Meet Gemma Molyneux, who uses interviews to explore girls' consumption of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths).

Meet Lottie Rhodes, who uses phone interviews to understand period poverty and and menstrual inequality.

As the most frequently used method in social research, interviews are often used in an exploratory manner to capture participants’ lived experience and their choices, opinions, attitudes, feelings, and perceptions about a social phenomenon. Hence, contrary to quantitative surveys, the aim of interviews is not ‘fact-finding’ or getting answers to questions of how much or how many, but rather to generate an understanding or interpretation of how and why.

There are different types of interviews, ranging from conversational, naturalistic, narrative, biographical, life history, ethnographic, feministic interviews (see Edwards & Holland, 2013). Interviews are conducted by asking a sequence of questions and probing participants about their reflective answers. Depending on the reliance on scripted questions, interviews can be designed as structured, semi-structured or unstructured interviews. The structured interview, typically used in the form of open-ended questions in surveys, is at the quantitative end of the scale, while semi-structured and unstructured interviews are characterised by increasing flexibility and lack of structure. Interviews can occur as a face-to-face conversation, online, or in written form via email or letters.

The sample in qualitative interview studies is typically selected through ‘theoretical sampling’, i.e., participants are chosen based on their experience with the phenomenon, not randomly. Interviews can generate different data types and various forms of knowledge, including narratives, accounts, fronts, stories, and myths. Each form of knowledge requires a different kind of analysis, including thematic analysis, discourse analysis, or quantifying data and counting them. Because interviews generate retrospectively constructed narratives, such data is sometimes perceived as fallible, incomplete, and partial because such accounts constitute the present version of participants life told within a specific temporal, sociality, and situational context and based on participants’ present perspective and emotions. What and how a participant recalls experiences during the interview is subject to recall errors such as omissions, dating error, biased retrieval. Also, new experiences, changing social contexts, or different audiences might result in a changeable storyline. Knowledge generated through interviews can be verified by applying triangulation. 



Dominika Kwasnicka, Stephan U. Dombrowski, Martin White & Falko F. Sniehotta (2019) ‘It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle’: a longitudinal, data-prompted interview study of weight loss maintenance, Psychology & Health, 34:8, 963-982, DOI: 10.1080/08870446.2019.1579913

  • Semi-structured, data-prompted interviews were conducted with twelve overweight adult participants to advance understanding of the individual and environmental factors underpinning weight loss maintenance.

Jackie Leach Scully, Sarah Banks, Robert Song & Jackie Haq (2017) Experiences of faith group members using new reproductive and genetic technologies: A qualitative interview study, Human Fertility, 20:1, 22-29, DOI: 10.1080/14647273.2016.1243816

  • This paper explores the experiences of members of faith groups deciding whether or not to use new reproductive or genetic technologies 

Mosimann, U.P., Collerton, D., Dudley, R., Meyer, T.D., Graham, G., Dean, J.L., Bearn, D., Killen, A., Dickinson, L., Clarke, M.P. and McKeith, I.G. (2008), A semi‐structured interview to assess visual hallucinations in older people. Int. J. Geriat. Psychiatry, 23: 712-718.

  • The study aims to develop a reliable, valid, semi‐structured interview for identifying and assessing visual hallucinations in older people with eye disease and cognitive impairment.

Rousseau, N., Steele, J., May, C. and Exley, C. (2014), ‘Your whole life is lived through your teeth’: biographical disruption and experiences of tooth loss and replacement. Sociol Health Illn, 36: 462-476.

  • The study applies semi‐structured qualitative interviews with 39 men and women to understand their experience and meaning of tooth loss and replacement.


Reissner SC (2018) Interactional challenges and researcher reflexivity: Mapping and analysing conversational space. European Management Review 15(2): 205-2019 (DOI: 10.1111/emre.12111).

Reissner SC and Whittle A (2021) Interview-based research in management and organisation studies: Making sense of the plurality of methodological practices and presentational styles, Qualitative Research in Organizations & Management, early cite (DOI: 10.1108/QROM-03-2021-2118)