Advantages and Disadvantages of Interview in Research

Approaching the Respondent- according to the Interviewer’s Manual, the introductory tasks of the interviewer are: tell the interviewer is and whom he or she represents; telling him about what the study is, in a way to stimulate his interest. The interviewer has also ensured at this stage that his answers are confidential; tell the respondent how he was chosen; use letters and clippings of surveys in order to show the importance of the study to the respondent. The interviewer must be adaptable, friendly, responsive, and should make the interviewer feel at ease to say anything, even if it is irrelevant.

Dealing with Refusal- there can be plenty of reasons for refusing for an interview, for example, a respondent may feel that surveys are a waste of time, or may express anti-government feeling. It is the interviewer’s job to determine the reason for the refusal of the interview and attempt to overcome it.

Conducting the Interview- the questions should be asked as worded for all respondents in order to avoid misinterpretation of the question. Clarification of the question should also be avoided for the same reason. However, the questions can be repeated in case of misunderstanding. The questions should be asked in the same order as mentioned in the questionnaire, as a particular question might not make sense if the questions before they are skipped. The interviewers must be very careful to be neutral before starting the interview so as not to lead the respondent, hence minimizing bias.

listing out the advantages of interview studies, which are noted below:

  • It provides flexibility to the interviewers
  • The interview has a better response rate than mailed questions, and the people who cannot read and write can also answer the questions.
  • The interviewer can judge the non-verbal behavior of the respondent.
  • The interviewer can decide the place for an interview in a private and silent place, unlike the ones conducted through emails which can have a completely different environment.
  • The interviewer can control over the order of the question, as in the questionnaire, and can judge the spontaneity of the respondent as well.

There are certain disadvantages of interview studies as well which are:

  • Conducting interview studies can be very costly as well as very time-consuming.
  • An interview can cause biases. For example, the respondent’s answers can be affected by his reaction to the interviewer’s race, class, age or physical appearance.
  • Interview studies provide less anonymity, which is a big concern for many respondents.
  • There is a lack of accessibility to respondents (unlike conducting mailed questionnaire study) since the respondents can be in around any corner of the world or country.


The interview subjects to the same rules and regulations of other instances of social interaction. It is believed that conducting interview studies has possibilities for all sorts of bias, inconsistency, and inaccuracies and hence many researchers are critical of the surveys and interviews. T.R. William says that in certain societies there may be patterns of people saying one thing, but doing another. He also believes that the responses should be interpreted in context and two social contexts should not be compared to each other. Derek L. Phillips says that the survey method itself can manipulate the data, and show the results that actually does not exist in the population in real. Social research becomes very difficult due to the variability in human behavior and attitude. Other errors that can be caused in social research include-

  • deliberate lying, because the respondent does not want to give a socially undesirable answer;
  • unconscious mistakes, which mostly occurs when the respondent has socially undesirable traits that he does not want to accept;
  • when the respondent accidentally misunderstands the question and responds incorrectly;
  • when the respondent is unable to remember certain details.

Apart from the errors caused by the responder, there are also certain errors made by the interviewers that may include-

  • errors made by altering the questionnaire, through changing some words or omitting certain questions;
  • biased, irrelevant, inadequate or unnecessary probing;
  • recording errors, or consciously making errors in recording.


Bailey, K. (1994). Interview Studies in Methods of social research. Simonand Schuster, 4th
ed. The Free Press, New York NY 10020.Ch8. Pp.173-213.

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