Interviews are an important element of research, which must be given a higher preference when choosing a data collection method. According to Hagan (2017), interviews refer to conversations in which one party, the interviewer, solicits responses from a second party, the interviewee, to gather information. Based on a critical review of the course reading, it is evident that the choice of interview approach depends on what the researcher seeks to achieve, the availability of resources, and the interviewee’s capabilities.
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Researchers may use different terminologies in reference to interviews conducted in particular areas of study and professions. Hagan (2017) asserts that the phrase “investigative interview” is used in journalism, while “preliminary interviews” refers to surveys conducted before the commencement of a major study. However, all types of interviews fall into three broad categories: structured, unstructured, and depth interviews. Researchers must acknowledge the differences between these three categories to make an informed choice before commencing a study.
A clear distinction can be made from the general description of the structured, unstructured, and depth interviews. Structured surveys consist of check-off responses to straightforward questions designed to elicit a limited response pattern. Unstructured interviews are unique in that they feature open-ended questions. Respondents are not restricted to particular answers or responses, as is the case with structured interviews. The third category, called depth interviews, entails intensive survey questions designed to explore a particular subject, topic, or area of study (Hagan, 2017). These types of interviews serve unique purposes, as can be deduced from their definitions.
The success of an interview depends on researchers’ mastery of the interviewing process. The people conducting the interviews might require thorough training to acquaint themselves with the objectives of the study (Hagan, 2017). They should be competent enough to adjust to changing scenarios, as they may not necessarily encounter cooperative interviewees. Importantly, interviewers should be skillful enough to establish and build rapport with respondents for the certainty of a fruitful interview (Hagan, 2017). In essence, the interviewer is responsible for all interview processes from the start to the end and must be keen to deliver success.
Recording the interview is shown to be an important step and process in research. Hagan (2017) recommends the use of a pencil to record the interviewee’s responses and personal observations, which should be placed in parenthesis for clarity. The record should then be edited into a self-explanatory form once the interview is over. This recommendation is subject to criticism because it could be the source of errors leading to the distortion of information. Possibly, it could be necessary to include a cross checking session in the interview exit process. The interviewer could read the responses and observations loudly and request the respondent to reaffirm recorded answers.
Interviews have been used in studies meant to explore criminal behaviors and patterns, popularly known as offender interviews. Nonetheless, interviews involving active and incarcerated criminals are important because they lead to important revelations about criminal tendencies. However, researchers must obtain permission from relevant authorities before conducting interviews involving incarcerated persons. For instance, the Corrective Service Act (2006) of the Australian law states that it is illegal for anyone to interview prisoners without the chief executive’s permission. As such, researchers must acquaint themselves with applicable law before interviewing offenders to avoid problems with authorities.
In overview, interviews do not need to involve face-to-face interactions because researchers can use various communication technologies, such as the telephone and teleconferencing equipment to conduct interviews. Importantly, researchers can choose from three basic forms of interviews: structured, unstructured, and depth interviews. The choice of interview approach depends on various factors, such as the nature of the study and the respondents’ characteristics. However, interviewers must take charge of the process for the certainty of a successful interview.
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Corrective Service Act, Publ. L. No. 238, Stat. 132 (2006). Web.
Hagan, F. E. (2017). Research methods in criminal justice and criminology (10th ed.). Pearson.