Chapter 13: Interviews

Activity 1: Seek out available web material

If you conduct an internet search on the use of interviews in research, you will find lots of websites. We suggest that you look to see what is ‘out there’. The following site is particularly interesting as it looks at ways interviews can be conducted by email, text messaging and telephone, in addition to face-to-face interviewing. The pros and cons are discussed:

Opdenakke, R. (2006) ‘Advantages and disadvantages of four interview techniques in qualitative research’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 7(4): 11. (accessed 12-03-2022)

Activity 2

Which type of interview is best suited for the following situations? Choose one option for each scenario:

1. 150 parents are interviewed as part of a large longitudinal study where the data are designed to be converted into numerical data.

  • Photo elicitation
  • Structured interview
  • Semi-structured interview
  • Focus group

Answer: Structured interview

2. A small group of parents are interviewed to find out their opinions about the settling in process for new children in a private nursery.

  • Photo elicitation
  • Structured interview
  • Semi-structured interview
  • Focus group

Answer: Focus group

3. A group of 4 5-year-olds being interviewed to find out which foods they consider to be healthy or unhealthy.

  • Photo elicitation
  • Structured interview
  • Semi-structured interview
  • Focus group

Answer: Photo elicitation

4. A practitioner is interviewed about her feelings around professional identity and the value placed upon the profession by others.

  • Photo elicitation
  • Structured interview
  • Semi-structured interview
  • Focus group

Answer: Semi-structured interview

Activity 3: Case Study

Janine is a student working 2 days a week in an early years setting. She works with the babies. The nursery is considering altering the way that they babies are cared for, from a task-based approach where staff are assigned jobs on a Rota system, to a key person approach. In the key person approach, each member of staff undertakes the complete care for 2 or 3 babies.

Details about the key person approach can be found here: (accessed 12-03-2022)

Janine plans to interview the practitioners in the baby room to find out what they perceive to be the benefits and barriers to the proposed change.

1. What is likely to be the underlying methodology for this study?

check your answer

Answer: Qualitative

2. What would be the most suitable interview method to adopt? Explain your reasoning.

check your answer

Answer: Semi-structured. Janine has a good idea of the questions she wants to ask, but will use an open format so that participants are free to respond as they want to and the interviewer is free to probe.

3. What ethical issues could be involved in this study?

check your answer

Answer: Staff may not want to reveal their opinions in case the information is reported back to the manager and seen in a negative light. Confidentiality will be a key consideration. The key person system is based upon the psychology of attachment. Individuals who have had attachment issues in the past may find the interview brings unresolved issues into the foreground. The interviewer will need to be particularly sensitive and have a strategy about how to handle such a situation in a way that does not leave the participant in distress.

Activity 4

Harper, D. (2002) ‘Talking about pictures: a case for photo elicitation’, Visual Studies, 17(1).

This is a very ‘readable’ article about photo elicitation, which gives the history behind its adoption as an interview tool and looks at some of the problems which may be encountered. The passion of the author for photo elicitation is clearly evident.

Activity 5

Sage research methods content

Access this article and complete the following actions:

Bouras, G., Mexi-Bourna, P., Bournas, N., Christodoulou, C., Daskalaki, A., Tasiopoulou, I. and Poulios, A. (2013) ‘Mothers’ expectations and other factors affecting breastfeeding at six months in Greece’, Journal of Child Health Care, 17: 387.

This article looks at a breastfeeding study which uses interviews within a positivist paradigm. The research was conducted in Greece.

Bouras et al. (2013) comment that although the World Health Organization recommends that babies should be exclusively breast fed until the age of 6 months, in Greece, as with many other countries in the minority world, it is a small minority of babies that are exclusively breast fed for this long. The article describes research designed to reveal some of the factors that influence mothers’ decisions about how to feed their babies.

  • Read through the abstract and the conclusion. This will give you a good idea of the research and help you put things in context when you read the whole article.
  • Read through the introduction. What are the advantages of breastfeeding? Despite the WHO recommendations, many mothers do not exclusively breastfeed until the age of 6 months. What factors that influence mothers’ decisions about feeding have been suggested?
  • What is the aim of the study?
  • Read through the ‘Materials and methods’ section.
  • Read through the statistical section. Don’t worry if you don’t understand statistics, you will be able to find out the results when they are discussed. The important point here is that the data from the structured interviews have been reduced to numerical data and subjected to statistical analysis. This is a quantitative analysis and suggests that the researchers are operating within a positivist paradigm.
    • Read through the discussion section and list the main findings.
    • The conclusion looks at the implications of the findings and makes suggestions to improve the numbers of mothers who exclusively breast feed until 6 months. What recommendations have been made?

Access this article and complete the following actions:

Condon, C., Rhodes, C., Warren, S., Withall, J. and Tapp, A. (2012) ‘“But is it a normal thing?” Teenage mothers’ experiences of breastfeeding promotion and support’, Health Education Journal, 72: 156.

This article looks at breastfeeding study using interviews within an interpretivist paradigm. The study by Bouras et al. (2013) looked at the factors that influence mothers’ decisions related to breastfeeding from within a positivist paradigm. Structured interviews were used and the data were reduced to numbers and subjected to statistical analysis. For comparison, we have included a UK study by Condan et al. (2012) looking at the same topic, this time using structured interviews and focus groups. The big difference in the two research studies is the way the data were analysed. In the Condon et al. study, the interviews were subjected to a qualitative analysis which aimed to uncover themes (recurrent ideas that were expressed by several participants).

  • Read through the introduction. What percentage of mothers in the UK exclusively breastfeed babies until they are 6 months of age? What is the percentage for teenage mothers? How do these statistics compare with the percentage of mothers exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months in Greece? What factors are mentioned that may influence teenage mothers’ decisions related to feeding their babies?
  • What is the aim of the study? This is formally stated in the abstract and informally stated at the end of the introduction.
  • Read through the methods section:
    • How were the participants recruited onto the study? What is ‘snowball sampling’? (This is discussed in Chapter 1 of the book.)
    • Semi-structured interviews and focus groups were used. What was the process of choosing the topics to be included in the interviews? You may note that participants in this qualitative study had more of an input into the planning of the research than in the Bouras et al. (2013) study, for example, which was more quantitative in nature?
    • How were the interviews recorded and analysed? You may find Chapter 18 in the book helpful.
  • Look at the results section. What are the main findings? You will see that there are considerable differences in the way the results of qualitative studies are reported compared to that of quantitative studies (as in the Bouras et al. study). In qualitative studies, the ‘voices’ of the participants are prioritized, with each theme illustrated by an appropriate quote from an interviewee.
  • Look at the discussion section. Why do the authors consider that the findings may not be representative of wider populations? This is generally a feature of qualitative research. Do you consider that this detracts from the value of this study? The discussion looks at the implications of the findings. What change in policy/practice is suggested?
  • After reading both breastfeeding studies, make a list of the advantages and disadvantages of qualitative and quantitative research. Chapters 4 and 5 of the book will be helpful here.