Researchers collect data in different forms and analyze it to get results. There are basically two types of data collection methods in research – primary and secondary. Secondary data is data which has already been collected and is readily available from various sources. Primary data is that which is collected by the researcher first-hand for the study. Interviews are an important source of primary data. An academic transcription service provider can capture all details of these interactions, which is crucial to derive the data required for research. Let’s take a look at how research interviews are conducted and the benefits they offer.

What Research Interviews Involve

Research interviews are a qualitative data collection technique that involves the interviewer and the interviewee or respondent. Interviews are used by researchers when they require specific information that can be collected only by meeting and personally contacting a sample from their target population. Field surveys are one of the most effective ways to collect primary data through interviews. Questions and responses can be oral or written depending about the requirement and situation.

Interviews can be carried out by telephone, in-person or face-to-face via video. Today, there are effective online survey tools to conduct field research surveys. Video conferencing interviews supported by research transcription services are a feasible option for qualitative research as they allow for targeting a larger group of participants and don’t require travel. Video conferencing platforms such as Zoom offer researchers a cost-effective and convenient alternative to in-person interviews.

Research Interview Methods

Interviews allow researchers to get in-depth information about the topic in question from a sample of their target audience. For instance, in oral history projects, interviews are used to understand people’s testimony about their own lived experiences in a particular period in the past or get information about a historically relevant event that they witnessed.

There are different types of interview methods:

  • Direct and indirect: In a direct interview, questions are asked in a way that the respondent understands the goal of the question and the anticipated response. In indirect interviews, the responder is unaware of the purpose of the questions or the intended response.
  • Structured and unstructured: Researchers use structured interviews with closed-ended questions in survey research. Structured interviews have a standardized format. As all the respondents are asked the same questions, they maintain uniformity in all the sessions. On the other hand, unstructured interviews offer flexibility as questions are not set, and can be modified based on the respondent’s answers. These interviews are more informal and allow the interviewer to get a better understanding of a situation. Researchers may also use semi-structured interviews which offer some flexibility while following basic research guidelines.
  • Focus group interviews: This involves interviewing a selected group of people together to gain an understanding of a particular social issue. Conducting focus group interviews require a lot of skill to establish rapport with each respondent and manage and elicit responses from the each person.

Advantages of Interviews for Research

  • Allows the researcher to obtain original and unique data directly from a source based on the study’s requirements
  • Structured interviews can reach a large section of the target population
  • Allows samples to be controlled
  • Easy to carry out and obtain reliable results quickly
  • Interviews provide a better response than mailed questionnaires, which are useful only for literate respondents
  • Asking accurate questions can provide direct and in-depth information about a subject or situation
  • Offers flexibility to use different techniques to get the desired information, for e.g., by establishing rapport with the respondents, researchers conducting unstructured interviews can obtain more details without much effort
  • Can detect non-response, spontaneity, and biased responses
  • Provides non-verbal clues or body language of the interviewee
  • In personal face-to-face interviews, questions can be modified to obtain the required information
  • Online interviews for research comes with unique benefits:
    • Allow for high quality and in-depth qualitative interviews when in person interviewing is not possible
    • Are cost-effective – you can get quality data without having to travel to interview the participants
    • Participants can interact from the comfort of their home
    • Save time for both interviewer and respondent
    • Can generate more truthful responses as respondents are more comfortable and less nervous than in an in-person interview

Preparing the right kind of interview questions for successful primary data collection in qualitative research is important for success. Here are some tips:

  • Ask open-ended questions so that respondents can use their own terms when answering them, and not simply ‘yes’ or ‘no’
  • Keep questions as neutral as possible – don’t use judgemental words that can influence answers. For instance,Instead of: Is X or Y a better policy?

    Say: How effective are X and Y policies at solving the problem?

  • Ask one question at a time
  • Make sure questions are worded clearly and easy to understand
  • Be careful when asking ‘why’ questions as they may make respondents answer defensively

Research interviews need to be transcribed to capture the content for analysis. You need to decide on the level of detail required – whether to include all spoken words and non-verbal dimensions or whether you need a non-verbatim transcript. This would of course depend on your research goals. If you are hiring professional transcription services, choose a company that specializes in academic transcription. To obtain quality results, provide specific instructions about your research purposes and associated transcription requirements.