In-depth interviews – which are sometimes referred as depth interviews, or by the a acronym IDI -- 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 deliver reliable information, the interviewer must be highly skilled to prevent data loss.
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 of these below:
In-Depth Interview Advantages
- Interviewers can establish rapport with participants to make them feel more comfortable and at-ease, which can generate more insightful responses – especially regarding sensitive topics.
- Interviewers have much more 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 to tone and word choice to get a deeper understanding (and 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 finding very quickly -- and sometimes in the first interview.
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 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.
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