Investigatorbased interviews

Barbara Maughan
King's College London

As all trainee researchers know, one key dimension on which research interviews vary is their degree of structure. At one end of the spectrum lies the structured interview, commonly used in largescale surveys, where question wording and ordering are closely specified, and response formats predetermined. The advantages of this approach for quantitative studies are wellknown: researchers can feel confident that the same 'stimulus' has been presented to all study participants, interviewer effects are minimised, and, provided the questions are wellworded, good reliability should be relatively easy to achieve. At the opposite end and typically designed for quite different ends is the unstructured interview. Here the prime emphasis is on understanding the meaning of events or experiences to the respondent, rather than assuming that they are known in advance; to achieve this questioning is openended and flexible, and the interview will characteristically unfold in quite different ways in different contexts.