Orientation Observation In-depth interviews Document analysis and semiology Conversation and discourse analysis Secondary Data Surveys Experiments Ethics Research outcomes



Social Research Glossary

About Researching the Real World



© Lee Harvey 2012–2020

Page updated 29 April, 2020

Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012–2020, Researching the Real World, available at
All rights belong to author.


A Guide to Methodology

4. In-depth interviews

4.1 Introduction to in-depth interviewing
4.2 Types of in-depth interview
4.3 Methodological approaches to in-depth interviews

4.3.1 Positivist approaches to in-depth interviews
4.3.2 Phenomenological approaches to in-depth interview Identifying subjects' meanings or perception Phenomenography In-depth interviews as a basis for empathetic interpretation Deconstructing everyday life/rules of behaviour Life history interviewing as a means to establish how people come to develop specific ideas and consequent actions

4.3.3 Critical approaches to in-depth interview

4.4 Doing in-depth interviews
4.5 Analysing in-depth interview data
4.6 Summary and conclusion Identifying subjects' meanings or perception
For phenomenologists, in-depth interviews are used to access informants' perspectives on life. In this sense they mirror the use of participant observation (Section 3.3.2).

For example, Donna Luff's (1999) interview research with women from the 'moral lobby' attempted to get a fuller understanding of their perspectives on gender and to identify the reasons for their apparently 'anti-feminist' activism.

Jane Ribbens McCarthy et al. (2003) uses individual in-depth interviews to get at the meaning of different forms of parenting; resident, step and non-resident.

Kelly et al. (2004) used in-depth interviews to explore the sexual practices, cultural beliefs and awareness of sexually transmitted diseases, notably HIV transmission among Roma in Central and Eastern Europe. Roma are the largest ethnic minority group in the region and, although some evidence suggests high levels of HIV sexual risk behaviour among Roma, little is known about the cultural and social context in which risk behaviour occurs. The purposes of the study were to:

(a) examine sexual partnerships, sexual practices, and interactions between types of partners and types of sexual practices among Roma men and women in Bulgaria and Hungary;
(b) assess behaviours and attitudes concerning the use of sexual protection;
(c) characterize knowledge and beliefs about HIV and STDs; and
(d) explore sexual communication patterns within and outside of sexual partnerships. (Kelly et al., 2004, p. 234)

A sample of 42 men and women aged 1852 living in Roma community settlements in Bulgaria and Hungary were interviewed (see CASE STUDY Roma community). Analysis of the interview data revealed many contradictions related to the gender roles of Roma men and women that carry implications for reproductive health and HIV prevention. Men have great sexual freedom before and during marriage, engage in a wide range of unprotected practices with primary and multiple outside partners, and have much more relationship power and control. In contrast, women are expected to maintain virginity before marriage and then sexual exclusivity to their husbands.

Although men were aware that their sexual behaviour posed a risk of HIV transmission most did not use condoms and instead avoided partners who 'appeared' unhealthy, which is a flawed approach. Most men preferred not to use condoms (which they perceived as a form of contraception rather than a protection against sexually-transmitted diseases) but would do so if requested to by the woman; at least with outside partners. However, Roma women were generally afraid to mention condoms because this was seen as a topic to be initiated by men, and some women feared violence if they raised the topic.

The research identified implications for sexual health practices among Roma. It concluded:

The widescale nature of misconceptions about HIV and STDs shows that a necessary first step in prevention efforts in the Roma community must be providing information about behaviours that confer risk versus those that do not. Because myths and misconceptions about social and casual transmission were so widespread, it may be difficult for Roma to accurately self-appraise their own personal risk. Beliefs that one can tell by appearance whether a partner poses risk and the linkage of AIDS to images of physical debilitation may lead many persons to incorrectly use partner selection as a strategy for risk reduction. Basic AIDS education is an essential foundation for prevention with Roma. (Kelly et al., 2004, p. 244)


Next Phenomenography