In-depth interviews

An in-depth interview is a type of interview with an individual that aims to collect detailed information beyond initial and surface-level answers.

For this reason, these interviews are often quite long and can involve multiple interviews with the one participant. Great attention is paid to probing answers, and thus an unstructured or semi-structured approach is typically used.

Advice for using this method

Attributes that are important for the interviewer to have for this method include:

  1. "Open-minded. Judgment or criticism can act as barriers to communication, so it is important to maintain openness during the interview process. If interviewees perceive that they are being judged or evaluated, then they are less likely to openly share their opinions. Any conclusions that need to be made can be written in a journal after the interview is over.
  2. Flexible and responsive. Human interactions are complex and people’s responses to questions are rarely predictable, so good interviewers can think on their feet, respond to challenges, and make sure that the core purpose is being served.
  3. Patient. Allow the respondent to speak freely and open up at a pace that is personally comfortable.
  4. Observant. Good interviewers are observant, picking up subtle cues such as facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice.
  5. A good listener. A good listener is one who listens actively, using strategies such as:
  • Attending fully to what the speaker is saying by focusing wholly on what is being said. Active listening requires the listener to give full attention to the speaker until either the message has been received or the speaker has finished speaking. 
  • Paraphrasing what the speaker is saying to confirm to the speaker that the listener is actually listening and that the message conveyed is the message received. Paraphrasing also has the added benefit of forcing a speaker to focus wholly on the conversation, thus limiting distractions. 
  • Reflecting back to the speaker the emotions inherent in the message. By paying attention to tone and emotional content, the interviewer can gain a greater understanding of the messages being delivered.

Although active listening sounds easy, it can take a lot of practice to learn. Thus, prior to conducting an in-depth interview, it is important to practice active listening with a friend or colleague. Begin by instructing a friend to talk about a topic of interest and practise your active listening strategies during the conversation. Afterwards, ask for feedback and continue with different topics until active listening becomes a natural way of interacting" (Guion, Diehl & McDonald 2011).


Guion, L., Diehl, D., and McDonald, D. (2011). 'Conducting an In-depth Interview'. Retrieved from

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