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The art of qualitative interview: A beginner’s guide

by Lasse Finderup, Head of Growth at Good Tape30 January 2024
The art of qualitative interview: A beginner’s guide
Lasse Finderup

The art of qualitative interview: A beginner’s guide

Have you ever wondered how researchers are able to collect such detailed information about various social phenomena and are able to delve into human experiences to understand the depth of feelings, emotions, and behaviours?

The answer often lies in qualitative interviews: a strategic method of uncovering the “whys” and “hows” behind people’s actions and thoughts.

Research in the social sciences particularly requires the use of qualitative interviews. They enable us to comprehend human motivations, emotions, and viewpoints in a manner that is not possible with only quantitative data.

So what exactly is a qualitative interview, and why is it important for research and other fields? In this guide, we're going to break down what qualitative interviews are, why they're so important, and how they're typically conducted. We will also discuss when an interview is qualitative or quantitative based on the format followed and results derived.

Consider the qualitative interview as your first step where every story matters and every voice has the power to enlighten.

What is a qualitative interview?

Qualitative interviews are more like having a meaningful conversation with a purpose that’s rooted in the research. Participants are encouraged to offer in-depth answers to the open-ended, conversational-style questions.

Rather than gathering quantitative data, the goal of a qualitative interview is to study complicated phenomena by developing a better knowledge of the circumstances, individual experiences, and human behaviour.

Key characteristics of qualitative interviews

  • Open-ended format: Questions are designed in a way to encourage detailed and meaningful conversations.

  • Interviewee focused: Emphasis on the interviewee's viewpoints and experiences.

  • Adaptable and flexible: Encourages follow-up questions based on the responses.

  • Subjective understanding: Attempts to comprehend viewpoints of interviewees.

  • Detailed exploration: Goes beyond the obvious to reveal more in-depth understanding.

  • In-depth narrative: Produces rich, descriptive data, usually in the form of writing.

  • Contextual awareness: Considers the participant's social and environmental context.

Qualitative vs quantitative interviews

Both quantitative and qualitative interviews are used extensively in the field of research to gather primary data. However, each of the two should be used as per the research requirements.

Below we have outlined the major differences between qualitative and quantitative interviews so that you may easily understand and assess which of the two would work best for your research.


Qualitative Interviews

Quantitative Interviews


To understand the perspectives and experiences of the interviewee in detail

To quantify data and generalise it for a larger population

Nature of Questions

Open-ended to encourage the interviewee to share more details. Semi-structured interview questions may be included as well

Close-ended to get more precise data. Often includes ratings or multiple choice options

Data Acquired

Textual data including more details and context

Numerical data for statistical analysis

Level of Interaction

High since it has open-ended questions and the purpose is to gather more details

Low since it contains close-ended and standardised questions


Highly flexible since more questions are formed based on the interviewee’s responses

Low flexibility since it follows a predetermined question format


More focus is on the themes and patterns of the narrative as non-verbal cues are also looked at

More focus is on the statistics since trends and correlation in the data have to be observed


Provides detailed understanding on a subject – particularly a specific issue or understanding

Offers data analysis which can be generalised to a larger population

Whether you are looking forward to diving into personal narratives with qualitative interviews or interpreting and analysing numerical data through quantitative interviews, remember that each of the two methods offers a different outlook on the topic under study. Understanding the two helps you pick the right one at the right stage, allowing you to conduct your research in a more comprehensive way.

The indispensable role of qualitative interviews in research

Now that we’ve established what a qualitative interview is, we need to understand its importance in the world of research. These interviews are particularly useful in qualitative research method areas which explore the complexities of social phenomena and human behaviour.

The crux of qualitative interviews is to understand the motivations and emotions underlying people’s actions and thoughts rather than merely examining data and statistics. This is increasingly significant in fields where knowing minute information about individuals is crucial, e.g. in market research, anthropology, sociology, and psychology.

Let’s have a look at some of the generalised benefits an interviewer can gain while conducting qualitative interviews.

  • One of the main advantages of a qualitative interview is getting a more detailed understanding of the viewpoints and experiences of participants. You may get in-depth knowledge that gives you a better grasp of the topic by asking follow-up and open-ended questions.

  • It's important to be flexible during the interview. Allow follow-up questions to be asked to gather more detailed information. New information that comes out during the conversation may be easily incorporated into the analysis because of this responsiveness.

Lastly, gathering in-depth data and first-hand information gives research findings a lot more perspective. The research is given a rich, comprehensive context via narrative data, which enhances comprehension and interpretation of the findings overall.

