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In-Depth Interviews: Data Collection Advantages and Disadvantages

In-depth InterviewsIn-depth interviews are a qualitative data collection method that involves direct, one-on-one engagement with individual participants. In-depth interviewing can take place face-to-face, or –– in some cases –– over the phone. However, for the latter to be effective and to deliver reliable information, the interviewer must be highly skilled to prevent data loss. In-depth interviews are sometimes referred as depth interviews, or by the a acronym IDI.

As with all data collection methods, including (but not limited to) online surveys, direct mail surveys, email surveys, focus groups, mystery shoppers and so on, there are both advantages and disadvantages of in-depth interviews. We highlight both below:

In-Depth Interview Advantages

  • Interviewers can establish rapport with participants to make them feel more comfortable, which can generate more insightful responses – especially regarding sensitive topics.
  • Interviewers have greater opportunity to ask follow-up questions, probe for additional information, and circle back to key questions later on in the interview to generate a rich understanding of attitudes, perceptions, motivations, etc.
  • Interviewers can monitor changes in tone and word choice to gain a deeper understanding. (Note, if the in-depth interview is face-to-face, researchers can also focus on body language.)
  • There is a higher quality of sampling compared to some other data collection methods.  
  • Researchers need fewer participants to glean useful and relevant insights.
  • There are none of the potential distractions or peer-pressure dynamics that can sometimes emerge in focus groups.
  • Because in-depth interviews can potentially be so insightful, it is possible to identify highly valuable findings quickly.

In-Depth Interview Advantages

  • In-depth interviews are quite time consuming, as interviews must be transcribed, organized, analyzed, and reported.
  • If the interviewer is not highly skilled and experienced, the entire process can be undermined.
  • The process can be relatively costly compared to other methods. (However, telephone in-depth interviews vs. in-person can significantly reduce the costs.)
  • Participants must be carefully chosen to avoid bias, and this can result in a longer vetting process.
  • Participants typically expect an incentive to participate, and this must be carefully selected to avoid bias.

To In-Depth Survey, or Not to In-Depth Survey? That is the Question

In light of the above advantages and disadvantages, should your market research project include in-depth surveys? The answer depends on several factors, including your specific research opportunity, timeline, budget, and what other data collection methods you are utilizing (or thinking of utilizing).

At Communications For Research, we can help you determine if in-depth interviews should be part of your research plan – and if so, to what extent. Schedule an appointment with our co-CEO Colson Steber and he will be glad to discuss new ideas and insights that will add value to your business.

For more information on how to communicate the value of market research to your clients, download our FREE eBook:

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Topics: data collection , in-depth interviews

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