A structured interview involves tight control over the format of questions and answers. It is like a questionnaire that is administered face-to-face with a respondent. The researcher has a predetermined list of questions. Each respondent is faced with identical questions. The choice of alternative answers is restricted to a predetermined list.
This type of interview is rigidly standardized and formal. Structured interviews are often associated with social surveys where researchers are trying to collect large volumes of data from a wide range of respondents
In a semi-structured interview, the interviewer also has a clear list of issues to be addressed and questions to be answered.
There is some flexibility in the order of the topics. This type of interviewee is given the chance to develop his ideas and speak more widely on the issues raised by the researcher.
The answers are open-ended and more emphasis is on the interviewee elaborating points of interest.
In the case of an unstructured interview, emphasis is placed on the interviewee’s thoughts.
The role of the researcher is to be as unintuitive as possible.
The researcher introduces a theme or topic and then lets the interviewee develop his or her ideas and pursue his or her train of thought.
Allowing interviewees to speak their minds is a better way of discovering things about complex issues. It gives an opportunity for in-depth investigations.
This is a common form of a semi-structured or unstructured interview.
It involves a meeting between one researcher and one informant. It is easy to arrange this type of interview.
It helps the researcher to locate specific ideas with specific people.
It is also easy to control the situation in the part of the interviewer.
In the case of group interviews, more than one informant is involved. The numbers involved normally about four to six people.
Here you may think that it is difficult to get people together to discuss matters on one occasion and how many voices can contribute to the discussion during any one interview.
But the crucial thing to bear in mind here is that a group interview is not an opportunity for the researcher to question a sequence of individuals, taking turns around a table.
‘Group’ is crucial here, because it tells us that those present in the interview will interact with one another and that the discussion will operate at the level of the group. They can present a wide range of information and varied viewpoints.