A semi-structured interview is a method of research used most often in the social sciences. While a structured interview has a rigorous set of questions which does not allow one to divert, a semi-structured interview is open, allowing new ideas to be brought up during the interview as a result of what the interviewee says. The interviewer in a semi-structured interview generally has a framework of themes to be explored.
However, the specific topic or topics that the interviewer wants to explore during the interview should usually be thought about well in advance (especially during interviews for research projects). It is generally beneficial for interviewers to have an interview guide prepared, which is an informal grouping of topics and questions that the interviewer can ask in different ways for different participants. Interview guides help researchers to focus an interview on the topics at hand without constraining them to a particular format. This freedom can help interviewers to tailor their questions to the interview context/situation, and to the people, they are interviewing.
Semi-structured interviews are widely used in qualitative research; for example in household research, such as couple interviews, this type of interview is the most common. A semi-structured interview involving for example two spouses can result in "the production of rich data, including observational data."
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