Studying Sociology GCSE and Sociology A Level: 9: Qualitative Methods: 2

Studying Sociology GCSE and Sociology A Level: 9: Qualitative Methods 2 – Unstructured Interviews

Here is the 9th in our series of study blogs for those studying A level Sociology and GCSE Sociology.

Qualitative Methods: Part 2 – Unstructured Interviews

As we said in the previous blog (no. 8), qualitative methods use data that is collected in the form of words, quotations and detailed descriptions. In that blog we looked at participant observation, so here we will look at another method of qualitative data collection – unstructured interviews.

Unstructured Interviews

Unstructured interviews are like a guided conversation. There is no standardised set of questions, but the researcher will have a short list of prompts to guide the discussion.

If the researcher uses group discussion as part of their research method, they will usually use unstructured interviews.

There are advantages to this type of interview: –

  • Unstructured interviews give a more authentic picture of the issue being studied.
  • They can explore new issues and complex ideas in more detail.
  • They give a rich and detailed account of what the respondents say.
  • The researcher can rephrase the question if people don’t understand it.
  • The respondents can expand on their answers.

However, there are also disadvantages: –

  • The interviewer needs the skills to be able to open up the discussion and keep it going.
  • Unstructured interviews are often time consuming and expensive to carry out.
  • Fewer unstructured interviews are carried out so the sample size is usually smaller and therefore harder to generalise from.
  • They are not standardised, and so are difficult to replicate.
  • The interviewer effect and interview effect can also occur (see blog no.7).

In the next blog, we will look at secondary sources of data.  Qualitative and quantitative methods are both examples of primary sourses of data in that the researcher has collected the information him/herself from their surveys, observations, etc.

Tracey Jones



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