The development of theories and the formulation of hypotheses depend heavily on qualitative interviews. They are frequently used in exploratory research, when finding new study directions and themes and patterns is the main objective.

Researchers may create more relevant and grounded hypotheses by taking into account the unique viewpoints and experiences of individuals. These ideas can then be evaluated quantitatively for generalisation and trend analysis purposes.

Preparing for a qualitative interview

Another question that might be tugging at you is how to conduct a qualitative interview. To guarantee that the interview process is efficient and that rich and in-depth information is gathered, there are a few crucial steps that need to be taken into account.

Here’s a breakdown of the steps we suggest you to follow when planning to take a qualitative interview:

  • Defining the research objectives: Prior to proceeding, make sure you know exactly what you want out of the interviews. Which fundamental issues or themes do you wish to investigate? Every step that follows will be built upon this, so make sure you clearly define the outline.

  • Selecting participants: There are a few sub-steps to this as well. You not only need to know how to select participants but also what goes into it.

  • Target sampling: Choose participants who have experience and can offer perspectives related to your study. This might be predicted based on the roles relevant to the study.

  • Diverse perspectives: To get a variety of perspectives, try to include a more diverse audience. This deepens the scope of your study corresponding to the research methods chosen.

  • Recruitment strategies: To find potential interviewees, make use of strategies such as community boards, social media outreach, and recommendations.

  • Preparing interview questions: Develop questions that invoke in-depth answers. Refrain from asking one-word or multiple choice questions since they won’t provide you much necessary depth. While it's crucial to have a list of questions prepared, be flexible enough to change course as needed. Also ensure that your questions are considerate and do not reveal more personal information about participants than is required for your study.

  • Setting up the interview station: Select a peaceful, comfortable, and impartial space for your interviews. Make sure you have a steady internet connection and a distraction-free area if you're conducting them online.

  • Pre-interview preparation: Refresh your knowledge on interviewing techniques, such as encouraging participants to elaborate and using nonverbal cues. Consider the background and context of your attendees or the subjects you will be discussing so that you can explore the subject in more depth without crossing their individual boundaries.

You may create the foundation for an effective and enlightening data gathering process by thoroughly preparing yourself for the interview. This preparation helps in creating a comfortable environment for participants and ensures that the information gathered is relevant and valuable for your research objectives.

Conducting qualitative interviews

Now that we've established the basic guidelines for conducting a qualitative interview, we also need to look at some nitty-gritty details that can help ensure that your interview is successful.

Successful qualitative interviewing requires a set of procedures and methods that centre on rapport-building, attentive listening, and skillful questioning. Here's a step-by-step outline to guide you through the process.

  • Begin your interview process by establishing a comfortable atmosphere. Engage in informal conversation to put the participant at ease. Greet them warmly and clearly explain the purpose of the interview. This initial rapport sets the stage for a more open and genuine dialogue.

  • Ensure the participant has understood and agreed to use their data, completing any necessary consent forms. Emphasising the confidentiality of the data provided will further reassure them about their privacy and the ethical handling of their information.

  • Start with open-ended, broad questions. These allow the participants to express themselves freely and provide more detailed information. Active listening and genuine interest in their responses will help create a more engaging and fruitful conversation.

  • As the interview progresses, dive deeper into topics with follow-up questions, but be mindful of interruptions. Give the interviewee enough time to fully express their thoughts before interjecting, ensuring a natural and respectful flow of conversation. When responses are unclear or need more depth, utilise probing techniques. Paraphrase their answers for clarity and encourage them to expand on their thoughts.

  • Demonstrating active listening and empathy is vital, especially when touching on sensitive topics. Use appropriate body language to show your engagement and understanding. This empathetic approach fosters a trusting environment where participants feel valued and heard.

In concluding the interview, invite participants to add or clarify any points. This ensures a comprehensive understanding of their perspectives. Show your appreciation for their time and contributions, and inform them about the next steps in the process.

After the interview, take notes on your observations and quickly transcribe the session to ensure that all the information is captured. Here, you can employ services like Good Tape, which uses AI mechanisms to transcribe your audio, ensuring that even the non-verbal cues are recorded for efficient post-analysis.

Recording and transcribing interviews

Recording and transcribing qualitative interviews is crucial to guarantee that every word and aspect of the participant's reaction are captured accurately. This degree of accuracy is necessary for a comprehensive analysis.

