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What Makes a Good Interview?

Interviewing is one of the most prominent research methods used by researchers to collect and obtain rich and in-depth qualitative data about the phenomenon of study (Burkholder, Cox, & Crawford, 2016). Researchers argue that in order to succeed in obtaining relevant information from interviews, interviewers must follow some guidelines that can help in conducting good interviews (Rubin & Rubin, 2012; Burkholder, Cox, & Crawford, 2016, Brinkman & Kvale, 2015). So what makes good interviews? In the paragraphs below I provide some of the basic measures that researchers can adopt to enable interviewees to be comfortable and to be able to provide rich information, display experience, narratives and stories regarding the phenomenon under study.

Rubin and Rubin (2012) identified that one of the key factors that impact the outcomes of any interview are the personalities of the interviewer and interviewee. Rubin and Rubin argued that as the interviewer contributes actively to the conversation, it is important that he or she be aware of how their own opinions, experiences, cultural definitions and prejudices can influence what they ask and understand, Because of this, Rubin and Rubin (2012) believe that one of the important elements that can lead to a successful interviewing outcome is the ‘trust’ between the researcher (interviewer) and the interviewee. Interviews that generate rich data are often products of relationships that are mutual and based on trust between interviewees and the interviewer (Rubin & Rubin, 2012). Burkholder, Cox, and Crawford (2016) also argued that as interviewees share personal experiences, thoughts, and feelings, researchers have an obligation to protect interviewees, especially, when the interviewees share sensitive information during the course of the interview. Researcher also needs to keep to any promises of confidentiality that they give to interviewees to maintain the trust between them. Trusting relationship is important, in qualitative interviewing, because it can assume a fair degree of reciprocity (Rubin & Rubin, 2012). In this sense, good interview does not treat the interviewees as research subject but rather as partners in the research process and their ideas inform the interviewing process. Good interview should therefore be conducted in a supportive, non-confrontational, and gentle manner

Brinkman and Kvale (2015) on the other hand linked good interviewing to the degree of flexibility with which interview questions are designed. The authors stressed the need that the tone of questioning during the interview be friendly, gentle, and open-ended, to enable the interviewee to respond in away he or she chooses (Rubin and Rubin, 2012). In this way, interviewee may decide to disagree with the questions asked or they may raise new issues on the subject. Rubin and Rubin (2012) also explained that the questions that provide good data from the interview evolve in response to what the interviewees have to say. New questions can then be design to tap the experience and knowledge of each the interviewee. For example, if the interviewee raises something intriguing or unexpected, during the interview, the interviewer should pursue and follow up as this may provide rich information for the research.

Brinkman and Kvale (2015) also identified intense listening and use of language that the interviewer can better understand, as a source of achieving successful interviewing. In this sense, academic jargon may not be appropriate for use in interviewee. In stead, good interview should employ ordinary language, which can be supplemented, from time to time with the specialized vocabulary that the interviewee routinely uses.


Brinkman, S., & Kvale, S. (2015). Interviews: Learning the craft of qualitative research interviewing (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Burkholder, G. J., Cox, K. A., & Crawford, L. M. (2016). The scholar-practitioner’s guide to research design. Baltimore, MD: Laureate Publishing.

Rubin, H. J., & Rubin, I. S. (2012). Qualitative interviewing: The art of hearing data (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

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