Convergent interviewing

A convergent interview is a type of interview intended to explore issues widely through a combination of unstructured interviews and a maximum diversity sample.

This description is taken from Convergent interviewing.  Session 8 of Areol - action research and evaluation on line (Dick, 2002):

"Choosing a good sample is important.  For reasons I've mentioned elsewhere in this program I prefer a maximum diversity sample.  I like to have all interests, including minority interests, represented.  I often add to the sample as I develop a better understanding of the diversity of people within the organisation or community.

If I can arrange it I also like to interview very different people in the early stages.  This generates more disagreement between the interviews.  Where agreement arises it usually turns out to be widespread.  Because it's an early interview, you have lots of opportunities to find exceptions.

A key element in the process is the development of probes.  You compare your summaries, looking for themes mentioned by both informants (or by one informant and an earlier informant).  If you are doing the interviewing on your own, compare adjacent interviews.

Suppose the two informants agree.  For instance, both may say 'We plan poorly'.

When this happens, devise a probe question or questions to find exceptions.  'What's good about the planning you do?' Or 'Who is best at planning?' Or 'When do you plan well?'

Sometimes they will disagree.  One may say 'We're terrible at planning'.  The other may say 'One of our strengths is planning'.  Both have mentioned the theme of planning, but they have different perceptions of it.

Develop a probe to explain the disagreement.  'Some have said planning is done well; some have disagreed'.  What do you think? Why do you think there are differences of opinion about this?"


This example is taken from Convergent interviewing.  Session 8 of Areol - action research and evaluation on line (Dick, 2002).

"In the early stages of contracting for an action research project, a potential client will often expect a detailed proposal.  My preference is to negotiate something much more flexible.  I seldom know, from initial contact, what process will appropriate.

In this situation, I may offer to do some convergent interviewing (for a fixed price, it this is a paid engagement).  After the interviewing, I can present a report, and a more detailed proposal of how the project might proceed.

I have found that relatively small samples, carefully chosen, can allow a good diagnosis.

Sometimes, low-impact data collection is needed.  For example, it may be a large community or organisation, and time may be short.  Some quick data collection may be useful; and convergent interviewing is one possible option for collecting the data.

Again, for large organisations and communities, you may be working more directly with a smaller working party.  Convergent interviewing is easily learned.  The working party can use it for initial data gathering.  (They will also need some effective way of reporting back to the other stakeholders.)

On some occasions, you will find that your client group members have already done some data collection.  If so, it's likely that they used some form of written survey.

Unless they designed it well, it may not have given them the information they wanted.  Often the information is hard to interpret.  A relatively small number of convergent interviews may help you clarify and interpret the survey data. "


Dick, B. (2002). Convergent interviewing. Session 8 of Areol - action research and evaluation on line. Retrieved from:

TV crew to interview the workers in the field by Sarvis John, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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