In carrying out a systematic investigation into specific subjects and contexts, researchers often make use of structured and semi-structured interviews. These are methods of data gathering that help you to collect first-hand information with regards to the research subject, using different methods and tools. 

Structured and semi-structured interviews are appropriate for different contexts and observations. As a researcher, it is important for you to understand the right contexts for these types of interviews and how to go about collecting information using structured or semi-structured interviewing methods. 

What is a Structured Interview?

A structured interview is a type of quantitative interview that makes use of a standardized sequence of questioning in order to gather relevant information about a research subject. This type of research is mostly used in statistical investigations and follows a premeditated sequence. 

In a structured interview, the researcher creates a set of interview questions in advance and these questions are asked in the same order so that responses can easily be placed in similar categories. A structured interview is also known as a patterned interview, planned interview or a standardized interview. 

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What is a Semi-Structured Interview?

A semi-structured interview is a type of qualitative interview that has a set of premeditated questions yet, allows the interviewer to explore new developments in the cause of the interview. In some way, it represents the midpoint between structured and unstructured interviews. 

In a semi-structured interview, the interviewer is at liberty to deviate from the set interview questions and sequence as long as he or she remains with the overall scope of the interview. In addition, a semi-structured interview makes use of an interview guide which is an informal grouping of topics and questions that the interviewer can ask in different ways. 

Examples of Structured Interview

Structured interview examples can be classified into three, namely; the face-to-face interview, telephone interviews and survey/questionnaires interviews

  • Face-to-Face Structured Interview

A face-face structured interview is a type of interview in which the researcher and the interviewee exchange information physically. It is a method of data collection that requires the interviewer to collect information through direct communication with the respondent in line with the research context and already prepared questions. 

A face-face structured interview allows the interviewer to collect factual information with regards to the experiences and preferences of the research respondent. It helps the researcher minimize survey dropout rates and improve the quality of data collected, which results in more objective research outcomes. 

face-to-face-interview

Advantages of Face-to-face Structured Interview

  • It allows for more in-depth and detailed data collection.
  • Body language and facial expressions observed during a face-to-face structured interview can inform data analysis.
  • Visual materials can be used to support face-to-face structured interviews.
  • A face-to-face structured interview allows you to gather more accurate information from the research subjects. 

Disadvantages of Face-to-face Structured Interview

  • A face-to-face structured interview is expensive to conduct because it requires a lot of staff and personnel. Different costs incurred during a face-to-face structured interview including logistics and remuneration. 
  • This type of interview is limited to a small data sample size.
  • A face-to-face structured interview is also time-consuming.
  • It can be affected by bias and subjectivity
  • Tele-Interviews

A tele-interview is a type of structured interview that is conducted through a video or audio call. In this type of interview, the researcher gathers relevant information by communicating with the respondent via a video call or telephone conversation. 

A tele-interview is usually conducted in accordance with the standardized interview sequence as is the norm with structured interviews. It makes use of close-ended questions in order to gather the most relevant information from the interviewee, and it is a method of quantitative observation. 

Advantages of a Tele-interview

  • Tele-interviews are more convenient and result in higher survey response rates.
  • It is not time-consuming as interviews can be completed relatively fast.
  • It has a large data sample size as it can be used to gather information over a large geographical area.
  • It is cost-effective.
  • It helps the interviewee to target specific data samples.

Disadvantages of a Tele-interview

  • It does not allow for qualitative observation of the research sample.
  • It can lead to survey response bias.
  • It is subject to network availability and other technical parameters.
  • It is difficult for the interviewer to build rapport with an interviewee via this means; especially if they are meeting for the first time. 
  • It may be difficult to read the interviewee's body language, even with a video call. Body language usually serves as a means of gathering additional information about the research subjects. 
  • Surveys/Questionnaires 

A structured questionnaire is a common tool used in quantitative observation. It is made up of a set of standardized questions, usually close-ended arranged in a standardized interview sequence, and administered to a fixed data sample, in order to collect relevant information. 

In other words, a questionnaire is a method of data gathering that involves gathering information from target groups via a set of premeditated questions. You can administer a questionnaire physically or you can create and administer it online using data-gathering platforms like Formplus. 

Advantages of Survey/Questionnaire

  • It is time-efficient and allows you to gather information from large data samples.
  • Information collected via a questionnaire can easily be processed and placed in data categories.
  • A questionnaire is a flexible and convenient method of data collection.
  • It is also cost-efficient; especially when administered online.
  • Surveys and questionnaires are useful in describing the numerical characteristics of large sets of data. 

Disadvantages of Surveys/Questionnaires 

  • A high rate of survey response bias due to survey fatigue.
  • High survey drop-out rate. 
  • Surveys and questionnaires are susceptible to researcher error; especially when the researcher makes wrong assumptions about the data sample.
  • Surveys and questionnaires are rigid in nature.
  • In some cases, survey respondents are not entirely honest with their responses and this affects the accuracy of research outcomes. 

