Three types of interviews: Qualitative research methods in social health

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Author: Heather Stuckey
Date: July-December 2013
From: Journal of Social Health and Diabetes(Vol. 1, Issue 2)
Publisher: Medknow Publications and Media Pvt. Ltd.
Document Type: Report
Length: 2,600 words

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Byline: Heather. Stuckey

Interviewing is a primary way of collecting data in qualitative research to direct the participant in responding to a specific research question. In diabetes, this may include "what are the reasons that have contributed to your success in diabetes self-management" or "how do you believe stress impacts your blood glucose?" Three types of interviews are common in social health: (1) Structured; (2) semi-structured; and (3) narrative interview. These range in a format including specified sets of questions to the telling of patient stories in an organic way. This paper describes the differences between these types of interviews and examples of each related to diabetes research.


When my son was age 4 or 5, he asked what I did for my job. I told him I talked to people to learn about their life and what they were thinking. As I was getting ready for the work, he asked if I was getting dressed up so I could do an "inner-view." An interview is exactly that: A way for researchers to understand the thought process that exists inside, an inner look at why people behave in the way they do. This article is about using interviewing as a design method to collect the qualitative data that are desired based on the research question. The data are only as good as the questions that we ask. With a focus on questions about diabetes self-management and behaviors, this article offers guidelines for interviewing in social health and provides concrete examples from my experience in research.

One advantage of qualitative methods in exploratory health research is that use of open-ended questions and probing gives participants the opportunity to respond in their own words, rather than forcing them to choose from fixed responses. [sup][1] Open-ended questions elicit responses that are meaningful and culturally salient to the participant; unanticipated by the researcher; rich and explanatory in nature. Another advantage of interviewing methods is they allow the researcher the flexibility to probe initial participant responses - that is, to ask why or how. The researcher must listen carefully to what participants say, engage with them according to their individual characteristics and think through "probes" to encourage their elaboration of answers.

Interview styles range widely, but share a defining characteristic of using questions to understand the thoughts, feelings, beliefs and behavior of people. [sup][2] Primarily, there are four types of interviews common in social health: (1) Structured; (2) semi-structured; and (3) narrative interview. [sup][3] The primary difference between them is the amount of control the interviewer has over the encounter and the aim of the interview. It is generally, best to tape-record interviews and later transcribe these tapes for analysis. While it is possible to take notes during the session (and encouraged), it is difficult to capture direct quotes from the participants while still engaging in the conversation. Because it is more important to maintain focus on the participant to build rapport and dialog rather than on the notes, the recorder will assist in...

Source Citation

Source Citation
Stuckey, Heather. "Three types of interviews: Qualitative research methods in social health." Journal of Social Health and Diabetes, vol. 1, no. 2, July-Dec. 2013, p. 56. Accessed 30 Sept. 2022.

Gale Document Number: GALE|A340509994