In-Depth Interviews 101

Louise Principe
Mar 22, 2022

Surveys, mobile studies, and focus groups are great research methods for collecting data. However, another method that is often overlooked in gathering insights is in-depth interviews, also known as IDIs. 

Conducting one-on-one interviews with your target audience can offer rich, descriptive insights about how your target audience thinks or behaves, unfolding complex processes from a broad sample. 

This article will explore the different aspects of in-depth qualitative interviews as a viable method for your research project.

What is an in-depth interview?

An in-depth interview is an open-ended qualitative research technique that focuses on collecting detailed information from an interviewee. The goal is to explore a participant’s preferences, experiences, feelings, and perspectives in-depth. 

IDIs are ideal for having remote or in-person conversations with key customers and target prospects to gather feedback about your brand, products, or services when it comes to market research.


Open-ended questions

The interview questions should be worded in a way that leads respondents to expound on a topic. Many open-ended questions typically answer the questions “why?” or “how?”.  

Semi-structured format

Although it’s important to have a discussion guide to help cover the appropriate topics, the interview should also be conversational and loosely structured, flowing from previous responses when possible. 

Seek understanding and interpretation

It’s important to use active listening skills to reflect and follow up on what the speaker is sharing. The interviewer should not try to interpret what is being said but rather seek clear clarity and understanding throughout the interview. 

Recording responses

Participant responses are typically audio or video recorded and complemented with field notes by the interviewer. These notes include observations of verbal and non-verbal behaviors and immediate personal reflections about the interview. 

Importance of IDIs

Forms Deeper Understanding

One of the greatest benefits of this qualitative research method is the richer understanding that you can glean from one-on-one interaction. As you gain your participant’s trust and establish rapport, it will be easier to tease out details that may help you learn more about their thoughts, feelings, and attributes. 

Faster Assessment

When you converse with the prospective respondents, you’ll be able to quickly assess their attitude and what they can contribute to your study. A survey only scratches the surface of what a person can offer, while interviews allow you to dig deeper in a short amount of time. You can also use online IDI tools to save time and money on travel. 

Broad Data Collection

A qualitative interview process helps you gain a broad understanding of an individual. As you learn more about the participant, you can probe deeper into specific responses or topics that require clarification. 

Helps Develop a Personal Connection

An advantage of conducting interviews is forming strong connections with the interviewee. If you can develop an instant sense of trust, you are more likely to gain an intensive understanding of their experiences and perspectives.  

When to conduct IDIs?

When gathering sensitive feedback 

If your study concerns topics that people are not comfortable sharing with a group, in-depth interviews are the perfect solution. “Sensitive” topics might mean anything from finance or health issues to political or societal views. Removing judgment from the equation can ultimately lead to more open and honest responses. 

When participants are competitors

If your participants are industry rivals, it would be best to meet with them separately. This is because people are less likely to share information in fear of losing their competitive edge. Your participants would be more willing to disclose information if they don’t sense a threat to their business.  

When concerned about group hierarchy

Anytime a focus group might exhibit an imbalance of power, you risk some participants feeling less at ease when contributing to the conversation, resulting in biased or incomplete insights. Choosing a one-on-one strategy would be best for these situations because your interviewee would be able to share their views without anyone overpowering them. 

When collecting feedback on isolated user experiences

Studying individual activity performance or product experience does not require groupthink. Qualitative interviews are your best bet if your goal is to study individual user experience. They provide you with insightful feedback untainted by others’ responses.  

How to conduct IDIs

  1. 1. Know your objectives
  2. Before conducting any interviews, it is essential to know what you're aiming to get out of the process. This helps guide your questions – and ultimately, the conversation. 
  1. 2. Define your scope
  2. Always clarify the extent of your study before you begin interviewing. Decide how much time you want to spend conducting IDIs and the number of respondents you need to consider any themes as standard. 
  1. 3. Set a time limit
  2. Always make sure that you’re mindful of your participants’ time when conducting interviews. Remember: the quality of answers may decline towards the end of the conversation if you’ve been talking for hours. Let them know how much time it will take and stick to it. 
  1. 4. Ask the right questions
  2. In your interviews, add in a mix of question types, such as:
  •      > Ice-breakers: Create a sense of comfort and ease people into the conversation by asking light-hearted questions
  •      > Detail-oriented questions: Explore the subject most closely linked to your study. 
  •      > Insight-based questions: Follow-up responses with more specific questions to collect more detail. 
  1. 5. Remove bias
  2. Take care of how you word your questions to ensure that you’re not influencing their responses. Ask open-ended and non-leading questions to collect actionable insights that aren’t shaped by your companies’ expectations or agenda. 
  1. 6. Create an IDI guide
  2. An IDI guide, also known as a discussion guide, is an informative document that outlines your interviews from start to finish. To avoid losing track of the conversation, it should act as a to-do list that you refer to during the interview process. 
  1. 7. Put your insights into action
  2. Listen back on recordings of each interview to spot themes. You could create a transcription and bookmark different parts that you think are important. 

Advantages of IDIs

Depth: In-depth interviews bring light to valuable information from people with extensive knowledge about the subject at hand. They allow you to explore and better understand your research subjects' opinions, behavior, experiences, and phenomenon. 

Disclosure: There is a higher chance of your respondents being more open to sharing feedback on a one-on-one basis instead of just keeping responses at surface level in the presence of a group of people. 

Quality of data: During a session, skilled interviewers can reply to any questions aimed at them and dive deeper into any answers that need further clarification. Furthermore, questions can be added or changed during the discussion if need be to gain better qualitative insights. 

Shorter timeframes: Compared to other qualitative research methods, conducting IDIs can lead to faster data collection. 

Leverage Your In-Depth Qualitative Interviews with Civicom CyberFacility® 

Conduct IDIs and Focus Groups anywhere in the world with quality and expertise. CyberFacility offers features that allow for a seamless transition from a web-enabled interview to a web or mobile usability study. Get more actionable insights and build rapport with your respondents for your upcoming qualitative study. Learn more about how we can help with your self-directed IDIs, webcam IDIs, and focus group discussions. 

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