Which Type of Interview Is Most Widely Used for Data Collection in Qualitative Research?


Scott Campbell

When conducting qualitative research, one of the key steps is data collection. There are various methods available for collecting qualitative data, but one of the most widely used is the interview. Interviews provide researchers with a unique opportunity to gather rich and detailed insights from participants.

Types of Interviews

There are several types of interviews that can be used for data collection in qualitative research. Each type serves a specific purpose and has its own strengths and limitations.

1. Structured Interviews

A structured interview follows a predetermined set of questions that are asked to all participants in the same order. This type of interview allows for standardization and comparability across responses, making it easier to analyze and draw conclusions. The questions are specific and closed-ended, often requiring yes or no answers or selecting from a list of options.

2. Semi-Structured Interviews

Semi-structured interviews combine the use of predetermined questions with the flexibility to explore additional topics or follow-up on interesting points raised by participants. This type of interview allows for a more conversational approach, enabling researchers to delve deeper into participants’ experiences and perspectives.

3. Unstructured Interviews

An unstructured interview provides maximum flexibility for both the researcher and participant. There are no predetermined questions, allowing the conversation to flow naturally based on the participant’s responses.

The researcher can probe deeper into specific areas of interest or explore unexpected avenues that arise during the interview. Unstructured interviews require skilled interviewers who can effectively guide the conversation without losing focus.

Selecting an Interview Type

The choice between structured, semi-structured, or unstructured interviews depends on several factors:

  • Purpose: Consider the research objectives and the level of detail required to address the research questions.
  • Context: Evaluate the nature of the topic being studied and the familiarity of participants with the subject matter.
  • Resources: Assess available time, budget, and personnel for conducting interviews and analyzing data.

In many cases, researchers opt for a combination of interview types to gather a comprehensive understanding of the research topic. For example, they may start with structured interviews to establish a baseline understanding and follow up with semi-structured or unstructured interviews to explore specific areas in more depth.


In qualitative research, interviews are widely used for data collection due to their ability to capture rich and nuanced insights. The choice between structured, semi-structured, or unstructured interviews depends on various factors such as research objectives, topic complexity, and available resources. By selecting an appropriate interview type, researchers can gather valuable qualitative data that provides meaningful insights into their research questions.

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