Tools used in Structured Interview 

  • Audio Recorders

An audio recorder is a data-gathering tool that is used to collect information during an interview by recording the conversation between the interviewer and the interviewee. This data collection tool is typically used during face-to-face interviews in order to accurately capture questions and responses. 

The recorded information is then extracted and transcribed for data categorization and data analysis. There are different types of audio recording equipment including analog and digital audio recorders, however, digital audio recorders are the best tools for capturing interactions in structured interviews. 

  • Digital Camera

A digital camera is another common tool used for structured tele-interviews. It is a type of camera that captures interactions in digital memory, which are pictures. 

In many cases, digital cameras are combined with other tools in a structured interview in order to accurately gather information about the research sample. It is an effective method of gathering visual information. 

  • Camcorder

Just as its name implies, a camcorder is the hybridization of a camera and a recorder. It is a portable dual-purpose tool used in structured interviews to collect static and live-motion visual data for later playback and analysis. 

  • Telephone

A telephone is a communication device that is used to facilitate interaction between the researcher and interviewee; especially when both parties in different geographical spaces.

  • Formplus Survey Questionnaire Tool

Formplus is a data-gathering platform that you can use to create and administer questionnaires for online surveys. In the form builder, you can add different fields to your form in order to collect a variety of information from respondents. 

Apart from allowing you to add different form fields to your questionnaires and surveys, Formplus also enables you to create smart forms with conditional logic and form lookup features. It also allows you to personalize your survey using different customization options in the form builder. 

Create Surveys with Formplus

Best Types of questions for Structured Interview

Open-Ended Questions

An open-ended question is a type of question that does not limit the respondent to a set of answers. In other words, open-ended questions are free-form questions that give the interviewee the freedom to express his or her knowledge, experiences and thoughts. 

Open-ended questions are typically used for qualitative observation where attention is paid to an in-depth description of the research subjects. These types of questions are designed to elicit full and detailed responses from the research subjects, unlike close-ended questions that require brief responses. 

Examples of Open-Ended Questions

  1. What do you think about the new packaging?
  2. How can we improve our services?
  3. Why did you choose this outfit?
  4. How can we serve you better? 

Advantages of Open-Ended Questions

  1. Open-ended questions are useful for qualitative observation.
  2. Open-ended questions help you gain unexpected insights and in-depth information. 
  3. It exposes the researcher to an infinite range of responses.
  4. It helps the researcher arrive at more objective research outcomes. 

Disadvantages of Open-ended Questions 

  1. Data collection using open-ended questions is time-consuming.
  2. It cannot be used for quantitative research.
  3. There is a great possibility of capturing large volumes of irrelevant data. 

Using Open-ended Questions for Interviews 

In interviews, open-ended questions are used to gain insight into the thoughts and experiences of the respondents. To do this, the interviewer generates a set of open-ended questions that can be asked in any sequence, and other open-ended questions may arise in follow up inquiries. 


Close-Ended Questions

A close-ended question is a type of question that restricts the respondent to a range of probable responses as options. It is often used in quantitative research to gather statistical data from interviewees, and there are different types of close-ended questions including multiple choice and Likert scale questions

A close-ended question is primarily defined by the need to have a set of predefined responses which the interviewee chooses from. These types of questions help the researcher to categorize data in terms of numerical value and to restrict interview responses to the most valid data. 

Examples of Close-ended Questions

  • Do you enjoy using our product?
  1. Yes
  2. No
  3. I don't Know
  • Have you ever visited London?
  1. Yes
  2. No
  • Did you enjoy the relationship seminar?
  1. Yes, I did
  2. No, I did not
  3. I can't say
  • On a scale of 1-5, rate our service delivery. (1-Poor; 5-Excellent). 
  • How often do you visit home? 
  1. Very often
  2. Somewhat often
  3. I don’t visit home. 

Advantages of Close-ended Questions 

  1. It is useful for statistical inquiries.
  2. Close-ended questions are straight-forward and easy to respond to.
  3. Data gathered through close-ended questions are easy to analyze.
  4. It reduces the chances of gathering irrelevant responses.

Disadvantages of Close-Ended Questions 

  1. Close-ended questions are highly subjective in nature and have a high probability of survey response bias.
  2. Close-ended questions do not allow you to collect in-depth information about the experiences of the research subjects.
  3. Close-ended questions cannot be used for qualitative observation. 

Using Close-ended Questions for Unstructured Interviews

Close-ended questions are used in interviews for statistical inquiries. In many cases, interviews begin with a set of close-ended questions which lead to further inquiries depending on the type, that is, structured, unstructured or semi-structured interviews. 


