Explain the purpose of interview method. Discuss the strengths and limitations of interview method.

Explain the purpose of interview method. Discuss the strengths and limitations of interview method.


Interview Method

Every individual in our daily life meet with other and discuss something with him. This is the process of interview b/w interviewer and interviewee. The daily conversation b/w patient and doctor or student and teacher are the examples of interview. In interview the investigator and the respondents set together and they exist a face to face conversation between the two for a specific purpose. Interview is a process of meet with interviewee either by telephone or face to face conversation to discuss some purposeful thing.

    Objectives of Interview

Following are the main objectives of interview.

  1. Collect information’s about an existing social problem
  2. Create relation between interviewer and interviewee
  3. Gain inner feelings of the respondent
  4. Create a source of knowledge
  5. Provide rich hypothesis
  6. Reduce the distance between human beings
  7. Observe the situation quickly
  8. Collect additional information’s
  9. Draw quantitative facts.
  10. Gain new knowledge about an area.

Advantages of the Interview Method:

(1) The personal interviews, compared especially to questionnaires usually yield a high percentage of returns.

(2) The interview method can be made to yield an almost perfect sample of the general population because practically everyone can be reached by and can respond to this approach. It will be remembered that the questionnaire approach is severely limited by the fact that only the literate persons can be covered by it.

Again, the observational approach is also subject to limitations because many things or facts cannot be observed on the spot.

(3) The information secured through interviews is likely to be more correct compared to that secured through other techniques. The interviewer who is present on the spot can clear up the seemingly inaccurate or irrelevant answers by explaining the questions to the informant. If the informant deliberately falsifies replies, the interviewer is able to effectively check them and use special devices to verify the replies.

(4) The interviewer can collect supplementary information about the informant’s personal characteristics and environment which is often of great value in interpreting results. Interview is a much more flexible approach, allowing for posing of new questions or check-questions if such a need arises.

Its flexibility makes the interview a superior technique for the exploration of areas where there is little basis for knowing what questions to ask and how to formulate them.

(5) In as much as the interviewer is present on the spot, he can observe the facial expressions and gestures etc., of the informants as also the existing pressures obtaining in the interview-situation. The facility of such observations helps the interviewer to evaluate the meaning of the verbal replies given by informants.

For example, hesitation, particular inhibitive reactions etc., may give rise to certain doubts about the reliability of the responses and the interviewer may then ask indirect questions to verify his doubts.

(6) Scoring and test-devices can be used, the interviewer acting as experimenter. At the same time, visual stimuli to which the informant may react can be presented.

(7) The use of interview method ensures greater number of usable returns compared to other methods. Returned visits to complete items on the schedule or to correct mistakes can usually be made without annoying the informant.

(8) The interviewer can usually control which person or persons will answer the questions. This is not possible in the mailed questionnaire approach. If so desired and warranted group discussions may also be held.

(9) A personal interview may take long enough to allow the informant to become oriented to the topic under investigation. Thus, recall of relevant information is facilitated. The informant can be made to devote more time if, as is the case, the interviewer is present on the spot to elicit and record the information.

The interviewer’s presence is a double headed weapon, the advantageous aspect of it being that face-to-face contact provides enough stimulation to the respondent to probe deeper within himself. As we have suggested, interviewer acts as a catalyst.

(10) The interviewer may catch the informant off his guard and thus secure the most spontaneous reactions than would be the case if mailed questionnaire were used.


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 Limitations of the Interview Method:

(1) In terms of cost, energy and time, the interview approach poses a heavy demand. The transportation cost and the time required to cover addresses in a large area as also possibility of non-availability or ‘not at home’, may make the interview method uneconomical and often inoperable.

(2) The efficacy of interviews depends on a thorough training and skill of interviewers as also on a rigorous supervision over them. Failing this, data recorded may be inaccurate and incomplete.

(3) The human equation may distort the returns. If an interviewer has a certain bias, he may unconsciously devise questions so as to secure confirmation of his views.

(4) The presence of the interviewer on the spot may over stimulate the respondent, sometimes even to the extent that he may give imaginary information just to make it interesting. He may tell things about which he may not himself be very sure.

He may also get emotionally involved with the interviewer and give answers that he anticipates would please the interviewer. It is also possible that the interviewer’s presence may inhibit free responses because there is no anonymity. The respondent may hesitate to give correct answers for the fear that it would adversely affect his image. Some fear of this information being used against him may grip him.

(5) In the interview method, the organization required for selecting, training and supervising a field staff is more complex.

(6) It is the usual experience that costs per interview are higher when field investigators are employed. This is especially so when the area to be covered is widely spread out.

(7) The personal interview usually takes more time. Sometimes, the interview lasts for hours on end and the interviewer cannot check the free flow of the respondent’s replies for fear that it may disrupt the ‘rapport.’ Added to this is the time spent for journeys to and fro to the addresses and the possibility of not always being able to meet them.

(8) Effective interview presupposes proper rapport with the respondent and controlling of interview atmosphere in a manner that would facilitate free and frank responses. This is often a very difficult requirement, it needs time, skills and often resources.

Secondly, it is not always possible for the interviewer to judge whether the interview atmosphere is how it should ideally be and whether or not ‘rapport’ has been established.

(9) Interviewing may also introduce systematic errors. For example, if the interviews are conducted at their homes during the day, a majority of informants will be housewives. Now if the information is to be obtained from the male members, most of the field-work will have to be done in the evening or on holidays. If this be the case, only a few hours can be used per week for interviewing.

(10) Many actions human beings carry out are not easily verbalized, but easily observed. Through observation a social process may be followed as it develops. Verbal techniques such as interview may give valuable reports, but post hoc, unless one is dealing with rather unusual respondents capable of acting and being interviewed at the same time.

Some of the prerequisites that ensure successful interviewing. The quality of interviewing depends, firstly on a proper study-design. It should be noted that even the most skilled interviewer will not be able to collect valid and useful data, if the schedule of questions is inadequate or unrelated to the objectives of research.

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