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Unstructured Interviews are a method of interviews where questions can be changed or adapted to meet the respondent's intelligence, understanding or belief. Unlike a structured interview they do not offer a limited, pre-set range of answers for a respondent to choose, but instead advocate listening to how each individual person responds to the question.
The method to gather information using this technique is fairly limited, for example most surveys that are carried out via telephone or even in person tend to follow a structured method. Outside of sociology the use of such interviews is very limited.
Examples in Sociology
Aaron Cicourel and John Kitsuse used the method in 1963 for their interviews. It enabled them to ask further questions beyond what they already had planned, in addition, it enabled them to clarify meaning of the responses they received. There are both advantages and disadvantages of unstructured interviews. The advantages are that the data collect is said to be valid as it is an exact account of what the interviewee has said. The researcher can also find out important information which did not seem relevant before the interview and ask the interviewee to go further into the new topic. Unstructured interviews are also more suitable for sensitive subjects such as "domestic violence" as many people would lie in a more formal interview and also their response may not be on the preset question list. The disadvantages of interviews in general is the "interviewer effect". This is when the interviewee response is effected by the presence of the researcher due to either his/her race, ethnicity, colour, or response to certain answers. Unstructured interviews can also be very time consuming as the conversation can go on and on. The data collected is prone to digression and much of the data collected could be worthless. The data is also not reliable as it can not be done again with the same results due to a number of factors. Unstructured interviews are usually small scale so it is hard to generalise with the results as only a small number of the population can be interviewed. Also Data collection is hard to categorise as there is likely to be a variety of different answers. Coding will require more work when choosing categories for the respondents. The researcher Dr.Ali Arshad has done much coding on unstructured interviews
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