Multiple Choice Question

A multiple-choice question is a type of close-ended question that provides respondents with a list of possible answers. The interviewee is required to choose one or more options in response to the question; depending on the question-type and stipulated instructions. 

Typically, a multiple-choice question is one of the most common types of questions used in a survey or questionnaire. It is also a valid means of quantitative inquiry because it pays attention to the numerical value of data categories. A multiple-choice question is made up of 3 parts which are the stem, the correct answer(s) and the distractors.  

Examples of Multiple Choice Questions

  1. How many times do you visit home?
  • Daily
  • Weekly
  • Monthly
  • Annually

2. What types of shirts do you wear? (Choose as many that apply)

  • T-shirt
  • Polo
  • Long-sleeved Shirt
  • Short-sleeved Shirt 

3. Which of the following gadgets do you use?

  • Laptop
  • Desktop
  • Notebook
  • Smartwatch

4. What is your highest level of education?

  • PhD
  • M.A/M.Sc
  • B.A/B.Sc

Advantages of Multiple Choice Question

  1. A multiple-choice question is an effective method of assessment; especially n qualitative research. 
  2. It is time-efficient. 
  3. It reduces the chances of interviewer-bias because of its objective approach. 

Disadvantages of Multiple Choice Questions

  1. Multiple Choice questions are limited to certain types of knowledge. 
  2. It cannot be used for problem-solving and high-order reasoning assessments. 
  3. It can lead to ambiguity and misinterpretation which causes survey response bias. 
  4. Survey fatigue which leads to high survey drop-out rates. 

Dichotomous Questions

A dichotomous question is a type of close-ended question that can only have two possible answers. It is a method of quantitative observation and it is typically used for educational research and assessments, and other research processes that involve statistical evaluation. 

It is important for researchers to limit the use of dichotomous questions to situations where there are only 2 possible answers. These types of questions are restricted to yes/no, true/false or agree/disagree options and they are used to gather information related to the experiences of the research subjects. 

Examples of Dichotomous Questions

  1. Do you enjoy using this product?
  2. Yes
  3. No
  4. I have always used this product for my hair.
  5. True
  6. False
  7. Are you lactose-intolerant?
  8. Yes
  9. No
  10. Have you ever witnessed an explosion?
  11. Yes
  12. No

5. Have you ever visited our farm?

  1. Yes
  2. No 

Advantages of Dichotomous Questions

  1. It is an effective method of quantitative research. 
  2. Surveys containing dichotomous questions are easy to administer.
  3. It is non-ambivalent in nature.
  4. It allows for ease of data-gathering and analysis.
  5. Dichotomous questions are brief, easy and simplified in nature. 

Disadvantages of Dichotomous Questions

  1. A dichotomous question is limited in nature.
  2. It cannot be used to gather qualitative information in research. 
  3. It is not suitable for in-depth data gathering.  


How to Use Formplus Survey Questionnaire Tool For Structured Interview

Sign into Formplus

In the Formplus builder, you can easily create a questionnaire for your structured interview by dragging and dropping preferred fields into your form. To access the Formplus builder, you will need to create an account on Formplus. 

Once you do this, sign in to your account and click on "Create Form " to begin. 

SignUp


structured-interview-survey


Edit Form Title

Click on the field provided to input your form title, for example, "Structured Interview Questionnaire".

structured-interview-questionnaire


Edit Form 

  • Click on the edit button to edit the form.
  • Add Fields: Drag and drop preferred form fields into your form in the Formplus builder inputs column. There are several field input options for survey forms in the Formplus builder including table fields and you can create a smarter questionnaire by using the conditional logic feature. 
  • Edit fields: You can modify your form fields to be hidden, required or read-only depending on your data sample and purpose of the interview. 
  • Click on "Save"
  • Preview form. 

structured-interview-form

Customise Form

Formplus allows you to add unique features to your structured questionnaire. You can personalize your questionnaire using various customization options in the builder. Here, you can add background images, your organization's logo, and other features. You can also change the display theme of your form. 

structured-interview-questionnaire-custom


Share your Form Link with Respondents

Formplus allows you to share your questionnaire with interviewees using multiple form sharing options. You can use the direct social media sharing buttons to share your form link to your organization's social media pages. 

You can also embed your questionnaire into your website so that form respondents can easily fill it out when they visit your webpage. Formplus enables you to send out email invitations to interviewees and to also share your questionnaire as a QR code.

structured-interview-survey  

Conclusion 

It is important for every researcher to understand how to conduct structured and unstructured interviews. While a structured interview strictly follows an interview sequence comprising standardized questions, a semi-structured interview allows the researcher to digress from the sequence of inquiry, based on the information provided by the respondent. 

You can conduct a structured interview using an audio recorder, telephone or surveys. Formplus allows you to create and administer online surveys easily, and you can add different form fields to allow you to collect a variety of information using the form builder. 



  • Formplus Blog
  • on 12 min read

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