Recordings can catch crucial non-verbal clues such as tone, pauses, and emotions in addition to words, providing a deeper picture of the participant's feelings and views. Transcripts may be utilised in academic papers or shared simply among research team members, making them an invaluable record for future reference. They are essential to keeping an extensive and enduring record of the interviews.

Let's look closely at some of the best practices you can follow when transcribing qualitative interviews.

  • It's critical to transcribe interviews as soon as possible after recording to guarantee the highest accuracy and context retention in your transcripts. To completely capture the essence of the interview, a detailed transcript containing every word, pause, and non-verbal indication is necessary. This degree of specification offers a thorough and detailed description of the discussion, which is essential for precise analysis and interpretation.
  • When transcribing, precision is essential. Once the transcription has been completed, listen to the audio and double-check the text to ensure no mistakes or omissions are made. Another crucial step is anonymising data, which entails changing or eliminating identifiable information to protect participant confidentiality.
  • Maintaining a uniform formatting style for all transcripts makes analysis and comparison easier, which raises your study's overall efficacy and efficiency.
  • Recording and transcribing interviews meticulously is vital in qualitative research, providing a foundation for robust data analysis and ensuring the integrity and richness of the data collected.

However, if you wish to expedite this process without compromising on the accuracy of the transcripts, you can make use of services like that of Good Tape. We rate it as one of the best transcription services for qualitative research which transcribes your audio into text accurately and with GDPR compliance, your data will remain secure throughout. The service’s shorter turnaround time allows you to focus more on the analysis and interpretation of the interviews rather than the time-consuming process of manual transcription.

Data analysis and interpretation in qualitative research

Analysis of qualitative data often involves sorting through the text to find themes, patterns, and insights. Here is a quick guide explaining the importance of interpretation in research as well as how to approach this step in a more structured way.

Data analysis step-by-step guide

  • Become familiar with the data: To become fully immersed in the data, begin by reading the transcripts several times. This first phase aids in giving you a comprehensive understanding of the context and content.

  • Identify recurring ideas, concepts, or expressions: Keep an eye out for themes that appear in many interviews. These themes serve as the foundation of your study and aid in the purposeful organisation of the data.

  • Coding: To classify the data, create a coding scheme. Words or brief sentences that stand for important ideas or themes might be used as codes. Coding facilitates methodical data organisation as well.

  • Look for patterns and relationships: Examine the information to look for trends and connections among the topics. Examining the ways in which many themes converge, conflict, or reinforce one another is part of this.

  • Create insights: Based on the patterns and themes identified, start to form insights.

  • Finalise and refine: Make sure that your analysis is in line with your research goals by continuing to refine it. If fresh ideas or trends show up in your data, don't hesitate to review them.

In qualitative research, interpretation is both a science and an art. It necessitates striking a balance between objectivity and admitting the researcher's personal perspective. To make sure that the interpretations are supported by the data and relevant to the larger study objectives, it is important to have an open, flexible, and critical mindset throughout the analytic process.

Mastering qualitative interview transcription: A guide to using using Good Tape’s Service

Working on qualitative research entails sitting through long interviews not just for the purpose of conducting them, but later on for transcription, review, analysis, and interpretation as well. Here, Good Tape's audio transcription services may really make a difference. Good Tape expedites these processes, saving significant time and improving concentration on the main research. This transcription service converts audio recordings into written text, which makes data analysis, citation, and reference much easier for academics and researchers to handle.

It’s also quite simple to use and does not require much effort and time as well. Here is a step-by-step walkthrough that you can expect when using it:

  • Upload your file: The first step in the process is to upload the file you need to transcribe. Make sure the file is complete and has all the information you require

  • Select the language: Good Tape has a number of options when it comes to choosing the language of transcription. Select the one you want, although you can also choose the “auto-detect” option for the system to automatically identify the language in the audio.

  • Transcribe the text: Once the file is uploaded and the language is chosen, proceed further by clicking the “transcribe” button. Your audio transcription process starts here.

  • To wait or not to wait: If you’re a casual plan user, you will have to wait for some time for your transcription to be completed due to excessive load by the users. However, if you’re a professional or a team user, you get your results ASAP. The wait time depends on the plan you’re subscribed to.

  • Get notified: You will receive a notification once your transcribed document is ready. An e-mail will be sent to your inbox containing the link to access and download the document.

Ready to make your next qualitative research one of those widely accepted and appreciated ones? Make use of Good Tape’s audio-to-text transcription today and allocate more of your time on analysing and interpreting the information to make your research the next groundbreaking one.

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