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A short structured interview or a longer unstructured format? Find out which interview style will best measure your impact .

What is an interview?

An interview is often referred to as ‘a conversation with a purpose’.

The interviewer will be looking for responses to specific questions on a particular topic or range of topics, and a record is kept of responses.

You can hold interviews with an individual or with a group. Group interviews may be undertaken when there are limited resources or when an individual response is less important.

Interviews can be done over the phone or face-to-face in a formal or less formal way.

Why use an interview?

Short, structured interviews are useful to get consistent data from a pre-determined sample. Longer, semi-structured interviews can provide detailed information around complex and sensitive issues.

Interviews are often used to gain a deeper understanding of information than may be gathered through other methods such as questionnaires

They may also be used to complement participatory tools – for example, to explore visual feedback, which may need further discussion and interpretation.


Different interview structures can be combined. You may have a small set of specific questions to ask everyone and a number of topic areas which can be explored more flexibly.

Short, structured interviews may be completed in 10 to 15 minutes, while semi-structured or unstructured interviews could last between one and two hours.

Structured interviews

In a structured interview, questions are asked in a set order and with exact wording.

This type of interview can be used for surveys, and interviewers are given detailed instructions on how to ask the questions. Most often questions are closed, with respondents choosing answers from fixed responses, but some open-ended questions may be included.

Semi-structured interviews

A semi-structured interview follows a less rigid format, with open-ended questions designed to draw out more qualitative information. Questions do not have to follow a pre-determined sequence, and the interviewer can explore the answers in greater depth to probe and follow up answers.

Unstructured interviews

These are sometimes called depth interviews. Unstructured interviews are flexible and can be tailored to the individual and lead to greater understanding of the respondent. Different areas of information are potentially covered in different interviews.

Learn more

Page last edited Dec 16, 2016

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