Interviews: An Overview

Interviews with program participants or other key stakeholders provide the opportunity to collect data on complex experiences, behaviors, and opinions.

Interviews:
  • Provide an opportunity for in-depth probing on experiences and perspectives in a more personalized atmosphere
  • Are ideal for avoiding group influences on responses (as compared to focus groups)
  • Generally consist of open-ended questions (although can include related closed-ended questions)
There are advantages and disadvantages to one-on-one interviews. Read more.


Considerations

  • When recruiting participants for interviews, and at the start of the interview, be clear about what you are trying to learn.
  • Ensure you include a range of participant perspectives. Include participants who are highly engaged in the program as well as some who have lesser or different types of involvement in the program. Include a set of people that reflect the diversity of your target population’s demographic profile.
  • If you plan to record an interview, first ask the participant’s permission to do so.
  • Consider the location of your interview. If you are discussing sensitive topics, select a private location.
  • If discussing sensitive topics, ensure that interviewers are properly trained to be empathic, and if appropriate that they are able to provide referral to relevant support services.

Focus Groups: An Overview

Focus groups are similar to interviews, but are conducted in a group setting with multiple people who share a common experience.

Focus Groups:
  • Bring people together with a facilitator to discuss open-ended questions.
  • Use topics and questions that are generally broader than those asked in one-on-one interviews. The facilitator then probes and pursues lines of inquiry as group participants engage in the conversation.
There are advantages and disadvantages to focus groups. Read more.
Considerations

  • Focus groups typically include 8 to 12 people who are knowledgeable about the topic at hand (typically target population program participants).
  • Focus groups should include participants who share a common experience yet represent diverse perspectives, unless the focus group is specifically for one demographic or participant type. It is also valuable to include participants who have different lengths of experience with your program(s).
  • Facilitators should be familiar with group facilitation techniques to ensure that all participants have a chance to contribute.
  • The group setting may not be conducive to discussing sensitive or emotional experiences. Consider content before choosing the group setting over one-on-one interviews.

Continue to learn more about creating interview and focus group questions.