Qualitative interviews

Qualitative interviews can be quite a time consuming method of data collection, but they often yield very rich and interesting information which is not available from other sources. They can also be very rewarding for the interviewer and often help health professionals to gain a greater  understanding of the communities and patients they serve.

Below is a very brief guide to qualitative  interviewing.

Introducing yourself

Interviews should be held in a comfortable environment.   Begin the interview  by introducing yourself and providing an explanation of why your are  undertaking the interview, how the information gathered will be used and how long the interview is likely to last.

Explain that  all responses will be treated with strict confidence and will not be passed to a third party other than in a form in which the patient cannot be identified.

You may either take notes or record the interview.  You should explain this to the interviewee and ask if they have any objections or questions.

Types of Qualitative Interview

There are three main types of qualitative interview:

Structured interview: The interviewer administers a structured questionnaire in a standardised way. Questions are fixed choice with little scope for deviation or elaboration.

Semi-structured interview: A loose structure consisting of open ended questions that set out the areas to be explored. The interviewer can diverge or pursue issues in more detail.

In-depth interview: Minimal structure, perhaps simply setting out two or three issues to be explored in detail.

We find that semi-structured interviews are often the most useful and manageable for  gathering the type of information required for HNA.

Designing  the interview schedule

Many of the points set out in ‘designing questionnaires’  also apply to the designing of interview schedules.

Questions should be:

  • Specific
  • Written in plain language
  • Unambiguous
  • Sensitive

Questions should avoid:

  • Using double questions such as “Do you suffer from asthma or diabetes?”
  • Using vague word such as ‘regularly’ or ‘generally’
  • Leading questions e.g. “Do you suffer from a chronic disease like asthma?”
  • Presumptuous  questions e.g. “When you last consulted your doctor, how satisfied were you?”
  • Impersonal questions e.g. “Should well people go to their doctor for health checks?”

Particularly if you are using a semi-structured format , it is likely that you will want to ask no more than 10 to 15 questions and you will find that you get more detailed responses if you begin with easy questions and then proceed to more difficult or sensitive questions.

Conducting the Interviews

Try to be interactive and sensitive to the language used by the interviewee and gently explore ideas and issues raised.

Throughout the interview, check that you have understood the respondents meaning and don’t assume that they understand clinical terminology.

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