A Guide to Semi-Structured Interview Techniques
Semi-structured interviews can be used to gather evidence and insights from stakeholders in a BPR study. It is important that the evidence and insights obtained are of as high quality as possible. The investigator should aim to capture the authentic 'voice' and viewpoints of the interviewee: it is no good leading the interviewee towards the answers that you think you want to hear.
Therefore, the skill of semi-structured interviewing is important to BPR. This appendix contains some basic guidelines on how best to carry out semi-structured questioning.
Use open-ended questions
Open-ended questions allow the interviewee to respond to a question, as they deem appropriate. They are able to provide the answers that are important to them. The question is used to give a prompt but the interviewer has no control over what the interviewee says.
Supplement open-ended questions with closed questions
Closed questions are useful because they confine the subject to pre-determined responses. This makes quantitative analysis possible. However, of necessity, they pre-judge the interviewee's responses and therefore should always be used with caution.
Provide structure, do not provide pointers
In a semi-structured interview, the questions are composed so as to define a context for the interviewee's responses. Consider the example below:
This question has three structuring elements within it. These are highlighted below:
The question informs the interviewee that the response should relate to all three of these structuring elements. It is legitimate for the interview questions to do this. However, they should not point towards answers in the manner of a closed question. An example of a poorly phrased question is provided below:
Ask for clarification, for detail, for examples, illustrations and anecdotes
Wherever appropriate, the interviewer should ask for clarification and detail. The following are examples of obvious prompts that can be used:
It is also useful if the interviewer encourages the respondent to give examples, illustrations and anecdotes. These can be very useful in gaining evidence of issues and problems. Such evidence can be very useful later on when it is necessary to share findings with other members of the BPR team.
Use supplementary questions for more pointed debate
It is legitimate for the interviewer to intersperse his/her questions with supplementary questions that relate to points made during the interview.
Use the same structure with different stakeholders
Wherever appropriate, different stakeholders should be interviewed using the same questions. This makes it easier to compare their responses and points of view.
The following table is a suggested structure for a stakeholder interview.
Obtain background information
Start your interview by acquiring essential background information, e.g.
Observe interview etiquette
The interviewer is dependent on the patience and input of the respondent. To make this as easy as possible, the interviewer should observe fundamental interview etiquette, e.g.