference earlier answers.
  • Avoid interrupting.
  • Embrace pauses.
  • Ask for clarification.
  • Pay attention in the moment.

Tips for Transcribing a Qualitative Interview

It’s best to transcribe and analyze a qualitative research interview right away. This helps you optimize future interviews. Transcribe the interview word for word. Note non-verbal interactions in your transcription. Interactions like pauses and laughter can provide deeper insights into responses.

How to Analyze a Qualitative Interview

Analyze your qualitative research data early. That way, you can identify emerging themes to shape future interviews. Consider adding these to each interview report:

  • The goal of the interview
  • Details about the interview participant
  • Questions asked, summarized responses and key findings
  • Recommendations

Relate the analysis to the goal of the qualitative research interview.

Optimize the Interview Guide for Qualitative Research

Each interview can help you improve the efficiency and effectiveness of future ones. Adjust your interview guide based on insights from each previous interview. Keep all versions of your transcriptions and interview guides with notes on them. You can reference these for future qualitative research.

Get Reliable Transcription Services for Qualitative Research Interviews

As mentioned, you should transcribe qualitative research interviews as soon as possible. There are several reasons for this.

  • You can gain insights that help you shape your interview guide. You might identify questions to add or questions to clarify.
  • Your interview participants may not be appropriate for this type of qualitative research. Finding more targeted interview subjects may be better.
  • Answers may evolve the qualitative research goal and/or data analysis.


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