In-depth interviews

From 'Inside the Researchers’ Toolbox’ Professional Lecture Series by Dr Josephine Muir.

Click here for an audio version of this resource.

When should I use in-depth interviews?

Key features:

An in-depth interview can be defined as an interaction between two people; a "conversation" where the researcher:

“… attempts to understand the world from the subjects' point of view, to unfold the meaning of peoples' experiences, to uncover their lived world prior to scientific explanations." (Kvale, 1996).


  • Rich data
  • Credibility
  • Flexibility
  • Adaptability
  • Original


  • Potentially intrusive
  • Interpersonal dynamics
  • Time consuming
  • Subjective

DIY In-depth Interviews

Click on each of the headings below for more information.

How to conduct In-depth interviews, an academic perspective

Kvale (1996) seven steps:

  1. thematising
  2. designing
  3. interviewing
  4. transcribing
  5. analysing
  6. verifying
  7. reporting

How to conduct In-depth interviews, a practitioners perspective

  • First contact – snail mail vs email
  • Letterhead – first impressions count!
  • What do you want?
  • Supervisor’s contact details – phone and email.
  • Workplace supervisor or authorisation.
  • Face-to-face? Phone? Video conferencing?
  • Accessible and available target group?

Asking the right questions

  • Choose your words carefully
  • One concept per question
  • Bias


Patton, M. Q. (1990). Qualitative Evaluation and Research Methods (2nd ed.). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

  • Confidentiality, informed consent, risk assessment, promises and reciprocity, interviewer mental health

Help! I’m drowning in data!

Coding (Berkowitz, 1997)

  • What patterns or common themes emerge?
  • Are there any deviations from these patterns? If so, how can these be explained?
  • What interesting ‘stories’ emerge from the responses?
  • Do any of these patterns suggest that additional data may be needed?
  • Do the patterns that emerge corroborate the findings of any corresponding qualitative analyses that have been conducted? If not, what might explain these discrepancies?


Kvale, S. (1996). Inter Views: An Introduction to Qualitative Research Interviewing. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Rubin, H.J. & Rubin, I.S. (2004). Qualitative Interviewing: The Art of Hearing Data (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Denzin, N.K., & Y. S. Lincoln (ed). 1998. The Landscape of Qualitative Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Minichello, V., R. Aroni, E. Timewell and L. Alexander. 1995. In-depth Interviewing: Principles, Techniques, Analysis. Melbourne: Longman.