How to Conduct Unstructured Interviews

An unstructured interview is one wherein questions are asked directly on the spot and no specific questions have been formulated beforehand. Unstructured interviews are ideal for obtaining sensitive information. The process helps to generate qualitative data in a lot of ways. However, unstructured interviews require a lot of planning. Here’s how you should conduct an unstructured interview.


  1. 1
    Start with a small talk. At this stage, you do not shoot questions directly at the respondents. Rather, you try making a little conversation with them, encouraging them to open up and feel comfortable around you ahead of answering the questions. Encourage them to voice their opinions freely, without any fear. Focus on free talk here and do not ask any leading questions.
  2. 2
    Be patient and understanding. When a respondent has answered your question, your probe does not stop there. Dig in deeper to get an elaborated answer. You should be speaking less and the respondent should be speaking more. Present an aura of friendliness around you but keep things professional so that the respondents can answer freely. A sympathetic ear will usually generate a flow of comment.
  3. 3
    Identify irregularities. Usually in unstructured interviews, the responses given by the respondents will vary a lot. In particular, this happens when they try to hold to beliefs that are not consistent with other beliefs. This can cause their answers to contradict. Therefore, you need to identify such inconsistencies, so that you include only the correct information in your reports and analysis. It is also possible that the question asked by you has been misunderstood and answered incorrectly. To prevent this from happening, ensure that your questions have been properly understood by your respondents.
  4. 4
    Record the participants' words. If you want to study the research in great detail, it is important that you record the interview. This will ensure that you remember the actual words used by the participants. However, if this is not possible to do, taking notes will suffice. Take notes of the particular phrases and words which will help you to later identify the key points in your research.
    • You can ask interviewees to slow down if they talk quickly and you are having problem noting it down. You can also later check from your recorded tool, for example, a small tape recorder, to check for the accuracy level.

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Categories: Interview Skills