Interviews: An Overview

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

  • 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.


  • 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.

  • 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.
Being prepared and understanding how to conduct a one-on-one or group conversation is vital to collecting useful qualitative data. Be sure to review all of the links included in these sections including Tips for Taking Notes in Focus Groups.
Tip: See the companion Interview and Focus Group Protocols 2D for more examples.

Connecting Interview and Focus Group Procotol Questions to Your Measurement Plan

Generally, create “how” and “why” questions that lend themselves to qualitative data collection through interviews and focus groups. Make sure each question you include in your interview/focus group protocol addresses a specific aspect of your learning questions and Theory of Change. Review your Theory of Change, worksheets, and Measurement Plan to craft questions that can be directly tied back to your process and outcome metrics.

Start with questions that relate to the process components of your Measurement Plan, and specifically, to your program participation metrics.

Now build questions that relate to your outcomes, and specifically, to your outcome metrics.

Creating Questions: Stewardship Examples

Check out these examples to help you map your outcomes and metrics to create focus group/interview questions. These are examples of possible post-program focus group/interview questions.

Click on the image below to access the
Focus Group Protocol Example 2D.